Four successive U.S. presidents have set similar national goals to end the high school dropout crisis, only to see deadlines come and go without much progress. Until recently.
After 30 years of flat-lining graduation rates since the early 1970s, and more than 1 million students dropping out of high school every year, significant progress has been made in the past decade. Graduation rates have risen from 71 percent in 2001 to 81 percent in 2012. Gains have been so strong since 2006 that, for the first time, the nation has crossed the 80 percent threshold and is on pace to meet its 90 percent high school graduation rate goal by the Class of 2020.
Progress has been driven within the very populations that had the furthest to climb — with 15 percentage point gains among Hispanics and 9 percent point gains among African-Americans. The number of “dropout factories” — those schools graduating 60 percent or fewer of their students — has declined by nearly 650 schools, with 1.2 million fewer students attending them.