Monday, September 12, 2011

Tracking the Warning Signs: High School Dropouts

Every year, nearly one quarter of high school students (approximately 1 million students) in the United States fail to graduate on time; and close to 5 million young adults ages 18 to 24 currently lack a high school diploma. Recent progress on increasing graduation rates has stalled, and while the drop-out rate has not changed significantly, a recent report by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) notes that what makes current graduation rates alarming is the reality of the new U.S. economy. The report states that it is practically impossible for individuals lacking a high school diploma to earn a living or participate meaningfully in civic life. If the current trends continue, nearly 13 million students will drop-out of high school over the next decade, costing the U.S. $3 trillion.

These trends have led to an increased focus on improving high school graduation rates by both educators and policymakers. Several states have started tracking, reviewing, and establishing trends that amount to warning signs that a young person is on the path to dropping-out of school. The ECS report highlights these efforts and summarizes the statewide early warning indicator systems in Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama and the Philadelphia Public Schools district-wide system.

For results-based policy strategies to increase high school completion, visit