Special Report
Equity & Diversity

As Graduation Rates Rise, Focus Shifts to Dropouts

By The Editors — May 31, 2013 | Corrected: February 21, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected: An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect statistic for the share of returning dropouts who later attained a high school diploma in a study of San Bernardino, Calif., youth. Fewer than one in five of those dropouts went on to get a diploma.

First, comes the good news: The nation’s high school graduation rate is at its highest point since the 1970s.

According to the newest calculation by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, the graduation rate for the class of 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available) stands at nearly 75 percent. That’s an improvement of nearly 2 percentage points from the previous year and about 8 points in the past decade. At that pace of improvement, the center projects, the percent of students earning a diploma on time could surpass the historical high of 77.1 percent within a few years.

The sobering news is that, despite this upbeat trend, the glass remains partly empty. Many students—roughly 1 million a year—leave high school without a diploma. Education Week‘s Diplomas Count 2013 focuses on these students—a group for whom the prospect of landing a good-paying job or earning a postsecondary credential is likely to be dim. While much attention has gone to identifying teenagers who are at risk of dropping out and finding ways to keep them in school, comparatively fewer efforts have been expended on bringing back the students who have already left.

The recent economic downturn, however, may have helped catalyze new interest in these youths. As one researcher notes in the report, before the recession, “it was believed that there were still places in the economy they could go. We know now that isn’t the case.”

Nonprofit groups, for-profit ventures, school districts, and some states have created or ramped up dropout-recovery programs.

It isn’t easy work. Longitudinal research in San Bernardino, Calif., found that 30 percent of the school system’s dropouts returned at least once to their high schools—but fewer than one in five dropouts managed to get a diploma in the time frame of the study.

The new attention to dropout recovery also comes as a major path to a second chance at a high school credential—the General Educational Development test battery—is undergoing a transformation. The revised and computerized version makes its debut in January, and it’s unclear how the changes will affect the educational trajectories of this difficult-to-teach population.

The other good news in this year’s statistical analysis is that the improvements in graduation rates cut across demographic groups. In fact, much of the nation’s progress since 2000 has been driven by historically disadvantaged groups.

Graduation rates for Latinos, the subject of last year’s Diplomas Count, have risen 16 percentage points over the past decade, reaching 68 percent for the class of 2010. Rates for black students, now at 62 percent, have risen 13 points. Native American students may be the exception: Despite a 3-percentage-point improvement since 2000, their graduation rate declined in three of the past five years.

Board of Trustees, Editorial Projects in Education

Larry Berger, chief executive officer, Wireless Generation Inc. • Gina Burkhardt, executive vice president, American Institutes for Research • Chris Curran, co-founder and managing partner, Education Growth Partners • Virginia B. Edwards, president and editor-in-chief, EPE and Education Week (ex officio) • Francesca Forzani, associate director, TeachingWorks • Mike Lawrence, executive vice president and chief reputation officer, Cone Communications • Barbara Newton, president, Sunset Publishing • Jim Sexton, vice president digital, B.A.S.S. • Lester Strong, chief executive officer, Experience Corps • Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, assistant to the president for educational issues, American Federation of Teachers • Jerry Weast, founder and chief executive officer, Partnership for Deliberate Excellence • Ronald A. Wolk, chair emeritus (ex officio) • Jessie Woolley-Wilson, chief executive officer and president, DreamBox Learning
A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 2013 edition of Education Week as Making Progress and Trying Again

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
As AI writing tools rapidly evolve, learn how to set standards and expectations for your students on their use.
Content provided by Turnitin
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity 5 Big Challenges for Schools in 2023
Book bans, teacher retention, climate change, and more.
3 min read
Image of a classroom.
tarras79/iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity What Researchers Learned From Analyzing Decades of Civil Rights Complaints Against Schools
Large, segregated districts are more likely to have OCR complaints filed against them, a new report shows
4 min read
Image of papers on a desk.
smolaw11/iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Educators' Opposition to Censorship Comes at a Big Personal Cost
A Tennessee teacher and a Louisiana librarian discuss their very public battles against book bans or restrictions on teaching about racism.
5 min read
Social studies teacher Matthew Hawn, who is accused of insubordination and repeated unprofessional conduct for teaching about racism and white privilege, sits on his couch inside his home on August 17, 2021.
Tennessee social studies teacher Matthew Hawn, who is accused of insubordination and repeated unprofessional conduct for teaching about racism and white privilege, sits on his couch inside his home back in August of 2021.
Caitlin Penna for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Explainer School Dress Code Debates, Explained
What are they, who do they serve, and do they need to be changed?
6 min read
In this Sept. 7, 2018 photo, students socialize at Grant High School in Portland, Ore., after school let out. Portland Public Schools relaxed its dress code in 2016 after student complaints that the rules unfairly targeted female students and sexualized their fashion choices.
In this 2018 photo, students socialize at Grant High School in Portland, Ore., after school let out. Portland Public Schools relaxed its dress code in 2016 after student complaints that the rules unfairly targeted female students and sexualized their fashion choices.
Gillian Flaccus/AP