Civic Marshall Plan Planks

Plank 8: Compulsory School Age

Compulsory school-age laws must be part of comprehensive reform efforts. In the past few years, most states have raised their compulsory school age to 18 (or to when students graduate) and created incentives for students to stay in school. Some state laws, however, are still out of date and fail to reflect the fact that most jobs today require a high school diploma plus some postsecondary education. Many of the compulsory school age laws—which “refer to the minimum and maximum age required by each state in which a student must be enrolled in and attending public school or some equivalent education program defined by the law”—were written before or around the beginning of the 20th century, when many young people needed to leave school to begin working.1 In addition to setting the expectation that all students should graduate from high school, research shows that raising the compulsory school age reduces the number of students who drop out.

  1. Keaton, P. (2012). Documentation to the NCES Common Core of Data Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey: School Year 2010–11 (NCES 2012-338rev). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from

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