Every year, approximately 1.3 million students—that's over 7,000 every school day—do not graduate from high school on time. Nationwide, only 69 percent of students earn their high school diplomas. Among minority students, only 56 percent of Hispanic, 54 percent of African American, and 51 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native students in the U.S. graduate with a regular diploma, compared to 77 percent of white students and 81 percent of Asian Americans.
Students drop out of school for variety of reasons, but low reading scores are a major predictor. Students in the bottom quartile of achievement are twenty times more likely to drop out of school than those in the top quartile. Research also shows what factors, starting in middle school, contribute to students dropping out, including academic performance in English and Math. Success in those courses, like all courses, is tied to a student's literacy skills. Intrinsically, this correlation makes sense. After all, how can high school students expect to master content courses if they are struggling to read and comprehend the material in their textbooks? How can they succeed in math if they can't understand the text of word problems or the explanations of theory in their materials?
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading, also known as the Nation's Report Card, approximately 70 percent of all eighth-grade students read below grade level. Not surprisingly, many of these students will struggle to graduate with their classmates. The path to a high school diploma is especially difficult for English language learners and students of color. Of all students who earn their diplomas, only about half are academically prepared for the challenges of college and the workforce.
Because so many students are not learning the basic skills needed to succeed in college or work while they are in high school, they must take remedial courses once they enter postsecondary education. Of the students who enroll, 42 percent of community college freshmen and 20 percent of freshmen in four-year institutions must take at least one remedial course. As a result, the nation loses more than $3.7 billion a year, including $1.4 billion to provide remedial education to students who have recently completed high school and an additional $2.3 billion that the economy loses because the students who need remediation in reading are more likely to drop out of college without a degree, thereby reducing their earning potential.