Number of Latino, Black High School Grads Increases as 'Dropout Factories' Decline

By Sheryl Estrada

Photo by Shutterstock

The national high school graduation rate reached a record high of 81.4 percent, according to the 2015 report”Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic.”

The report is by Civic Enterprises, Everyone Graduates Center at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and Alliance for Excellent Education.

GradNation, created by America’s Promise Alliance, was launched in 2010 to focus individuals, communities and organizations on decreasing dropout rates.

The campaign has a goal of raising the national average on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020. This means the graduating class of 2020 will need to have 310,000 more graduated students than the class of 2013.

The report states the U.S. is on track to reach that goal. However, there’s still work to do.

Latinos, the fastest growing population of students, have made the greatest gains in the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) reporting era, improving 4.2 percentage points from 2011 to 2013. Black students experienced significant improvement as well, rising 3.7 percentage points from 67 percent in 2011 to 70.7 percent in 2013.

The report points out that a reason for the increasing graduation rates for Latinos and Blacks is a decline in “dropout factories,” which is a name for high schools with low graduation rates:

There are now fewer than 1,200 of these schools nationwide and 1.5 million fewer students attending them, and the number of African American and Hispanic/Latino students in these schools has dropped below 20 and 15 percent, respectively.

The following 10 states increased their graduation rates by four percentage points or more from 2011-2013 (listed in order of significant gains): Nevada, Alabama, New Mexico, Utah, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, and California.

California, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina are among those with the largest enrollments in the country, helping to drive the nation’s gain.

The authors attribute the progress to a “constellation of leadership, reforms, and multi-sector efforts at state, district, and school levels.” And with focus and concerted effort, every part of the country can experience increased graduation rates.

This effort is vastly needed in Nevada, New Mexico, Georgia and Florida, which still have relatively low graduation rates (70 to 78 percent) and must accelerate their pace of progress to reach 90 percent.

“Worrisome for the nation” is the third-quarter performance of New York, Illinois, Washington and Arizona. Combined, the states educate about 15 percent of the nation’s high school students.

The report indicates states that educate more than 40 percent of Black students — California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Ohio — have recently experienced significant declines in the graduation rates of Blacks, or have graduation rates in 60 percentages.The recent progress in high school graduation rates of Black students will stall, unless there are significant improvements in these states.

Overall, the high school graduation rates of Blacks and Latinos still need to increase.

Graduation RatesPercentage

Policy recommendations:

1)Discipline in schools: Create transparency around school discipline policies; move away from zero tolerance policies for ill-defined offenses.

2)Provide challenging course and supports.

3)Improved access to support systems.

Low-income students are graduating at a rate of 15-percentage points behind peers in families with higher incomes. The authors write that 51 percent of the nation’s public school students are low-income, so many of those children who attend these schools live in poverty.

Policy recommendations:

1)Fund and support programs that help bridge the opportunity gap for poor children.

2)Make health and wellness initiatives an integral part of education reform for high poverty schools.

3) Level the playing field of state and local funding for high poverty schools and districts.

AT&T (No. 7 on the 2015 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) is the lead sponsor of the report, with supporting sponsorship from Target (No. 25).

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