Improving High School Graduation Rates

In recent years, we have seen strong improvements in high school graduation rates across the country. This success is a collective work – including educators, guidance counselors, families, and and the community at large. The great work of organizations such as America’s Promise Alliance (an ERCA partner) has helped in raising awareness of both the challenges and the solutions when it comes to grad rates.

Over at Education Week as part of its Diplomas Count 2016 efforts, Catherine Gewertz writes on one of the key components to ensuring improving in boosting high school graduation rates. That item is coherence.

Educators have been clear on this topic for quite some time. With so many demands for change and innovation and new ideas, one can also lose sight of the holistic school. Gewertz’ piece reinforced that, looking to a Carnegie Corporation study on high school redesign. As she reports:

Making U.S. high schools great is a tough nut to crack, and the landscape of the past half-century is littered with failures to prove it. But those decades of trying have yielded some lessons that are guiding the latest school improvement pioneers.

Reviewing the progress—and problems—of high school reform in a 2013 report, the Carnegie Corporation of New York noted that many high schools have latched on to key improvement strategies but failed to incorporate others that are equally important. It called for national attention to “intentional new school designs” that incorporate 10 principles that research has shown to be pivotal in creating high-performing secondary schools, such as having a clear mission and coherent culture and personalizing learning to fit students’ needs.

“By purposefully integrating many of these advances in a comprehensive school design, much more can be accomplished than applying each individually,” wrote co-authors Leah Hamilton and Anne Mackinnon.

As part of EdWeek’s Diplomas Count efforts, Gewertz and her colleagues highlight a number of interesting efforts pursued by communities to boost their high school graduation rates. Whether it be a community partnership-focused STEM high school in Cleveland or parents, colleges, and business leaders working together to redesign some Boston high schools, these examples provide some interesting and valuable ideas when it comes to high school improvement and how best to increase graduation rates.