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Feature

High School Reform

Policymakers, educators, community leaders, and members of the private sector have enlisted in a nationwide effort to better prepare high school graduates for the demands of the 21st century. The National Governors Association (NGA) has taken the lead in much of this effort. In September 2004, NGA launched the Redesigning the American High School (Adobe® Reader® PDF) initiative, a yearlong project aimed at helping governors improve the quality of a high school education in their states. To foster this mission, NGA provided governors with a 10-step process and action agenda for high school redesign, along with promising practices to guide in the implementation of the action plan. The organization also partnered with Achieve Inc. and the Business Roundtable in February to sponsor the "2005 National Education Summit on High Schools." Governors, business leaders, and educators convened to address high school improvement issues, including preparing high school students for the global economy, closing the achievement gaps, and increasing the high school graduation rate.

Low graduation rates, the lack of accurate measures, and data systems to track graduation rates are critical issues faced by high schools across the country. As states and districts struggle to implement effective strategies to keep students in school and achieving at adequate levels until graduation, they also must deploy effective measures for tracking and reporting graduation data. No Child Left Behind requires that states make disaggregated graduation rates available for all districts and schools in public report cards. Reliable data also form the basis of sound decisions that impact student achievement. For these reasons, schools must be able to capture, analyze, and report accurate data in a relevant, useful, and accessible format. Few states have this capacity.

To address this issue, NGA convened the Task Force on State High School Graduation Data in early 2005. The group, comprising governors and other leaders from the public and private sector, released a report titled Graduation Counts: A Report of the National Governors Association Task Force on State High School Graduation Data (Adobe Reader PDF). The report describes five task force recommendations upon which an unprecedented agreement between 47 governors and 12 national organizations was established and signed to develop more accurate measures of high school graduation and to build better data systems to collect, analyze, and report this information. The compact, Graduation Counts: A Compact on State High School Graduation Data (Adobe Reader PDF), was announced on July 17, 2020, at a ceremony during the National Governors Association annual meeting in Des Moines, Iowa.

The U.S. Department of Education also recognizes states' limited data-handling capacities and their need for a "comprehensive and accurate assessment" of the number of high school graduates. In response, Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon recently announced that as the Department of Education encourages states to work toward developing data-tracking systems, it will publish an interim estimator known as the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate. This figure will be published adjacent to each state's current reported graduation rates and is intended to provide more accurate, easier-to-read, and transparent data. Read Simon's July 2005 remarks, The Arts: A Lifetime of Learning, for more information on the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate.

Resources

Learning Point Associates has compiled the below resources dedicated to informing and advancing the critical work of high school reform:

  • A Call to Action: Transforming High School for All Youth (2005)
    National High School Alliance

  • The Center for High School Excellence Web site (2005) Learning Point Associates

  • The Dropout Crisis: Promising Approaches in Prevention and Recovery (2004)
    Adria Steinberg, Cheryl Almeida; Jobs for the Future

  • Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001 (2004)
    Phillip Kaufman, Martha Naomi Alt, Christopher D. Chapman; National Center for Education Statistics

  • Graduation Counts: A Report of the National Governors Association Task Force on State High School Graduation Data (2005)
    National Governors Association

  • Locating the Dropout Crisis: Which High Schools Produce the Nation's Dropouts? Where Are they Located? Who Attends Them? (2004)
    Robert Balfanz, Nettie Legters; Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University

  • Losing Our Future: How Minority Youth Are Being Left Behind by the Graduation Rate Crisis (2004)
    Gary Orfield, Daniel Losen, Johanna Wald, Christopher B. Swanson; The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, The Urban Institute, Advocates for Children of New York, The Civil Society Institute

  • Making Progress Toward Graduation: Evidence From the Talent Development High School Model (2005)
    James J. Kemple, Corinne M. Herlihy, Thomas J. Smith; MDRC

  • A Profile of State Action to Improve America's High Schools (2005)
    National Governors Association

  • Public High School Graduation and College-Readiness Rates: 1991–2002 (2005)
    Jay P. Greene, Marcus A. Winters; Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

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