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April 29, 2014

American high schools hit graduation milestone


America has reached a high school graduation milestone: a new report shows that more than 80 percent of students graduated on time in 2012, up from 73 percent six years ago.

The report is based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and was compiled by a coalition called America’s Promise Alliance.

Graduation rates had stagnated for about 30 years. John Bridgeland, an author of the report, attributes this sudden improvement in part to increased awareness of the issue.

“People understood who these young people were, why they dropped out from high school, and that 50 percent of the dropouts were only found in 15 percent of the schools. So it seemed like a targeted, fixable problem,” he said. “Also, a civic Marshall Plan emerged. General Colin and Alma Powell assembled a group of leaders, educators, principals, administrators, community-based organizations, and said, let’s take the goal seriously.”

The most improvements have been made among Hispanic students and African-Americans since 2006.

“Half of African-Americans and 40 percent of Hispanics, were trapped in these dropout factory schools, where it was literally a 50-50 proposition whether you graduated or not,” said Bridgeland.

Even with the improved numbers, one in five students still fails to graduate from high school, many from low-income households.

“The gaps between graduation rates of low-income students and their middle- and higher-income peers up 20 percentage points or up to 30 percentage points in some states,” said Bridgeland.

Warm up questions
  1. Why do some students drop out of school?
  2. What do you estimate is the average graduation rate in U.S. public high schools?
Discussion questions
  1. NewsHour guest John Bridgeland reported the results of a study focused on why students drop out and found the “leading reason they left is because they didn’t see those connections between career dreams and classroom learning.” In your experience as a student do you think this statement rings true? Why or why not?
  2. What are some of the factors that guest John Bridgeland attributed the rise in graduation rates? What would be an example in your school of the methods he refers to?
  3. It has been proven time and time again that there is no evidence for intellectual differences between races and ethnicities, so why do you think there are overall graduation rate difference between white students and students of color?
Writing prompt

One in five students in the U.S. public school system drop out of high school. Suggest two reasons why you think this happens and two solutions that could help solve the problem. Keep in mind that students don’t just show up to high school and drop out – they may have had several years of unsuccessful schooling before then. Within your solutions address what could help students become stronger candidates to graduate before they arrive as freshman.

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