The nation’s high school graduation rate, which declined in the latter part of the 20th century, may have hit bottom and begun to rise, according to a report to be issued Tuesday by a nonprofit group founded by former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
“The United States is turning a corner in meeting the high school dropout epidemic,” General Powell and his wife, Alma J. Powell, wrote in a letter introducing the report.
The report cites two statistics. The national graduation rate increased to 75 percent in 2008, from 72 percent in 2001. And the number of high schools that researchers call dropout factories — based on a formula that compares a school’s 12th-grade enrollment with its 9th-grade enrollment three years earlier — declined to about 1,750 in 2008, from about 2,000 such schools in 2002.
But the report notes that progress in some states and school districts had not been matched in others. Tennessee and New York made “breakthrough gains,” sharply raising their graduation rates from 2002 to 2008, the report says. In Arizona, Utah and Nevada, graduation rates dropped significantly.
The 88-page report, “Building a Grad Nation,” was published by America’s Promise Alliance, along with two other groups. “I like this report because it shows that progress is possible against all odds,” said Marguerite W. Kondracke, the alliance’s president.
Daniel Losen, a former Harvard lecturer who researches graduation issues, said the report “might be a bit on the rosy side.” He added, “We might be beginning to turn a corner, but we’re not coming out of it yet.”
The report cites school districts that have made progress, as well as some where the crisis has worsened.
In 2005, researchers at Johns Hopkins University identified Richmond High School in Indiana as a dropout factory. But from 2006 to 2009, teachers, community leaders and professors joined in an effort to help students stay in school, raising the graduation rate to 80 percent from 53 percent, the report says.
In Las Vegas, however, dropouts soared during the building boom of the last decade because many young people quit high school for jobs in construction and landscaping. Today, many dropouts there are unemployed. [via New York Times]