The Civic Marshall Plan encourages a variety of support for students within low graduation rate communities. It states that administrators should start with early reading strategies, focus on the middle grades, turn around or replace the nation’s dropout factories, harness the power of nonprofits to provide expanded student supports, and link researchers to practitioners and policy.

The plan identifies the following benchmarks to ensure that the nation meets its 2020 goal:

  • By 2012, there has been a substantial increase in the number of struggling students in the Class of 2020 who read at grade level by the beginning of fifth grade, while schools, communities, and parents are engaged in reducing chronic absenteeism.
  • By 2013, every state and school district with a low graduation rate has implemented an early warning and intervention system with indicators for attendance, behavior, course performance, and college and career readiness.
  • By 2016, all dropout factories are in the process of being transformed or replaced, the compulsory school age has been raised to 18 in all states, and dropout recovery options for students have been created.

If these benchmarks are met, at least 600,000 more members of the Class of 2020 will graduate than those who graduated in 2008, the report says.

The report also addresses the need for students to be better prepared for postsecondary education. The Common Core State Standards, released earlier this year, aim to standardize expectations for learning throughout the country. The Common Core standards are stronger than the English standards in 37 states and stronger than the math standards in 39 states, according to an analysis by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. So far, 38 states have adopted these common standards.