Event Summary: Conversation About Education - Building a Grad Nation

Posted by Debbie Sullivan on

What will it take for the United States to meet a 90% graduation rate by the year 2020? In an attempt to answer this question, CEO of Civic Enterprises John Bridgeland, who is nationally regarded for co-authoring the Building a Grad Nation report, lead a Conversation about Education at Central Library on May 19th.  The conversation was moderated by WFYI Education Reporter Eric Weddle

During the conversation, Bridgeland provided many thought provoking ideas about the U.S. graduation rate. According to the Building a Grad Nation report, for the third year in a row the nation is on pace to meet 90% national graduation rate by the year 2020, a goal that has been supported by the last four Presidents of the United States. 

Although the graduation rate has increased by 11% in the past decade, one of the dilemmas is around the demograpics of the students who are graduating.  Though Hispanic students have increased the graduation rate by 15% and Black students by 9%, there is still much disparity among these groups and among among students with special needs. Bridgeland emphasised that if we are going to meet the 90% goal, we need to focus on supporting marginalized groups of students.

According to Bridgeland:

  • 124 districts tripled the national average in graduation gains
  • 29 state equaled or exceeded the national average of 81.4%
  • 50% of drop outs are in 15% of schools
  • 169 districts of the top 500 made no progress or lost ground
  • There is still a significant gap for the graduation rate of low-income students – 51% of students in our country are low income. 

In Indiana, Bridgeland has worked directly with Shelbyville High School since 2005 when the initiative started.  During this time, Shelbyville’s graduation rate has increased from the 70’s to the high 90’s.

Other Indiana Statistics inlcude:

  • 19 high schools have 67% or lower graduation rates
  • 5 high schools have 60% or lower grad rates, down by 25 has since 2002
  • Indiana is above the average for graduating low income students
  • 2,237 more Indiana students are needed to graduate in 2020 to reach 90% 

There are positive areas but still many areas of need.  Bridgeland posed the question, “Are we a tale of two nations or a grad nation?”  His commentary and questions from the audience promoted thoughts on who is graduating and how we as a nation can work to increase the rate for ALL groups, including special needs. Bridgeland left us with his "secret sauce" for improving graduation rates among our students, stating that we need to create an "every studen counts culture" in each an every school in our nation. Then, and only then, will our nation rise to the graduation challenge.

A recording of the conversation may be found here.

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