As the No Child Left Behind era comes to an end, the U.S. has reached a new high-water mark in public education — high school graduation rates are at a record high.
In the 2013-2014 school year (the last year data was available), the U.S. high school graduation rate hit a record 82%, capping four straight years of growth. The good news comes from a new report by the Department of Education, which also found that achievement gaps narrowed as well.
“It is encouraging to see our graduation rate on the rise and I applaud the hard work we know it takes to see this increase,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
The progress made so far is thanks in large part to a broad network of nonprofits tackling the dropout issue by teaching self-improvement skills, tutoring, and providing community support for at-risk students. One such group is the newly formed Quest of the Keys, which grew out of a fantasy novel by the same name for middle school students and teens.
“This report on declining dropout rates is great but keep in mind, one student out of five still drops out of high school,” says Scotty Sanders, Author of Quest of the Keys. “Empowering a student reduces the chances of dropouts and increases their success in life. Empowerment is the key!”
New legislation called the Every Student Succeeds Act now requires states to track and report graduation rates each year.
Unfortunately, with good news comes bad news. The National Assessment of Educational Progress has found declining test scores nationwide in reading and math, and overall SAT scores dropped in the 2013-2014 school year as well.
And despite higher graduation rates, there still remains the 18% of young people who never receive their high school diploma, putting them at a vastly increased risk of poor health outcomes, poverty, and criminal activity. Moving forward, the Department of Education has set an ambitious goal of reaching a 90% graduation rate by 2020.
To reach that goal, educators and communities across the country will have to close or reform so-called “dropout factories,” pockets of poverty where graduation rates get an “F” rating of 66% or below.