For more than two years, average Americans have followed reports on unemployment, the housing market, commodity prices, consumer confidence, and the daily fluctuations of the markets for signals that the economy has finally, and firmly, entered a period of renewed growth and stability. So too have education-watchers been on the lookout, for the better part of a decade, for signs of an educational recovery.
At the heart of the reform agenda lie commitments to combat the U.S. dropout crisis and propel the nation’s schools and its economy at full speed into the 21st century, by ensuring that all students have a chance to earn a meaningful diploma that prepares them for further education and training and a successful adult life. The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have espoused such goals, as have major philanthropies, leading nonprofit organizations, prominent business leaders, and state and district policymakers from coast to coast. Even with this high-profile attention and a host of new policy efforts, gaining traction on graduation has been frustratingly difficult.
That is, perhaps, until now.
A new analysis of high school completion from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center finds that the national graduation rate stands at 71.7 percent for the class of 2008, the most recent year for which data are available. The highest level of graduation for the nation’s public high schools since the 1980s, this result also marks a significant turnaround following two consecutive years of declines and stagnation.
The research center calculates graduation rates for the nation, states, and every public school district in the country using the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) method and data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data.
Despite such clear indications of progress, the fact is that too many students continue to fall through the cracks of America’s high schools. We project that, nearly 1.2 million students from this year’s high school class will fail to graduate with a diploma. That amounts to 6,400 students lost each day of the year, or one student every 27 seconds.