America is faced by the challenge of a high school dropout crisis. At least one in five student drops out of school and nearly 5 million 18- to 24-year-olds lack a high school diploma. Annually, dropouts cost the United States more than $300 billion in lost wages and increased public-sector expenses. Furthermore, with the nation ranking 20 out of 28 among industrialized democracies on high school graduation rates, the dropout problem is a substantial drag on the nation’s economic competitiveness.

Governors are confronting these challenges and pursuing new dropout prevention strategies that: promote high school graduation for all; target youth at risk of dropping out; reengage youth who have dropped out of school; and provide rigorous, relevant options for earning a high school diploma. In addition to dropout prevention across the nation, governors are leading efforts to redesign American high schools by improving access to Advanced Placement coursework, strengthening longitudinal data systems and increasing access to dual enrollment and early college options. Congress can help states support and expand this work to ensure that every student graduates from high school better prepared for college and career success.

In 2005, the NGA Graduation Counts: Compact on State High School Graduation Data (NGA Compact), which includes the NGA Graduation Rate, was endorsed by 50 governors and led to states beginning the difficult task of developing and building longitudinal data systems to calculate the new graduation rate. The voluntary state NGA Compact formulated a common high school graduation rate to ensure transparency, accountability and comparability and, ultimately, to improve our nation’s high schools. However, when governors developed the NGA Compact, it was not for federal accountability purposes. The use of a high school graduation rate in any accountability framework must serve as an incentive to promote state and local innovation to better engage and educate every student and count all students who graduate from high school. Congress and the Administration should work closely with governors to ensure the proper use and application of the NGA Voluntary High School Graduation Rate.

Legislative Proposals:
Innovation American: A Partnership Legislative Proposal

Related Materials:

  • Testimony on P-16 Alignment
    March 22, 2007 Testimony by Dane Linn (Director, Education Division Center for Best Practices, NGA) before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness on Innovation America
  • Testimony on High School Reform
    Testimony by Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on Lifelong Education Opportunities.
  • NGA Letter Regarding Use of NGA Graduation Rate for Accountability Purposes
    June 11, 2008 letter (from Governor Carcieri and Governor Henry) to the U.S. Department of Education to submit comments in response to the April 23rd Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the regulations governing Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).