America's Promise Alliance Launches Campaign to Combat Dropout Crisis

Coinciding with the release of a new report which finds that only half of all students served by the main school systems in the fifty largest U.S. cities graduate from high school, America's Promise Alliance has announced the launch of a national campaign to reduce dropout rates and better prepare youth for college, work, and life.

Prepared by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, the report, Cities in Crisis: A Special Analytic Report on High School Graduation (16 pages, PDF), found that nearly one in three U.S. high school students drops out before graduating and that approximately 1.2 million students — about seven thousand every school day — drop out each year. The report also found that in the metropolitan areas surrounding thirty-five of the nation's largest cities, graduation rates in urban schools were lower than those in nearby suburban communities; indeed, in several instances the disparity between urban-suburban graduation rates was more than 35 percentage points.

As part of its Dropout Prevention Campaign, the D.C.-based alliance will host summits in every state over the next two years that bring together mayors, governors, business owners, child advocates, school administrators, students, and parents to develop workable solutions and action plans for improving graduation rates and workforce readiness. Summits have already been held, or are scheduled, in Detroit, Tucson, Iowa, and Mississippi. The alliance said the summits are also designed to raise awareness of the problem and stressed that the state and local efforts must be buttressed by strong federal action, including passage of the Graduation Promise and Every Student Counts acts. The campaign's lead sponsor is the State Farm Insurance Company, with additional support provided by AT&T, the Boeing Company, the Ford Motor Company Fund, Casey Family Programs, and the Bill & Melinda Gates, ING, and J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott foundations.

According to alliance chair Alma J. Powell, the best predictor of a young person's future success is whether they graduate from high school. The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that high school dropouts from the Class of 2006-07 will cost the United States more than $329 billion in lost wages, taxes, and productivity over their lifetimes. And dropouts are more likely to be incarcerated, rely on public programs and social services, and go without health insurance than those who graduate from high school.

"When more than one million students a year drop out of high school, it's more than a problem, it's a catastrophe," said General Colin Powell, the alliance's founding chair. "Our economic and national security is at risk when we fail to educate the leaders and the workforce of the future. It's time for a national 'call to arms' because we cannot afford to let nearly one-third of our kids fail."