High-School Dropout Rate Is Cited as a Key Barrier to Obama's College-Completion Goal

May 25, 2010

A senior Education Department official, speaking at a college-readiness forum here on Tuesday, singled out the nation's dropout rate among high-school students as a key obstacle to fulfilling President Obama's goal of putting the United States atop the world by 2020 in the proportion of residents with a college degree.

Gregory M. Darnieder, special assistant and senior adviser to Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the secretary's Initiative on College Access, said 30 percent of the nation's high-school students are not graduating. He said the graduation rate in a couple of states is so bad that the high schools there are considered "dropout factories," graduating less than 60 percent of their high-school students.

Four or five other states also have especially poor track records, with between 30 and 40 percent of their high schools graduating less than 60 percent of students, he said.

"This has definitely caught the president's attention," said Mr. Darnieder, who made his remarks during the College and Career Readiness Symposium held by McGraw-Hill Education and the Center for Digital Education. "He has challenged us as a country to get to a 60-percent postsecondary graduation rate by the year 2020."

Mr. Darnieder highlighted the various programs the Education Department is pursuing to strengthen elementary and secondary education and higher education. He also stressed that the department is tired of the blame game between schools and colleges, and even between the different grade levels in elementary and secondary education, over who is responsible for poor student performance.

Rather, he said, the department wants more cooperation between the sectors to plug gaps in the education pipeline. He said too many students graduate from high school and end up taking remedial classes in college. For example, nearly 60 percent of community-college students take at least one remedial course, according to a 2009 report by the Community College Research Center.