A recent report by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education shows that the national graduation rate increased 3.5 percentage points from 72 percent in 2001 to 75.5 percent in 2009. At the same time, the report notes, the number of "dropout factories" -- high schools where at least 60 percent of students do not graduate on time -- fell 23 percent, from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,550 in 2010.
National progress in graduation rates was driven by significant gains made by a dozen states: New York, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Kentucky. The South and the suburbs saw the largest declines in dropout factory schools.
So what interventions work?
The report features multiple case studies that include intervention strategies such as increased mentoring of at-risk students, summer and evening high school expansions, changes in curriculum, and programs focused on special populations such as teen parents. The Washington Post highlights one such program in Washington County, Md., which increased its high school graduation rate from 78 percent in 2000 to 92 percent in 2010 using a combination of these interventions.
The Future of Children's America's High School volume analyzes a number of programs aimed at dropout prevention and suggests that successful programs generally have some or most of five elements in common:
1.) Close mentoring and monitoring of students, particularly at-risk students;
2.) Case management of individual students;
3.) Family outreach;
4.) Curricular reforms that focus either on a career-oriented or experiential approach or an emphasis on gaining proficiency in English, or both; and
5.) Attention to a student's out-of-school problems that can affect attendance, behavior, and performance.
Authors in America's High Schools take stock of the challenges facing U.S. high schools and consider what researchers and policymakers know about high school reform - what works and what does not. The volume focuses in particular on low-performing schools whose limited capacity often places a large number of students at high risk of failure.