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A new report out Monday shows that the U.S. high school graduation rate rose to 75.5 percent in 2009, up a relatively modest 3.5 percentage points from 2001.
The group behind the report, the Colin Powell-led nonprofit America's Promise, linked the uptick to aggressive efforts to reform the lowest-performing schools. The group cites a combination of reforms, school closings and an increase in school-of-choice options for students as factors in the improving rate.
The number of students attending so-called “dropout factories”—schools where the dropout rate is 60 percent or higher—has declined by one-third since 2001, according to the Washington Post, and the Associated Press points to one Maryland county with especially strong improvement, with the help of intervention specialists, a program for teen parents, and other innovative initiatives.
Still, the latest figures are far from the 90 percent graduation goal that the group has set for 2020. Right now, only one state, Wisconsin, meets that threshold. The report also found persistent socioeconomic and racial disparities in graduation rates: 82 percent of white students graduate on time, for instance, while only 63.5 percent of black students do.
Rates improved markedly in states like New York, Florida and Texas, while they actually declined in other states, including California and Arizona, as the Post points out.
The report also highlights the significant boost high school grads give the economy: The average high school grad produces $200,000 in higher tax revenue and savings for the government than people who don’t graduate.