Since 2006, high school graduation rates have risen every year, reaching a high of 84.6% in 2017. Yet high school achievement levels and college completion rates have remained relatively flat over the same time period. High school graduation is an important marker. Americans without a high school diploma earn almost $200 less per week than high school graduates without any other degree. But real progress on improving postsecondary and employment outcomes—critical steps to securing a foothold in America’s middle class—requires more clarity around exactly what skills and experiences students need to have before graduating in the first place.
The 21st century has seen long-term efforts to raise America’s high school graduation rate. The last two reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act have included federal policy requiring states to hold their schools accountable for increasing graduation rates. The non-profit sector took action as well, and in 2010, the America’s Promise Alliance launched the GradNation campaign to address what they called a “dropout epidemic.” All of this work did have an impact. High school graduation rates rose from 79% to 84.6% in the six years since 2011, when the calculation method was last updated. Yet there are still large disparities by race, family income, and disability status, and other outcome measures have not budged.
The above excerpt was originally published in Forbes.
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