Improving the US Graduation Rate: Schools Need Early Intervention and Career Focus

A new report shows aggressive efforts to lower the high school dropout rate between 2001 and 2009, only made a 3.5 percentage increase. The organization America’s Promise Alliance has a goal to raise the high school graduation rate to 90% by 2020. In 2009, 75% of students graduated high school, which translates to one in four, according to the CBS story “Report: US Makes Modest Gains in Graduation Rate.”

“Dropout factories” — schools that have less than a 60% graduation rate — have decreased by 450. However, the report shows that there are still 1,550 in operation. In Nevada, schools are struggling to raise their 56% dropout rate. It wasn’t uncommon for students to dropout of high school when the economy was strong in Las Vegas in order to secure well paying jobs doing things like parking cars or serving drinks, according to the story. Now, in a down economy, dropouts are without a high school diploma and can’t find employment.

Las Vegas is an exaggerated example of the struggle dropouts face in our economy compared to some places in the rest of the country, but it clearly shows the connection between school and jobs that so many students don’t see until they’re in the real world. As these school systems make changes to improve the dropout rate, it’s obvious that a career component is a requirement in the classroom.

Report authors found other proven strategies that help improve school dropout rates are programs that focus on:

  • Early intervention
  • Pregnancy, young parents
  • School credit recovery

Another element that has proven to show gains is when students create relationships with intervention specialists. Intervention specialists can be a resource at school, make home visits, or connect them to community resources. All of the strategies have a common component: they make it less embarrassing to return to school after being gone for a long stint and let the student know the school is in for the longhaul.

Early intervention programs can be complex and thoroughly integrated in the school system like in the examples from the report. However, making small changes can also bring big gains. Summer reading programs fight illiteracy, help students achieve goals at their reading level, promote summer learning, and close the achievement gap.

How can LifeBound help you with this initiative?  If you are working with disadvantaged or impoverished students, ask us about our book donation program for summer reading.  We believe summer reading can change lives and we’d like to work with you to do just that.


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