Graduation rates may be rising

Graduation rates are inching up and fewer high schools are “dropout factories,” concludes Building A Grad Nation, a report by the America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprise and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins. From 2002-08, graduation rates rose form 72 percent to 75 percent, researchers found. The number of dropout factories — high schools with graduation rates under 60 percent — fell by 13 percent.

Tennessee raised its graduation rate by 15 percent; New York went up by 10 percent.

New York City closed low-performing schools, writes Sarah Garland on HechingerEd.

Besides causing an outcry among parents and teachers, this approach hasn’t always yielded all positive benefits, as we’ve written about previously. (For an in-depth look at the arduous process of closing a school, I recommend the GothamSchools series that has followed the effort to shut down Columbus High School in the Bronx along with two others.)

The city also created “alternate pathways for at-risk students so they could catch up on missed credits or return to school after dropping out.”

While black, Hispanic and Native American students made the greatest gains, only 40 percent graduated on time in 2008, notes Education Week.

The report recommended a number of strategies:

These include targeting schools with high dropout rates and the lower grades that feed into them; providing more-rigorous course requirements along with more flexible class schedules for students; and developing early-warning systems to identify students in earlier grades at risk of dropping out, among other strategies.

To qualify for federal education grants, states and districts must track students from eighth grade through graduation, starting in 2010-11, and start showing improvement in 2011-12. Requiring a consistent reporting method will stop districts from inflating graduation rates, says Joanna Fox of Johns Hopkins.