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How We Work to Fix the Graduation Gap

College & Career Readiness | 06/06/2017

Lauren Sandherr Digital Strategist

Lauren executes digital marketing strategies in an effort to bring awareness to current education issues.

It’s that time of year where people are breaking out the streamers and balloons to celebrate their high school grads. The pride that comes from watching your beloved student beaming - diploma in hand, cap tossed in the air - is unrivaled.

But graduation doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone.

Despite reaching an all-time high in 2015, with an 83% graduation rate in the United States, that rate differs for various groups of students. Take, for example, location. New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon all have graduation rates below 75%, well under the national average.

Race and ethnicity also play a huge role in graduation disparities. While Asian/Pacific Islander and White students have average graduation rates of 90% and 88%, respectively, Hispanic students graduate at average rate of 78%, Black students at a rate of 75%, and American Indian/Alaska Native students at a rate of 72% (source).

Other groups of students with lower-than-average graduation rates are:

  • Economically disadvantaged students: 76%
  • Students with disabilities: 65%
  • Limited English proficiency: 65% (source)

If you take a look at the state level data, those gaps widen even further.

Public education should be the great equalizer. If all schools were on an even playing field - offering high-quality teachers, administration, and programs to all students - those numbers wouldn’t be so low. Consider the differences in life outcomes for high school graduates and non-grads. Those who do not graduate high school:

  • Have a shorter life expectancy, potentially more than 10 years (source)
  • Are at greater risk of major diseases, such as diabetes (source)
  • Have a median income over $5k less per year than those with a diploma and $25k less than those with a college degree (source)
  • Have a much higher rate of unemployment (currently about 6.5%) (source
  • Are more likely to live in poverty (rate was over 30% in 2012) (source)
  • Are incarcerated at a rate 63 times greater than those who attend college (source

So what can be done to close the gaps and make sure every student graduates high school prepared for the future?

At Stand, we work on several strategic policies that aim to improve graduation rates for students.

  1. College & career readiness: Maximize Career and Technical Education opportunities for students across states and districts; ensure states, districts, and schools focus on preparation for post-secondary success – specifically, lowering the rates of college remediation that is needed; help states and districts establish an early way to identify students who are at risk of not graduating on time, including giving these students access to the courses and support they need to help guide them to graduation; and more.
  2. Attendance: Educate parents and community members on the importance of attendance; ensure states and districts collect data on attendance and use it to identify students struggling with chronic absenteeism; and help districts partner with other organizations who design early warning systems that allow for campuses to provide targeted support and tutoring to students struggling with chronic absenteeism.
  3. Early literacy: Establish a way to identify struggling readers early on, as well as effective interventions and supports for struggling readers — including giving these students access to the most effective reading teachers; improve measures to ensure states, school districts, and schools are making progress in early literacy skills and 3rd grade reading proficiency; provide ongoing professional development for teachers that is aligned with the curriculum and focuses on early literacy instruction; and more.
  4. 9th grade on-track: Help states, districts, and schools create and implement early warning systems and interventions to identify and support students who are not on track to graduate; ensure districts develop evidence-based intervention plans with parent engagement for each student that is not on track to graduate; improve state accountability measures so that states, school districts, and schools can demonstrate they are making on-time graduation progress for all children; and more.

Our Stand offices across the country are actively working in their communities and states to make these policies (and more) a reality. You can join the fight to make sure all children succeed after high school by following us on social media, joining our list, or contacting the team in your state to become a member.

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