A report released by Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center shows that despite a marked improvement in the national high school graduation rate, three out of ten U.S. public schools students still fail to get a high school diploma.
The U.S. national graduation rate rose from sixty-six percent in 1996 to sixty-nine percent in 2006. From 1997 to 1999 the statistics recorded a yearly sixty-six percent graduation rate and between 2000 and 2003 there was an improved annual graduation rate of sixty-eight percent.
In 2003 to 2005 this increased to seventy percent annually, the highest improvement in ten years. 2006 marked the first time in the past decade that the nation’s graduation rate posted a noticeable annual decline, falling more than one percentage point—from 70.6 percent in 2004 to 2005 to 69.2 percent in 2005 to 2006. This was a signal that the consistent improvements noted over the years were in jeopardy of eroding.
The “Diplomas Count 2009: Broader Horizons: The Challenge of College Readiness for All Students” report covers a ten year period and highlights a 2006 down-turn in graduation as a major cause of concern.
The national report, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, tracks state-by-state graduation policies and gives a nationwide analysis of graduation rates and trends. The report findings reveal that policymakers, states and schools have yet to reach a consensus on what it takes to prepare students for college.
While referring to the number of high school graduation dropouts, the EPE Research Center Director Christopher B. Swanson noted that the nation is failing to reach a level necessary to put the U.S. on a solid footing in the competitive global market. However, Swanson expressed optimism that there is a momentum geared towards college preparation. “Trends over the past decade show broad-based improvements,” he argued.
“Preparation for college is now a high government focal point for high school reform,” Swanson said.
In his speech to Congress, President Barack Obama urged every American to achieve some level of higher education and said that there was no excuse to quit high school. “Dropping out of high school is no longer an option,” he said. “I ask every American to commit at least one year or more of higher education or career training.”
“As a nation, we have a long way to go in order to reconcile the goal of raising college attendance and completion rates with troubling data on the proportion of U.S. students who graduate from high schools in the traditional four-year time span,” said Swanson. “The rates are generally not as high as we would like them to be, and the pace of improvement needs to be much faster.”