Despite the constantly gloomy rhetoric about the state of America's schools, U.S. students are steadily improving by at least one metric -- for the first time, the nation is making enough progress in graduating from high school to reach the goal of 90 percent graduation by 2020, according to a new report to be released Monday.
"This is our fourth annual update," said John Bridgeland, an author of the report, titled "Building a Grad Nation." "Previously we've been able to focus on school districts making double-digit gains but we always have to pivot and say the pace of progress is too slow. Now, we have hopeful news."
The report will be released by America's Promise Alliance, an advocacy group founded by Colin and Alma Powell. "We're cautiously optimistic," Bridgeland said. "The pace of progress really rocketed forward right at a time when high school reform efforts were strongly under way."
Graduation rate trends matter because dropouts without a high school or college diploma face an increasingly tough job market. But while the progressing high school graduation rates show promise, they're not enough to push students all the way through the finish line at the end of college. Though more students may be graduating high school, fewer than half of those in the class of 2012 were "college ready," according to the College Board last fall. This means that without changes in the rigor of high school and the significance of a high school diploma, it will be hard for the nation to achieve President Barack Obama's aspirations to increase the number of America's graduates by 50 percent by 2020.
The gains in graduation rates have been driven largely by minority students in large, Southern states: Between 2006 and 2010, African-American students saw a 6.9 percent increase in graduation rates, and Hispanic students had a 10.4 percent increase.
In the Davis Guggenheim documentary "Waiting for Superman," Americans learned about "dropout factories," high schools where fewer than half of all students graduated on time. Bob Balfanz, a Johns Hopkins University professor, coined that term -- and in the report out Monday, he found that the number of "dropout factories" has declined. In 2011, according to the report, there were 583 fewer such schools than there were in 2002. "The schools have gotten better, and some have closed," Balfanz said.
In 2002, half of African-American high school students were attending schools "where graduation was not the norm," Balfanz said. Now, that number is down to 25 percent.
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SOURCE: The Huffington Post