It’s a staggering statistic: one in four American teenagers drops out of school before graduation, a rate that rises to one in three among black and Hispanic students. But there’s no federal system keeping track of the more than 7,000 American teenagers who drop out of school each day.
That appears to be changing. On Oct. 28, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings issued new rules that will force states to adopt a common system to monitor dropouts. Critics of No Child Left Behind have long accused the federal legislation not only of leading more schools to teach to the test, but of letting — or perhaps even encouraging — struggling students to drop out before they can lower average test scores. But Spellings is trying to address this problem with new regulations that will set a uniform graduation rate so that a high school’s annual progress will now be measured both by how students perform on standardized tests and by how many of them graduate within four years.
Schools that do not improve their graduation rates will face consequences, such as having to pay for tutoring or replace principals. “For too long, we’ve allowed this crisis to be hidden and obscured,” Spellings said in her announcement, made nearly seven years after No Child Left Behind was signed into law. “Where graduation rates are low, we must take aggressive action.”