Report: Graduation Rates Improve, but Hurdles Remain

BY Kelly Chen  March 19, 2012 at 9:50 AM EST

Track your state’s high school graduation rates over the years with this interactive map. Interactive by Justin Myers.

A new report reveals progress is being made in the effort to curb the dropout rate among U.S. high school students, but some states have been more effective at keeping students in school than others.

“The good news is that some states have made improvements in their graduation rates, showing it can be done,” said Robert Balfanz, a co-author of “Building a Grad Nation,” which was conducted by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

The report charted the high school completion rate of students across the United States from 2002 to 2009.

Twenty-four states saw significant to modest gains in graduation rates. Additionally, the number of so-called dropout factory high schools declined by 23 percent in the seven-year period, according to the findings.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin received the highest marks in the report.

The data shows that within the past few years, schools are improving at a faster pace than ever, yet hurdles remain in many states.

Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island and Utah are not only lagging behind the rest of the nation, but they performed much worse in 2009 than in 2002. They are also the only states that saw a decrease in graduation rates.

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images.

The report comes as government bureaucrats, academics, nonprofits and philanthropists are meeting in Washington to outline the goals of reaching a nationwide graduation rate of 90 percent by 2020, something that has been dubbed the Civil Marshall Plan.

If the current rate of progress continues, the report says it will still be shy of their goal by 10 percent.

“The data also indicate that if we are to meet our national goals by 2020, we will have to accelerate our rate of progress, particular in the states that have shown little progress,” Balfanz said.

The authors of the report will discuss the findings Monday at 9.a.m.. You can watch streaming video here.

For more on our coverage of high school dropout crisis, visit our American Graduate page.

American Graduate is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis.