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graduation rate

Arizona and North Dakota in January became the first two states requiring high school graduates to take a U.S. citizenship exam.

Legislators in 14 others states recently introduced similar initiatives in a what’s been labeled as an effort to better prepare students to participate in a democratic society.

Credit recovery boosts graduation rate

When S. Dallas Dance became superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools in 2012, the district’s graduation rate for its 24 high schools stood at nearly 84 percent, four points above the national average. But that encouraging number masked the disparity between schools with graduation rates above 95 percent and as low as 70 percent.

U.S. graduation rates reached a historic high of over 80 percent in 2012—an increase of about 8 percent over the past decade, says America’s Promise Alliance.

“We’ve made these improvements, but we’re still left with about 20 percent of young people who are on a course to failure,” says Jonathan Zaff, executive director of the Center for Promise at Tufts University, the research center for America’s Promise Alliance.

S. Dallas Dance has raised test scores at Baltimore County Schools since becoming superintendent in 2012.

President Barack Obama in August appointed Baltimore County Schools Superintendent S. Dallas Dance to the Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Dance has been superintendent in Baltimore County since 2012. He helped raise the graduation rate by 2.5 percent—to over 86 percent—between 2012 and 2013.

Superintendent Grayling Tobias of the Hazelwood School District in St. Louis County, Mo.

Superintendent Grayling Tobias of the Hazelwood School District in St. Louis County, Mo., started school as planned in August, despite the recent death of an unarmed 18-year-old who was shot multiple times in a confrontation with police in Ferguson, Mo.

Tobias arranged for extra police patrols at all buildings, and asked principals, social workers and counselors to be visible for students who need to talk or express their feelings.

Superintendent Pia Durkin visits classrooms in her district to learn about the students and staff and their needs.

Pia Durkin took the reins as superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools, one of the lowest-performing districts in Massachusetts, this past July facing a Herculean task.

The substantial number of high school graduates who land in higher education unprepared academically and have to take remedial courses to catch up are more likely than other students to quit before earning a two- or four-year diploma. Now, districts in several states are intervening more aggressively than in the past to better prepare struggling high school students for college-level classes.

Parents of more than three quarters of K12 students think the amount of homework given is appropriate, and many of the adults surveyed also said they help their children with the assignments, says a report on parental involvement from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Superintendent Jim McIntyre interacts with Knox County elementary school students.

Knox County Schools is a flourishing district in Tennessee, with most of its 15 high schools having graduation rates above 90 percent. Within the last five years, the district has also has also seen modest gains in reading/language arts, math, science, and social studies as measured by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests for grades 3 through 8.

 St. Louis Superintendent Kelvin Adams reads to Gateway Elementary School students.

St. Louis Public Schools, the largest district in Missouri, was struggling to stay afloat in 2007, with $40 million dollars of debt and low test scores. In March of that year, the state school board revoked the district’s accreditation for not meeting state standards and took control.

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