Diplomas Count 2009: Broader Horizons: The Challenge of College Readiness for All Students

Mickey Muldoon

Editorial Projects in Education
June 2009

This third installment in Ed Week's 2009 annual reports series (2009 editions of Quality Counts and Technology Counts were published earlier this year, see here and here) is a timely collection of research and commentary on high-school graduation rates and college preparedness. Few of the results will shock or surprise, but it's a good resource to have, especially in light of the Obama Administration's stated goal of returning the U.S. to the top of the international college-completion rankings by 2020. At minimum, its data remind us how much progress we still have to make: The national high-school graduation rate is just under 70 percent, and roughly 20 points lower than that for minorities. While these numbers have all inched forward over the past decade, there was a slight nationwide decline (of 1 percent) from 2005 to 2006, the last year for which data were compiled. (It remains unclear whether this is an aberration, a trend, or a methodological glitch.) The report includes a district-by-district breakdown based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics, and uses the Department of Education's 2008-updated (to facilitate NCLB reporting) definition of high school graduation-receiving a traditional diploma within four years. Elsewhere, the Data Quality Campaign, Michelle Cahill of the Carnegie Corporation, and Pennsylvania's Ed Rendell laud Florida-style tracking and urge other states to use stimulus dollars to follow suit. You'll also find discussion of whether "college readiness" is a challenge of "how" or "if." In other words, should we presume all students should be prepared to attend a four-year university--or any post-secondary program? How we define and track graduation and post-graduation success has as much to do with settling these timeless issues as implementing the right software and hardware. Read the report for yourself here.

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