THE NATION’S high school graduation rate rose from 72 percent to 75.5 percent between 2002 and 2009. The progress reflects intensive efforts by a number of states to develop and implement strategies to keep students from dropping out. And one key factor in prodding states to act was federal pressure — most notably, the oft-maligned No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
The uptick in graduation was detailed in a report released by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University in conjunction with several nonprofits, including one headed by former secretary of state Colin L. Powell. It also chronicled the decline of “dropout factories,” high schools where at least 60 percent of students don’t graduate on time, from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,550 in 2010.
The number of students who leave school without a diploma is still far too high; that’s all the more reason to spotlight the success of a dozen states — led by New York and Tennessee — in making dramatic gains in graduation rates by implementing such programs as early identification of struggling students. The District was not included in the study; Maryland and Virginia saw only slight increases, which should spur them to evaluate what else they can do. Maryland, for example, needs to change its archaic law that ends compulsory school attendance at age 16. We hope bills in the current General Assembly, supported by state school officials and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), will get favorable treatment.