Between 2002 and 2010, twenty-four states increased their high school graduation rates by a modest to large amount, helping to boost the national rate to 75.5 percent from 72 percent, a new report from Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education finds.
Released at the Building a Grad Nation Summit in Washington, D.C., the report, Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, found that twelve states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin — were responsible for the majority of the nation's progress toward raising the national high school graduation rate. Sponsored by AT&T and the Pearson Foundation, the report also found that the number of high schools graduating 60 percent or fewer students on time — so-called "dropout factories" — fell from more than two thousand in 2002 to 1,550 in 2010. Southern states and suburban towns saw the largest declines (410 and 171, respectively) in the number of dropout factories, followed by the Northeast (43). The number in the Midwest, in contrast, grew by 33.
A few states saw their graduation rates fall between 2002 and 2010, including Nevada (down15.6 percentage points), 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). According to the report, only Wisconsin has a graduation rate of 90 percent. If every state had a graduation rate that high, the report notes, an additional 580,000 students would have graduated in 2011, increasing the gross domestic product (GDP) by $6.6 billion and generating $1.8 billion in additional revenue as a result of increased economic activity.
"The good news is that some states have made improvements in their graduation rates, showing it can be done," said the report's co-author, Robert Balfanz, director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. "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."