Graduation and Dropout Rates
The Effect of ESEA Waiver Plans on High School Graduation Rate Accountability Report (PDF)
February 12, 2013
Prior to 2008, many states used inaccurate high school graduation rate calculations. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued regulations to address this concern, which were scheduled to become fully operational in every state in the 2011–12 school year. ED’s flexibility policy (i.e., waivers from key provisions within the No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB]) provides an opportunity for states to implement innovative policies and practices designed to improve student achievement and graduation rates. This report provides an extensive analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education, which shows that recent progress in holding high schools accountable for how many students they graduate—the ultimate goal of K–12 education—may be slowed in some states based on waivers recently granted under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as NCLB. The report also includes a review of approved waiver plans submitted by thirty-four states and the District of Columbia.
High School State Cards (updated January 2012)
January 31, 2012
These state cards provide a statistical snapshot of high schools for each state in the nation and the District of Columbia. The cards include economic information, data on high school graduation and college completion rates, academic achievement, and states’ progress in building a longitudinal data system. Where applicable, statewide numbers are compared to the national average and include national rankings. Click here to access the card for your state or the District of Columbia. A national card is also available.
Waiving Away High School Graduation Rate Accountability Policy Brief (PDF)
January 10, 2012
In November 2011, eleven states submitted applications to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for waivers from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Although the waiver process presents an opportunity to strengthen college and career readiness among the nation’s high school students, this analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education finds that many state applications could have the unintended consequence of weakening high school graduation rate accountability. High school graduation rates account for 14 percent to 30 percent of state accountability indexes. With graduation rates counting for such a small portion of the overall accountability indexes, schools could have an incentive to push out low-achieving students in order to increase overall scores on achievement tests and other measures of college and career readiness.
Nationally, only 27 percent of recovered dropouts are expected to complete a postsecondary degree after earning a high school diploma. This is an unacceptably low rate given that in today’s knowledge-based economy, a high school diploma just is not enough for workers looking to fill a job that can comfortably support a family. This state-by-state and national data builds on the Alliance's previous work that estimates the economic benefits if half of the high school dropouts from the Class of 2010 were to have graduated. This new data goes to the next level and illustrates the significant economic benefits that the nation and each state could see if 60 percent of those “new graduates” were to earn a degree beyond high school, meeting the national goal for postsecondary completion.
Every student deserves an education that prepares them for success beyond high school. This moral imperative to ensure strong educational outcomes for all students has been the clarion call of education reformers for decades. But in a time of fiscal uncertainty and shrinking budgets, the economic necessity to improve graduation rates is emerging as an additional key motivator. Years of research underscore the many links between education and the economy and the Alliance builds upon this research to project specific economic benefits that the nation, states, and local areas could see as a result of increasing graduation rates. These figures can be used as concrete examples for policymakers and stakeholders at all levels to underscore the economic imperative of addressing the dropout crisis.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 established that “separate education facilities are inherently unequal.” Nearly sixty years later, the hope of Brown v. Board has yet to be fulfilled, and the nation has a moral imperative to improve the educational outcomes of students of color and Native students. But, in a time of shifting demographics and an ailing economy, there is also an economic necessity to help all students unlock their potential and ensure that they graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college and in their careers. This document discusses the economic benefits—including increased earnings, home and vehicle sales, job growth, and tax revenue—that would have come to the nation and each state if half of the class of 2010 students of color and Native students who dropped out had graduated with their peers.
For young people entering the twenty-first-century job market, high school graduation is no longer the finish line, but the starting line. While one-third of students will fail to graduate from high school, too many students who do graduate and make it to the postsecondary starting line find that they are underprepared for postsecondary work. A full 43 percent of those who begin postsecondary studies will fail to earn a degree after six years, and one of the major reasons is that far too many students receive inadequate preparation while in high school. This brief analyzes how improving America’s high schools and better preparing students for the challenges of both college and the modern workplace can dramatically reduce the amount of wasted dollars spent on remediation in college.
Education and the Economy: Boosting Metro Area Economies by Improving High School Graduation Rates Metro Area Profiles
Building on its previous work examining education and the economy, the Alliance for Excellent Education, with generous support from State Farm®, developed a sophisticated economic model that demonstrates the economic benefits of improving high school graduation rates. Throughout the month of April 2011, the Alliance released economic findings for the more than 220 U.S. metro areas in its analysis. The Alliance calculated the gross increase in important economic factors such as individual earnings, home and auto sales, job and economic growth, spending and investment, tax revenue, and human capital based on reducing by half the number of students from the Class of 2010 who failed to graduate on time.
Education and the Economy: Boosting State and National Economies by Improving High School Graduation Rates (State Profiles)
March 22, 2011
Cutting the high school dropout rate in half for just one class would likely lead to billions of dollars in increased earnings, provide a boost to home and automobile sales, and create more than 50,000 new jobs nationwide, according to a ground-breaking new study released on March 22 by the Alliance for Excellent Education. These findings, made possible through the generous support of State Farm®, demonstrate the economic benefits the nation—as well as each state—would likely see if its number of high school dropouts was cut in half. The study builds on the Alliance’s previous work examining education and the economy and provides clear evidence that in an information-age economy, education is the only currency. These findings include the growth in jobs, home ownership, levels of spending and investment, and car sales for the nation, fifty states and the District of Columbia.
Meeting the Challenge: The Role of School Leaders in Turning Around the Lowest-Performing High Schools Policy Brief (PDF)
January 18, 2011
As the national policy community has coalesced around the priority of graduating all students ready for college and careers, the challenge of improving the lowest-performing high schools serving the most challenged populations remains. This policy brief examines the limitations of previous high school reforms and describes new approaches showing promise in producing substantive changes in secondary level teaching and learning. It highlights the central role of school leaders and districts in creating high school learning environments that can engage and support students with widely divergent learning needs. The brief concludes with a set of policy recommendations for the design of coherent systems to build human capital and foster the conditions for high school transformation.
High School Dropouts in America (Updated) Fact Sheet (PDF)
September 15, 2010
Nationwide, about seven thousand students drop out every school day. This statistic may not have been noticed fifty years ago, but the era during which a high school dropout could earn a living wage has ended in the United States. By dropping out, these individuals significantly diminish their chances to secure a good job and a promising future. Moreover, each class of dropouts is responsible for substantial financial and social costs to their communities, states, and country in which they live.
Prioritizing the Nation’s Lowest-Performing Schools Issue Brief (PDF)
April 12, 2010
Noting that the nation is in the midst of a dropout crisis that will cost more than $3 trillion in lost wages over the lifetime of the 12 million students projected to drop out over the next decade, Prioritizing the Nation's Lowest-Performing High Schools calls on federal policymakers to perform "legislative triage" by devoting attention to the lowest-performing high schools and immediately improving or replacing the most severely "injured" schools. It points out that the nation’s lowest-performing high schools may be diverse in size and geographic location, but most all of these schools disproportionally serve low-income students and students of color.
The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools Policy Brief (PDF)
September 1, 2009
If the high school students who dropped out of the Class of 2009 had graduated, the nation’s economy would have benefited from nearly $335 billion in additional income over the course of their lifetimes, so says a new issue brief, The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools, from the Alliance for Excellent Education.
Every Student Counts: The Role of Federal Policy in Improving Graduation Rate Accountability Policy Brief (PDF)
March 16, 2009
As the poor performance of U.S. high schools has been acknowledged and come to the forefront of education policy debates over the past several years, so too has a recognition of the need to improve graduation rate calculations and accountability for increasing those rates. A range of state, national, and federal efforts have been launched toward this end—many of which were codified in the October 2008 federal regulations on Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This brief, Every Student Counts: The Role of Federal Policy in Improving Graduation Rate Accountability, provides background information on the movement toward better data collection, common graduation rate calculations, and meaningful accountability for raising graduation rates and describes in detail the culminating federal policy changes made by the regulations, which reflect both the significant progress that has been made and the hurdles that remain.
Federal High School Graduation Rate Policies and the Impact on States State-by-State Issue Briefs
For too long, inaccurate data, misleading official graduation and dropout calculations, and inadequate accountability systems at the state and federal levels have obscured low graduation rates. In October 2008, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released regulations that change requirements for states’ calculations, reporting, and accountability systems for graduation rates under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Nationally, and for each state, Federal High School Graduation Rate Policies and the Impact on States summarizes the changes the new regulations would make in these three policy areas and describes how each state's current graduation rate policies might be affected.
Understanding High School Graduation Rates State-by-State Fact Sheets
Updated July 2009
Far too many of our high school students—particularly poor and minority students—are leaving school without a high school diploma. Understanding High School Graduation Rates provides the latest graduation rate statistics, demonstrates graduation gaps between demographic groups, illustrates the discrepancies in graduation rates reported by government and independent sources, and examines the economic costs of dropouts to individuals and society.
Dropouts, Diplomas, and Dollars: U.S. High Schools and the Nation’s Economy Report (PDF)
August 27, 2008
The United States can no longer absorb the costs and losses associated with an education system that produces more than 1.2 million dropouts every year. This report examines the impact of this crisis on the dropouts themselves, as well as its effect on the economy, social fabric, and security of the nation, states, and local communities.
Using Early-Warning Data to Improve Graduation Rates: Closing Cracks in the Education System Policy Brief (PDF)
August 26, 2008
This brief explores the power of early-warning data in predicting whether a student will drop out, offers examples of current efforts to use such data to guide secondary school interventions across the country, and discusses the policies that can support these efforts.
Every Student Counts: The Case for Graduation Rate Accountability Policy Brief (PDF)
July 7, 2008
In passing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001, members of Congress from both parties acknowledged the importance of addressing the significant achievement gaps between students of differing racial, ethnic, economic, and linguistic backgrounds. In the years since the law’s enactment, further data has highlighted the glaring inequities that continue to exist in and between schools, districts, and states across the country. NCLB was designed to address these gaps by holding schools accountable for the success of every student enrolled. However, the legislation fails to address a key measure of a successful high school: who graduates?
Who’s Counted? Who’s Counting? Understanding High School Graduation Rates Report (PDF)
June 27, 2006
Who’s Counted? Who’s Counting? Understanding High School Graduation Rates explains the reasons why so many different graduation rate formulas and statistics exist, addresses why states report them differently, discusses the limitations and benefits of each method, and – most importantly – defines the policy changes needed to assure that educators, school officials, parents, and the public receive timely and accurate information about how many students are actually graduating so that they can assess their schools’ current effectiveness and make improvements.