Higher standards, better data use, and more parent engagement are among the strategies responsible for the first significant improvement in America’s high school graduation rate in 40 years, suggests a new report that also looks at how states and schools can continue this trend. America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center banded together to release the report, titled “Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic.” The graduation rate of U.S. high school students increased from 72 percent in 2002 to 75 percent in 2008, according to the report. It also says there has been a decline in the number of “dropout factories,” or schools in which the graduation rate is below 50 percent. However, while Asian students have a 91-percent graduation rate and white students have an 81-percent graduation rate, black, Native American, and Hispanic students disproportionately drop out, and graduation rates for students in those groups remain in the low 60s. If the U.S. was able to cut dropout rates for minority students in major cities in half, it would save $2.3 billion in an average year, create 17,450 jobs, and increase tax revenues by $249.7 million, the report says—all on the basis of one high school class. To ensure that the nation’s high school graduation rate continues to increase, the report includes a Civic Marshall Plan that sets forth relevant strategies and benchmarks. http://civicenterprises.net/pdfs/gradnation.pdf

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Jeff Festa