There are a number of laudable statistics found in this year’s Diplomas Count: At 75 percent, the U.S. graduation rate in 2010 hit its highest point since 1973—the most recent year for which data are available—marking an 8 percentage point boost from ten years earlier. Further, Hispanics boasted a 16 percentage-point rate improvement; African Americans, a 13 percentage-point bump, which halved the white-Hispanic graduation-rate gap and cut the white–African American gap by 30 percent during that same time period. Yet this year’s report focuses on a depressing corollary point: We’re failing our youth who have already dropped out. Currently, 1.8 million young adults, or 6.5 percent of those aged sixteen to twenty-one, are neither enrolled in school nor have they received their diploma. And we have no comprehensive public-policy strategy to bring these youth back to school or get them college- or career-ready. Still, the report profiles a handful of dropout-recovery programs—run by districts, CMOs, or nonprofits—that are working to reengage would-be students. It’s tough stuff: One Boston-based nonprofit brought 501 of the 867 students it contacted back to the classroom in 2011–12, for example. Among them, fewer than 100 graduated at the end of the year. The message? Progress is good, but there’s no rest for the weary.
SOURCE: Education Week, Diplomas Count 2013: Second Chances: Turning Dropouts into Graduates (Bethesda, MD: Editorial Projects in Education, June 2013).