High School Graduation Rates on the Rise

The good news: More U.S. high school students are graduating than ever before.

The 2014 “Building a Grad Nation” report found that – for the first time in history – the country’s high school graduation rate topped 80 percent, an improvement of about 10 percentage points over the last decade. At this pace, the country is on track to hit a 90 percent graduation rate by the Class of 2020 – this year’s sixth graders.

The remaining challenge: Graduation rates for low-income students (as well as other sub-groups) still lag national averages, and for a majority of states, hitting the 90 percent goal will not be possible without significant improvements in the number of low-income students receiving high school diplomas.

One of the key focus areas identified by the report is a strong focus on the middle grades to ensure that students are engaged in school and are adequately prepared for rigorous high school courses:

“Without a strong foundation, students are more likely to struggle academically, become disengaged, and eventually drop out before they reach graduation. If we are to reach our 2020 goal, we must better prepare our young people for success in high school and beyond,” the report stated.

Mass Insight Education similarly believes that we cannot fix high schools by focusing on high schools alone. Instead, districts should employ an integrated, 6-12 strategy that clusters together high schools and their feeder middle schools into what we call a “College Success Community.” Within the clusters, reform efforts are concentrated within three key pillars: academic, organizational, and community.

Central to the academic pillar is the idea that for students to be able to access a rigorous high school curriculum, such as Advanced Placement coursework, the foundation must be laid in middle school. We work with teachers through our Pre-AP, Common Core-aligned training program to provide them with the skills and knowledge necessary to prepare kids for AP-level coursework in high school.

More on Mass Insight’s Pre-AP program here.

To learn more about the College Success Community, email us at turnaround@massinsight.org.

And finally more data here on high school graduation and dropout rates that was released this week by the National Center for Education Statistics.