The “Graduation rate increases to 4 in 5 students” article on April 28 did a good job of reviewing the “Building a GradNation” report. It suggested there is a tailwind improving low-income student graduation rates. Unfortunately, the trend working against any future improvement in graduation rates is the dramatic increase in states with more than 50 percent of students classified as low-income (measured as students who received free or reduced school lunches).
There were three states in 2000 growing to 17 states in 2011. That’s important because poverty and success in school are closely correlated. It could also mean they will be locked out of the American dream of upward mobility. According to the The Atlantic article, Washington state had 40.7 percent of public school students classified as low-income.
A second factor against improvement in the graduation rate among low-income students is that the national model for improvement seems to be California. Their trend has been abysmal; but, states with successful graduation rates among low-income students like Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas and Kansas are ignored.
In addition, the article does not investigate the educational level of graduating seniors – another important indicator of future success.