Last week,  the good news was that Massachusetts’ high school graduation rate had improved for the 9th consecutive year with 87.3% of students who entered 9th grade in 2011 getting a diploma four years later.  It was also encouraging news that the dropout rate dropped to 1.9% with 400 fewer students leaving school without a diploma than the previous year.  Contributing to these improved statistics were significant gains in Gateway Cities like Boston, Springfield, Lawrence, New Bedford and Worcester.  All of the educators who made this happen deserve congratulations!

What do the numbers really mean? If you find the discrepancy between the graduation rate and drop out rate confusing, you’re not alone!  Achieve analyzed 93 diploma options across all 50 states and produced this explanation – How the States Got Their Rates.  Unfortunately, it shows wide variation and a general lack of alignment to college and workplace demands.  (Massachusetts is one of only 9 states reporting the number of students who complete a college and career ready course of study – in our case, 72.4% completed  MassCore in 2014.)

America’s Promise Alliance released a video and webinar that helps explain what is behind the nation’s record-setting rate increases.  Its GradNation initiative provides resources and in-depth analysis that offers further detail.

Of great interest to the business community is the evidence available in a transcript, downloadable webinar or podcast from the Alliance for Excellent Education about the economic impact of a high school diploma.

These organizations share the goal of boosting the nation’s graduation rate to 90% by 2020, which, according to the 2015 Building a Grad Nation report, would increase annual earnings by $7.2 billion, raise annual spending by $5.3 billion and increase federal tax revenue by $1.1 billion, based on the new data.  More than 65,000 new jobs  are predicted, with an $11.5 billion annual boost to the GDP, an $800 million increase in auto sales, and a $16 billion jump in home sales.  Clearly, educational attainment is good for the economy!  MBAE is also focused, however, on the benefits of education for our citizens and our society.

We like to think these numbers reflect increased understanding among students, families and educators that a high school diploma is no longer sufficient for jobs in Massachusetts that pay family-sustaining wages.  Our economy and workforce is one that depends on skilled labor, and a certificate or post-secondary training is required for most job opportunities and will be even more essential in the future.  Growing acceptance of the voluntary college and career-ready MassCore course of study as a graduation requirement by districts is also a contributing factor in the rates posted by the class of 2015.  Our Future Ready Massachusetts program makes it clear why districts should adopt this recommendation and features resources and information that helps promote action and activities to help students prepare for success.

While we celebrate the good news, let’s resolve to keep doing more to ensure that every student graduates from high school future ready!

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