Losing Our Future

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Losing Our Future: How Minority Youth are Being Left Behind by the Graduation Rate Crisis

By Gary Orfield , Daniel Losen, Johanna Wald and Christopher B. Swanson

Every year, across the country, a dangerously high percentage of students—disproportionately poor and minority—disappear from the educational pipeline before graduating from high school. Nationally, only about 68 percent of all students who enter 9th grade will graduate “on time” with regular diplomas in 12th grade. While the graduation rate for white students is 75 percent, only approximately half of Black, Hispanic , and Native American students earn regular diplomas alongside their classmates. Graduation rates are even lower for minority males. Yet, because of misleading
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Because that goal has been impeded in the past by grossly inaccurate and misleading official dropout data, this report spells out in some detail how we arrived at our figures, and why we assert that the methods we used provide far more accurate information than is currently officially reported by both the federal government and by most states. This analysis draws on the expertise of Dr. Christopher Swanson of the non-partisan The Urban Institute, one of the nation’s leading experts on enrollment and graduation rate data. As co-author, Dr. Swanson calculated the graduation rates employed throughout the report using the “Cumulative Promotion Index” (CPI). CPI is a method he independently developed and tested to provide more accurate graduation rate estimates.

The report combines findings of a comprehensive review of graduation rate accountability derived from each state’s website, along with interviews of state education officials. Finally, the report provides recommendations on how both the federal government and individual states can act to address this crisis.

Woven throughout this report are narratives about students who have either dropped out or felt “pushed” out of school, often due to the pressure experienced by officials to raise their schools’ overall test profiles. Collectively, these stories highlight the critical need to provide individual schools and school districts with positive incentives to hold onto more students through graduation.
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