Raise Georgia’s current High School graduation rate to 90%

Georgia is in the midst of a dropout crisis. With a high school graduation rate of 69 percent, our education system is failing far too many of our children. The consequences to individual children, their families and communities, and to Atlanta constitute a modern social crisis.  Improving our high school graduation rate is crucial to developing a sustained higher quality of life throughout our region.  How can we raise our high school graduation rate in metro-Atlanta from less than 70 percent to more than 90 percent?

Current situation

Parents, educators and policy makers widely accept that every child deserves a high-quality education. Unfortunately our state – the economic engine of the southeast and a birthplace of civil rights movement – does not currently do enough to uphold this social contract.

Georgia currently ranks 44th out of 50 states in high school graduation rate. Every day 87 kids drop out of high school in our state. One in three schools in our state are considered dropout factories where less than 60 percent of incoming freshman graduate.

Dropping out isn’t just a decision. It’s the culmination of a slow process of disengagement caused by a complex and personal set of circumstances unique to each student.

The most commonly cited factors that lead to students dropping out include: academic difficulty, inconsistent attendance, poor transition from school to school, and complicated life factors beyond children’s control. However, it is critical that we examine the root causes of this crisis.  There are structural causes such as substandard teacher preparation, fluctuating educational policy and the mixed record of programs targeting our most vulnerable students. These issues compound the educational manifestations of poverty and resurging segregation in our school systems.

The current demographics of school systems around Atlanta do not mirror the city as a whole. Our public schools are effectively segregated by race and income, and many wealthier residents opt out of the public school system altogether.

Race and poverty are not destiny, but certain population segments do dramatically underperform in Atlanta’s school system when it comes to graduation rates. Only 40 percent of black males in Georgia schools receive their diplomas in four years compared to 65 percent of white teens. In a city home to two global icons and Nobel Laureates of Peace and champions of justice, Dr. Martin Luther King and President Jimmy Carter, this is unacceptable.

Key challenges and opportunities

  • Improve the recruitment & training of teachers on a statewide level.
  • Explore policies that minimize the effects of poverty on academic outcomes.
  • Identify strategies that enhance student engagement.
  • Create high expectations and high standards for all students & educators.
  • Focus our region’s leaders on improving high school graduation rates.
  • Attract more high-income parents to send their kids to public schools.

Key audiences affected by the current situation

  • Students
  • Parents
  • Educators
  • Community Leaders
  • Residents

What’s at stake if there is no change

Kids that fail to finish high school are more likely to be incarcerated, earn less income and have higher rates of joblessness. This is a root cause of long-term systemic poverty and leads to a more unjust and unequal society and costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year. But the cost is more than economic. The current crisis imperils the core tenets of the American Dream, undermining equal opportunity and stunting social mobility.

The possibility and opportunity

Focusing on dropping graduation rates is a smart investment. For each dollar invested, there is an estimated $3.50 in economic benefit.  Increasing the graduation rate to 90% would lead to greater social mobility, a stronger middle class, less inequality and generate an additional $371 million of economic growth in Georgia each year.

Key players already working toward positive change

  • Department of Education
  • Excellent Schools of All Types (district-run, charter, and independent)
  • Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education
  • Project GRAD
  • Communities In Schools
  • Georgia Forward
  • Students First
  • Teach For America
  • Great Promise Partnership
  • Communities In Schools
  • Grading Atlanta
  • Local & National Foundations Investing in GA

Call for action
Help solve the dropout crisis and contribute your ideas for raising the graduation rate!