The central message of this report is that some states and school districts are raising their high school graduation rates with scalable solutions in our public schools, showing the nation we can end the high school dropout crisis. America made progress not only in suburbs and towns, but also in urban districts and in states across the South.
Progress in states and school districts has often been the result of rising to a standard of excellence — with clear goals and expectations from the state to the classroom, by challenging all students with a more rigorous curriculum to obtain a meaningful diploma that prepares them for college and work, and through a targeted approach sustained over time that provides extra supports to the school leaders, teachers and students who need them the most. Progress was not the result of a magic bullet, but a weave of multiple reform efforts, sustained, integrated, and improved over time.
Important progress is being made on a range of reforms, policies, and practices at all levels that will help ensure more students graduate from high school, ready for college and productive work. Although this is producing real results, including an increase in the national graduation rate, the pace is too slow to meet the national goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020.1 We must calibrate our educational system to the greater demands of the 21st century through a Civic Marshall Plan to make more accelerated progress in boosting student achievement, high school graduation rates, and college- and career-readiness for our nation to meet national goals and fulfill the promise of the next generation.
In the aftermath of World War II, Secretary of State George C. Marshall instructed George Kennan and his policy planning staff to ”avoid trivia” in developing their plan to help rebuild Europe. A coalition of leading institutions has adopted this same approach in developing a ”Civic Marshall Plan” to end the dropout epidemic and reach the national goal of having 90 percent of our students graduating from high school and obtaining at least one year of post-secondary schooling or training by 2020. Our Civic Marshall Plan will not be focused on creating infrastructure, but on the strategic deployment of human resources to help school districts and states accelerate improvement. To succeed, it will need to be community based and locally organized, but supported at the state and national levels with human resources paired with evidence-based strategies, guiding research, and accountability structures that propel continuous improvement.
What follows is an initial plan, intended to be further informed by the coalition, other interested parties, and the American people. We believe that ending the dropout epidemic is possible because we now know which students are likely to drop out, absent effective interventions, and where these students go to school. We also know that evidence-based solutions exist. Thus, we are left with an engineering problem of getting the right supports to the right students in a timely fashion at the scale and intensity required. To meet this challenge, we need to take a targeted and phased approach, driven by our understanding of where the challenge is greatest and where concerted efforts can have the largest impact.
Learn more about Building a Grad Nation.
Click here to read more about the Grad Nation Guidebook, a toolkit.
Find out more about how your state is making progress and meeting challenges. Click here to see our annually updated Civic Marshall Plan Index.