WASHINGTON, DC – New data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that thirty-six states increased their high school graduation rates for the 2013–14 school year. In response, Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, made the following statement:
“The story here is this: when it comes to high school graduation rate policy, federal and state efforts are working; data and dedication are making diplomas.
“After years of many different calculations, states have begun using a common, reliable method to determine high school graduation rates. More important, states, districts, and schools are acting in response to this information. Federal policy requires states to set meaningful goals and targets, and to respond when groups of traditionally underserved students consistently underperform. In addition, federal policy requires a focus on high schools with very low graduation rates. Armed with data, educators can identify problems, intervene with support, and increase the number of students who are earning their diplomas.
“The graduation rate gains achieved in these thirty-six states is positive news for educators, parents, and students, and it also is great news for state economies as high school graduates earn $15,000 more per year than dropouts. This additional money is not going under a mattress; it will be used to purchase automobiles, groceries, clothing, and more, fueling the economies in these states.
“Today is a day to celebrate, but it is also a day to recognize additional challenges. Students of color and students from low-income families continue to graduate from high school at much lower rates than their white counterparts. Nationwide, there are 1,235 high schools where one-third of students do not make it to graduation day.
“As the U.S. Congress works to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act, it must require states to target resources and focus reform on these lowest-performing high schools. Great discretion should be left to states, districts, and schools about how they respond; however, no discretion should exist about whether to respond. Additionally, federal policy should ensure that states intervene in high schools where students of color, students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and other groups of students fail to meet the state’s graduation rate goal for two years in a row.”
The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship. www.all4ed.org