A new report on nationwide high school graduation trends celebrates Georgia as one of three states that saw a decrease in the number of “dropout factory” schools by more than 50 between 2002 and 2010.
According to Building a Grad Nation 2012, Georgia had 54 schools drop from the unsavory list, while Texas had 122 and Florida had 62. Dropout factories are defined as high schools graduating 60 percent or fewer of their students on time.
Georgia is also among a dozen states credited for boosting the overall U.S. high school graduation rate. The other states are New York, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Kentucky. These 12 states added nearly 109,000 additional graduates in 2009.
The report says that Georgia raised its grad rate from 61 percent to 68 percent by 2010. (Please note that the state has used a different formula to calculate the grad rate in the past that has yielded a higher rate.)
The report credits a statewide focus on grad rates: Georgia’s improving high school graduation rate illustrates what can occur when economic and community forces converge. Georgia has large income and education disparities. Metropolitan Atlanta, with 60 percent of the state’s population, is relatively affluent, educated and the hub of population growth; rural areas, small towns and cities are often the reverse . Over two decades, governors, legislators, educators, and corporate and nonprofit leaders have recognized that statewide educational improvement is necessary to drive economic well-being
and improve the quality of life
The report — by the Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education — found that 24 states increased graduation rates by modest to large gains, while the number of high schools graduating 60 percent or fewer students on time decreased by 457 between 2002 and 2010.
On page 54, Grady High School and Atlanta Public Schools are recognized for their efforts to keep kids in school and on target for graduation.
Among the comments in the section on Grady:
The new APS superintendent, formerly chancellor of the Georgia university system, is instituting new measures to stabilize a school system challenged by a cheating scandal in the elementary and middle schools. The challenge for Grady, as it traverses its first full year of academies, is to capitalize on its capacity and culture to teach all students well and strengthen skills of students who come to high school unprepared. Graduation rates dropped slightly in the last two years. While there is only a small gap in graduation rates between African- American, and White students, there remain sizable gaps in performance on the high school graduation tests, particularly at the advanced level and in mathematics
According to a report summation:
The number of “dropout factories” totaled 1,550 in 2010, down from 1,634 in 2009 and a high of 2,007 in 2002. The number declined by 84 between 2009 and 2010. As a result, 790,000 fewer students attended dropout factories in 2010 than 2002.
These numbers and additional analysis are detailed in the 2012 Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, an annual report authored by John Bridgeland and Mary Bruce of Civic Enterprises and Robert Balfanz and Joanna Fox at the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. The report is sponsored by AT&T with additional support from the Pearson Foundation.
“The good news is that some states have made improvements in their graduation rates, showing it can be done. But the data also indicate that if we are to meet our national goals by 2020, we will have to accelerate our rate of progress, particularly in the states that have shown little progress,” said Robert Balfanz, director of Everyone Graduates Center, Johns Hopkins University, and co-author of the Building a Grad Nation report.
Other findings include:
• The national graduation rate increased by 3.5 percentage points between 2001 and 2009 from 72 percent to 75.5 percent in 2009.
• 20 states made the most significant gains in graduation rates (+3 to +17 percentage points). Tennessee (+17.8) and New York (+13) saw double-digit gains.
• 12 states were responsible for the majority of progress during the past decade: New York, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Kentucky. Combined, these states added nearly 109,000 additional graduates in 2009.
• Nine of these 12 states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas) were also among the top 15 states with the biggest declines in students attending “dropout factories.”
• The following states actually saw declines in their graduation rates during this period: Nevada (-15.6), Connecticut (-4.3), New Mexico (-2.6), Arizona (-2.2), California (-1.7), Utah (-1.1), Nebraska (-1.0), Arkansas (-0.8), New Jersey (-0.5) and Rhode Island (-0.4).
• Only one state, Wisconsin, has a graduation rate of 90 percent.
• The following 13 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Washington have to graduate the largest number of students and be most aggressive in accelerating their graduation rate to reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.
• The South and the suburbs saw the largest declines in the number of “dropout factory” schools with 410 and 171, respectively, between 2002 and 2009.
• The number of “dropout factory” high schools declined by 98 in cities in 2009-2010 while suburbs saw a decrease of 41. Between 2002 and 2010, the Northeast had the second largest decline of 43 while the West decreased by 35. The Midwest increased their number of “dropout factory” schools by 33 during 2002-10.
• Contrary to 2008-09, progress in towns and rural areas stalled in 2009-2010.
• School districts in towns and rural areas saw an increase in the number of “dropout factory” schools between 2009 and 2010. Towns increased the number of these schools by 42 and rural areas by 33 schools.
• This slight increase does not diminish progress between 2002 and 2010 where towns decreased their dropout factory schools by 33 percent, slightly behind their suburban counterparts at 36 percent.
The report also includes updates on progress on the 10 Civic Marshall Plan benchmarks, such as grade-level reading, chronic absenteeism, early warning systems, and state compulsory school age requirements. As highlighted by President Obama in his 2012 State of the Union Address, state laws dictate the minimum and maximum age that all youth must attend school. While the majority of states have a compulsory school age of 17 or 18, a total of 18 states still permit students to drop out before age 18 or the age students drop out.
”In large part the battle will be won or lost in the 13 states that have the largest number of students to get back on track to graduate and need to accelerate their progress two to three-fold in order to reach 90 percent high school graduation rates by 2020,” said John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises and co-author of the Building a Grad Nation report.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog