Every year, more than 1 million students—that's 7,000 every school day—do not graduate from high school on time. Nationwide, only about 75 percent of students earn their high school diplomas. Among minority students, only 63.5 percent of Hispanic, 61.5 percent of African American, and 64.2 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native students in the U.S. graduate with a regular diploma, compared to 81 percent of white students and 91.4 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander students.
The reason for the low national graduation rate and the gaps in the graduation rates between minority students and white students are numerous. In this section of the website, you can access more information about how this crisis came to exist.
In "Students," you will learn that approximately 70 percent of all entering ninth-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 those students who do earn their diplomas, many-both white and minority-will lack the skills they need to be successful in college or the modern workforce.
In "Teachers," you will learn that the single most important factor in determining student performance is often the quality of his or her teachers. However, far too many school districts are facing an uphill battle when it comes to recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers, especially those who serve poor students. In fact, students in poor and minority schools are twice as likely to have an inexperienced teacher and are 61 percent more likely to be assigned an uncertified teacher.
At the same time, teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate: 14 percent of new teachers leave by the end of their first year; 33 percent leave within three years; and almost 50 percent leave in five years. Estimated conservatively, American schools spend more than $2.6 billion annually replacing teachers who have dropped out of the profession. Many analysts believe that the price is actually much larger and point out that the loss in teacher quality and student achievement must be added to the bill.
In "Schools," you will learn that almost two thousand high schools across the country graduate less than 60 percent of their students. These high schools, or "dropout factories" as they are known, account for over half of the dropouts who leave American schools every year. One in six students (17.2 percent) attend a dropout factory. One in three minority students (32 percent) attend a dropout factory, compared to only 8 percent of white students.
In "Impact on American Society," you will learn that high school dropouts face long odds of landing a good-paying job in the ultra-competitive job market of the twenty-first century. In addition, they are generally less healthy, die earlier, more likely to become parents when very young, more at risk of tangling with the criminal justice system, and are more likely to need social welfare assistance.
And the negative consequences to dropping out of high school do not stop there. Dropouts earn less than graduates, with major repercussions for the American economy. In fact, the Alliance for Excellent Education has estimated that the approximately 1.2 million students who should have graduated with the Class of 2008 will cost the nation nearly $319 billion in lost income over the course of their lifetimes.