New Grad Nation Report Released

by Sandy Shacklady-White

The 2017 Building a Grad Nation report written annually by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, and released in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, examines the progress and challenges the nation faces in reaching the Grad Nation goal of a national on-time graduation rate of 90 percent by the Class of 2020.

Since the 2010-11 school year, the nation has achieved an 83.2 percent high school graduation rate in 2015– a record high.

Graduation rates rose for all student subgroups, and the number of low-graduation-rate high schools and students enrolled in them dropped again, indicating that progress has had far-reaching benefits for all students. The report identifies and discusses the “Grad Nation Five Drivers”: Low-income Students, Black and Hispanic/Latino Students, Students with Disabilities, English Language Learners, and Low-Graduation Rate High Schools.

Despite progress over the years, there are still challenges to be addressed. This year the nation continues to be slightly off pace to reach a 90 percent on-time graduation rate by 2020. The nation needs to nearly double its rate of progress in schools identified as low-graduation-rate high schools. While the number of these schools has declined nationwide, there are some states in which such schools still predominate. Also, although the five subgroups have made progress in obtaining high school diplomas, they continue to remain well behind their peers. Questions around measurement errors, districts “gaming” the system, the issuance of diplomas based on lower standards, and accurate reporting of progress have developed regarding the reporting of graduation rates.

The 2017 Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates report analyzes 2015 graduation data using new criteria established by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and shows the impact of additional time on graduation rates. The report provides the Grad Nation campaign’s policy recommendations:
• Create high-quality ESSA implementation plans and maintain accountability for underserved students;
• Create evidence-based plans to improve low-graduation-rate high schools;
• Get the cohort rate right;
• Report extended-year graduation rates;
• Strengthen accountability for non-traditional high schools;
• Convene a next generation Governors’ summit on high school and postsecondary completion.

The 2017 report concludes, “Graduating high school is a vital first step in a young person’s pursuit of further education and a meaningful career path, and it has significant consequences for the nation as well. When students fail to graduate from high school, especially in places where large numbers of students do not earn their diploma, the impact on the community can be far-reaching. We see this in urban neighborhoods, inner-ring suburbs, small towns, and rural communities alike, and though these places may appear very different on the outside, the results are often similarly devastating – lack of economic opportunity, civic engagement, and worse health and overall life outcomes. To change this, we must recommit ourselves to providing students with the resources and opportunities that can keep them on track or re-engage them when they have fallen off, and renew our investment in education and the evidence-based practices that have proven most effective in improving educational outcomes for all young people. If we fail to do so, we jeopardize the great gains that have already been made and endanger the economic and societal well-being of our great nation.”

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