- Grad Nation has released an optimistic report that finds the U.S. on track to reach its goal of a 90% graduation rate by 2020.
- The Building a Grad Nation report — released by America's Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, Everyone Graduates Center, and the Alliance for Excellent Education — highlights 2013's record-high 81.4% graduation rate and states that an additional 310,000 more graduates are needed in 2020 to reach the goal.
- The report points to states like California, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, where significant gains have been made, to evidence how the graduation rate has increased so rapidly. It also cites progress made in large school districts as a major contributing factor in recent years.
According to the report, in the three years between 2011 and 2013, 124 of the nation's 500 largest districts (those with 15,000 students or more) had graduation levels improve three times more than the national average. Since these large districts are typically in urban centers and often largely low-income and high-minority, the report looks promising for these often-marginalized and disenfranchised demographics.
That said, it's important to keep in mind that graduation levels can easily be warped. Take for example the recent legislation signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Under the bill, high schoolers in the Lone Star State are required to pass three exams instead of the previous five to graduate — and even then, they can still get a waiver if they fail one or more of the exams. The bill was passed because state legislators wanted to help the 10% of students at risk of not passing their exams and graduating. Beyond the effort to reduce over-testing, the move begs the question: Do graduation rates really mean anything if expectations are lowered to get there? The immediate stats may look better, but it doesn't help anyone in the long term.