The last straw for 17-year-old Alton Burke was a note left on his door. The high school dropout picked up the phone and re-enrolled at South Hagerstown High.
Burke missed roughly 200 days of class, but Heather Dixon, the student intervention specialist who left the note, never gave up on him.
Aggressive efforts to prevent students such as Burke from dropping out contributed to a modest 3.5 percentage point increase nationally in the high school graduation rate from 2001 to 2009, according to research to be presented Monday at the Grad Nation summit in Washington. The event was organized by the children's advocacy group America's Promise Alliance founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The graduation rate was 75 percent in 2009, meaning 1 in 4 students fails to get a diploma in four years, researchers found. That's well below the organization's goal of 90 percent by 2020.