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GradNation Leaders Urge DeVos to Monitor Potential High School Graduation Rate “Loophole” Under Every Student Succeeds Act

Organizations Offer Recommendations to Meet 90 Percent High School Graduation Rate Goal by 2020

WASHINGTON, DC—As states begin to submit accountability and improvement systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center, today outlined steps that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos could take to continue to close high school graduation gaps between white students and students of color, students from low-income families, and other traditionally underserved groups of students.

The four organizations, which lead the GradNation campaign to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, credit bipartisan action by President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, as well as the diligent work of educators and communities at the state and local levels, for the nation’s record high graduation rate of 83.2 percent in 2015, up from 71 percent in 2001.

“Over this period, 2.8 million more students have graduated rather than dropped out, with significant implications to them, the economy, and society,” the letter reads. “Yet significant graduation rate gaps remain among various student subgroups and progress must accelerate over the next five years if the 90 percent goal is to be met equitably.”

The organizations offer recommendations in three areas and urge DeVos to ensure that states

On the last point, the 2016 Building a Grad Nation report notes that alternative, charter, and virtual schools comprise only 10 percent of high schools nationwide, but they make up more than 50 percent of high schools with graduation rates at or below 67 percent. Under ESSA, schools such as these that predominately serve dropouts or students who are significantly off track to graduation are permitted to implement differentiated improvement activities. The organizations urge DeVos not to let this flexibility become a “loophole.”

“Strengthening high school graduation rates is primarily a state and local responsibility,” the organizations write. “There is, however, a limited but crucial role for the federal government in making sure that traditionally underserved students receive the support they need. The GradNation campaign is eager to work with [Secretary DeVos] and [her] team to maintain and accelerate progress in raising high school graduation rates.”


Download the GradNation letter to Secretary DeVos.



The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, a career, and citizenship.

America’s Promise Alliance leads the nation’s largest network dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. As its signature effort, the GradNation campaign mobilizes Americans to increase the on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent by the Class of 2020 and prepare young people for postsecondary enrollment and the 21st century workforce.

Civic Enterprises is a public policy and strategy firm that helps corporations, nonprofits, foundations, universities and governments develop and spearhead innovative public policies to strengthen our communities and country.

The Everyone Graduates Center at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University seeks to identify the barriers to high school graduation, develop strategic solutions to overcoming these barriers and build local capacity to implement and sustain the solutions so that all students graduate prepared for adult success.