Aggressive efforts to prevent students from dropping out contributed to a modest increase of 3.5 percentage points nationally in the high school graduation rate from 2001 to 2009, according to research presented last week at the Grad Nation summit in Washington.
The children’s advocacy group America’s Promise Alliance, founded by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, organized the event.
The four-year graduation rate was 75 percent in 2009, meaning one in four students failed to get a diploma in four years, researchers found. That’s well below the organization’s goal of 90 percent by 2020.
Researchers found that the number of “dropout factories,” schools that fail to graduate more than 60 percent of students on time, had fallen by more than 450 between 2002 and 2010, but that 1,550 remain.
“Big gains are possible if you work hard at it, and if you don’t focus on it, you’re going to go backward,” said Robert Balfanz, a report author and the director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, which tracks the data.
The increase in graduation rates was primarily the result of growth in 12 states, with New York and Tennessee showing double-digit gains since 2002, according to the research. Ten states had declines: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Utah.
It’s estimated that high school graduates will earn $130,000 more over their lifetimes than dropouts and that high school graduates will generate more than $200,000 in higher tax revenues and savings in government expenditures over their lifetime, the report says.
A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2012 edition of Education Week as Study Points to Decrease in ‘Dropout Factories’