Tool 1 – What’s at Stake Nationally

Purpose: Tool 1 provides an overview of the graduation challenge, the progress the United States has made in raising graduation rates, and why that change matters. Reproduce and distribute this fact sheet and otherwise use its information to help make the case about what your community needs to do to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates.

  • For the first time ever, the nation is on pace to reach a 90% graduation rate by 2020.
  • From 2010 to 2011, the graduation rate (calculated by the federally approved Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate method) increased by three percentage points for all students. That rate of progress was a significant improvement from the five years between 2006 and 2010, when graduation rates rose a total of five percentage points.
  • From 2006 to 2010, the graduation rate for Hispanics increased by 10.4 percentage points and for African-Americans by 6.9 percentage points. For whites, it increased by 2.7 percentage points.
  • Despite this progress, high school dropouts remain a challenge, particularly for some groups of students and for students in particular states.
  • Twenty-two percent of all public high school students, 33 percent of African American students, and nearly 30 percent of Hispanic and Native American students fail to graduate from public high school on-time with their class.
  • There are 23 states which are off pace to reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. Their graduation rates either decreased from 2006 to 2010, or they increased by less than one percentage point.
  • There are slightly more than 1400 high schools in the U.S. with enrollments over 300 where 40 percent of the typical freshman class drops out by his or her senior year.
  • Increasing high school graduation rates provides real economic and social benefits to society.
  • High school graduates are less likely than high school dropouts to be unemployed, live in poverty, or have children who will also live in poverty. For workers without a high school diploma, unemployment levels have risen 14.1 percent since the beginning of the recent recession.
  • High school graduates are less likely than dropouts to engage in criminal behavior.
  • High school graduates have better health and live longer than dropouts. A single high school graduate will make over half a million dollars more in lifetime earnings than a high school dropout and will yield more than $200,000 in higher tax revenues and lower government expenditures over his or her lifetime.
  • High school graduates who continue on through college do even better. Labor Department data shows that in April 2013, despite the serious recession of the last several years, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 3.9 percent, compared with rates of 6.4 percent for “some college,” , 7.4 percent for those with high school and no college, and 11.6 for those less than high school.1

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