Center for American Progress

Taking Dramatic Steps to Turn Around Failing Schools

Taking Dramatic Steps to Turn Around Failing Schools

An examination of the research shows that dramatic action—not incremental shifts—is often required to improve failing schools.

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idea_bulbAcross the United States, approximately 1,235 high schools serving 1.1 million students—only 5 percent of the nation’s high schools—have graduation rates at or below 67 percent. While the high school graduation rate recently reached 81 percent in 2013, the number of chronically failing high schools remains much too high. Among this group of failing public high schools, approximately 7 percent of students—who are overwhelmingly low-income students of color—are attending schools where it is not likely that they will go on to college or career.

This situation not only limits the lifetime opportunities of the students consigned to these schools, but also carries long-term consequences for U.S. international competitiveness and economic progress. High school graduates earn between 50 percent and 100 percent more over their lifetimes than those who do not earn a high school diploma. They are also more likely to be employed and less likely to rely on public assistance. According to one study, the U.S. economy would gain almost $335 billion in additional revenue if students who dropped out of high school graduated instead.

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