Building a Grad Nation 2016 Data Brief & State Progress Reports

This Data Brief highlights state high school graduation rate trends and the progress being made to raise graduation rates for key student subgroups. It is accompanied by graduation progress reports for each of the 50 states and data tables providing more in-depth state-by-state graduation rate analysis. This brief keeps pace with the release of graduation rate data by the National Center for Education Statistics and lays a foundation for the more comprehensive annual Building a Grad Nation report that will be published in spring 2016.

Building a Grad Nation: 2015 Annual Report

"More young people are graduating from high school today than ever before—and gaps in graduation rates are closing—even as standards are rising. The credit for these gains goes to educators, students, parents and community partners. Yet we know that, in today’s knowledge-based economy, a high school diploma isn’t enough. So while we should be encouraged by projections like the one in this year’s Grad Nation report, we know that more hard work remains to truly prepare all—not just some—students for success in college, careers and life. Education must be the equalizer that can help overcome the odds stacked against too many of our students."

-Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education

In 2013, the national high school graduation rate hit a record high of 81.4 percent, and for the third year in a row, the nation remained on pace to meet the 90 percent goal by the Class of 2020. This sixth annual update on America’s high school dropout challenge shows that these gains have been made possible by raising graduation rates for students who have traditionally struggled to earn a high school diploma, and focuses on the student subgroups and geographic areas that both contribute to this progress and are key to driving toward the 90 percent goal.

Continuing a pattern seen in earlier years, rates of improvement among states and large districts varied considerably between 2011 and 2013. Some districts, including those with a majority of low-income and minority students, made big improvements, while others lost ground. This is significant because it indicates that high school graduation rates are not increasing because of broad national economic, demographic, and social trends. Rather, the constellation of leadership, reforms, and multi-sector efforts at state, district, and school levels drove this progress, and shows that with focus, graduation rates can be increased for all students in every part of the country

Read the full report here.

Building a Grad Nation: 2014 Annual Report

"The new 'Building a Grad Nation' report ought to be required reading for those who believe that the high school dropout is too intractable to successfully take on."

-Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education

For the first time in U.S. history the nation's high school graduation rate rose above 80 percent.  In addition to more than eight out of 10 high school students graduating on time, the number of students enrolled in dropout factories has dropped 47 percent over the last decade and minority students have led the way in increasing graduation rates and leaving dropout factories all while quality standards have grown increasingly strict. 

These substantial increases have been driven by key factors beginning with increased national awareness of the crisis of low high school graduation rates, and efforts to spotlight the problem.  Accountability of schools and high expectations for better outcomes, better data to track the problem, and increased school performance and improvement have helped to drive change. 

Despite crossing the incredible threshold of 80 percent graduation rate, there is still much left to be done.  There is still a persistent achievement gap between low-income and middle- and high-income students.  African American and Latino students have graduation rates that while rising, trail behind those for Asian and White students.  Many students with disabilities, a population crucial to overall graduation rates, are not graduating on time and with their peers.  

Now the nation turns to the goal of raising the graduation rate to 90 percent by the Class of 2020.  Success will depend on closing the opportunity gap, tackling big city challenges, and making special education students part of the solution.  Through a collaborative effort among public, private, and nonprofit sectors, the nation can achieve a national graduation rate of 90 percent by 2020!

Read the full report here.

The Mentoring Effect: Young People's Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring

The Mentoring Effect is a compelling report informed by the first-ever nationally representative survey of young people on the topic of both informal and formal mentoring, as well as a literature and landscape review and insights from a variety of key leaders in business, philanthropy, government, and education.   The report was commissioned by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership with support from AT&T, and in partnership with Hart Research.

The survey found that 9.4 million at-risk young adults had been matched in mentoring relationships through mentoring programs while they were growing up.  Despite this positive trend, one in three young people surveyed did not have a mentor while they were growing up.  Applying their experiences to the U.S. Census demographics for 8-18 year olds, it is projected that 16 million young people, including 9 million at-risk youths will reach adulthood without connecting with a mentor of any kind.  

The findings of this report are consistent with a powerful mentoirng 
effect as demonstrated by the life experiences of the young people surveyed and the link mentoring has to improved  academic, social, and economic prospects.  This mentoring effect is growing, and if harnessed, has the potential to help meet a range of national challenges and strengthen our communities and economy. 

This report outlines opportunities for the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to systematically integrate mentoring as a key youth strategy.  This report describes a series of paths forward that would lead to a society where all young people have access to quality mentoring relationships and the support they need to succeed in school, work, and life. 

Click here to read the full report.

The Missing Piece: A National Teacher Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools


Full Report
Executive Summary

Press Release

In too many classrooms, students and their teachers focus so much attention on the cognitive elements of education that other life skills are left behind.  While reading and writing are intentionally taught, the skills of resilience and responsibility are often not. As a result, an “either/or” dynamic has been established that prioritizes academic skills, at the expense of “social and emotional” learning, which includes essential life skills such as self-awareness and management, grit and determination, empathy and conflict resolution, discipline and industriousness, and the application of knowledge and skills to real-world situations. This counterproductive dynamic has been established despite overwhelming evidence that social and emotional learning (SEL) boosts student achievement, improves attitudes and behaviors and reduces emotional distress.

In this report, teachers recognize the importance of SEL on student outcomes and endorse social and emotional learning as a key part of American education. The Missing Piece, shares the findings from a nationally representative sample of 605 educators from preschool through 12th grade. The national survey shows that SEL can help address key national challenges, including that America’s educational advantage is slipping. Teachers agree that social and emotional learning is a key part of the solution to address these challenges. Teachers across the country also explained that SEL increases student interest in learning, improves student behavior, prevents and reduces bullying, and improves school climate. The Missing Piece showcases powerful examples of schools, districts, and states intentionally prioritizing SEL in programs and policies with tremendous results. The report closes with Paths Forward, recommendations on the local, state, and federal level in policy and practice that accelerate SEL implementation in schools.

Building A Grad Nation: 2013 Annual Update

"The new 'Building a Grad Nation' report ought to be required reading for those who believe that the high school dropout problem is too intractable to successfully take on."

- Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education

New research reveals that for the first time in our nations history we are on track to reach the national goal of 90% high school graduation rates by the class of 2020.The report shows that two states, Wisconsin and Vermont, already have a graduation rate of 90 percent.   Twenty states are on pace to reach 90 percent by 2020.  Seven states need to accelerate progress, and 23 are off pace to reach the goal. 

This growth in graduation rates was driven in large part by significant gains in Hispanic and African American graduation rates, with Hispanic rates achieving the greatest gains, jumping 10 percentage points from 61 percent in 2006 to 71.4 percent in 2010.  Similarly, African American graduation rates rose from 59.2 percent in 2006 to 66.1 percent in 2010. The South also contributed to this accelerated pace, home to five of the top 10 states with the greatest improvements since 2006 but also the top seven states with the greatest decline in “dropout factory” high schools.  There are 1.1 million fewer students attending these schools in 2011 than in 2002.

The full report provides additional detail on the latest graduation rates and dropout factory trends at the state and national levels.  The report also features states and school districts that are making significant gains, serving as a challenge that others can too. It also shares promising practices from nonprofits, businesses, media, educational and governmental institutions across the country.

See the:

Full Report
Executive Summary
State Indices 
Press Release
Dropout Fact Sheet
2013 Annual Update In the News

Grad Nation Community Guidebook Update


Full Community Guidebook

The Community Guidebook is part of the Grad Nation campaign, a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations, and communities working together to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and return the U.S. to first in the world in college completion. It adds to existing sources of knowledge and information on the high school dropout crisis, such as the annual Building a Grad Nation report and the Building a Grad Nation Summit.

 The Community Guidebook compiles current research and outlines proven solutions and best practices including school and community interventions, for raising graduation rates. It provides a comprehensive framework to help communities design local dropout prevention efforts as well as 16 downloadable tools that communities can use immediately.

The Community Guidebook also addresses other important issues such as education reform, school transformation, Common Core State Standards, multiple pathways to graduation and the importance of quality out-of-school opportunities. It also provides communities with a blueprint on how to engage youth as part of the solution and develop their own “Dropout Prevention and Graduation Improvement Team” and “Community Graduation Compact” as guideposts for building and tracking their progress.

True North: Charting the Course to College and Career Readiness 2012 National Survey of School Counselors

In 2012, the frustrations and hopes of a nationally representative sample of school counselors and administrators reflect the central message of this report: although counselors and administrators believe in the college and career readiness mission of counselors, a lack of focus, training, accountability, and resources for counselors stands in the way of real progress. Counselors are ready to lead in the college and career ready mission, but their graduate schools fail to train them for this mission, schools pull them away from this critical work, and their administrators do not hold them accountable for the activities that usher more students to college.

In short, though counselors are poised to meaningfully contribute, they are operating with a broken compass. Encouragingly students in schools where counselors are trained and held accountable for college-going activities are more likely to go to college. There is a growing national movement to better utilize school counselors and with changes in policy and practice, counselors can emerge s invaluable resources in our nation's schools to boost college and career readiness in a time of fiscal constraint.

Building a Grad Nation: 2012 Annual Update

Building a Grad Nation: 2012 Annual Update

"The new 'Building a Grad Nation' report ought to be required reading for those who believe that the high school dropout problem is too intractable to successfully take on."
-- Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education

New research reveals more than half of states increased graduation rates and number of “Dropout Factory” high schools declined by 23% since 2002. The 2012 Annual Update of Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the Dropout Epidemic report found that 24 states increased their high school graduation rates by modest to large gains, while the number of high schools graduating 60 percent or fewer students on time—often referred to as “dropout factories”— decreased by 457 between 2002 and 2010, with the rate of decline accelerating since 2008.

The report also features states and school districts that are making significant gains, serving as a challenge that others can too. It also shares promising practices from nonprofits, businesses, media, educational and governmental institutions across the country.

See the:

Full Report
Executive Summary
Executive Summary in Spanish
Press Release
Kindle Version of Report

Building a Grad Nation: 2011 Annual Report

Download the 2010-2011 Report Now

America continues to make progress in meeting its high school dropout challenge. Leaders in education, government, nonprofits and business have awakened to the individual, social and economic costs of the dropout crisis and are working together to solve it.

Last year, we reported that the number of "dropout factories" -- those high schools that graduate 60 percent or less of their students -- had declined from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,746 in 2008. We are now able to report that from 2008 to 2009 (the most current data available), the number of dropout factory high schools decreased by an additional 112 schools to 1,634, representing an annual rate of progress approximately three times as fast as the previous period.

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