April 1, 2008— -- The Bush administration announced Tuesday itwill require states to report high school graduation rates in auniform way instead of using a variety of methods that critics say are often based on unreliable information.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced the change at anews conference at which a report was released showing that 17 ofthe nation's 50 largest cities had high school graduation rateslower than 50 percent.
The change involves the No Child Left Behind Act, whichcurrently allows states to use their own methods of calculatinggraduation rates and set their own goals for improving them. Thereport by the America's Promise Alliance, using a common method toevaluate graduation rates for cities, found the lowest graduationrates in Detroit, Indianapolis and Cleveland.
It found that about half of the students served by public schoolsystems in the nation's largest cities receive diplomas; studentsin suburban and rural public high schools were more likely tograduate than their counterparts in urban public high schools.
Nationally, about 70 percent of U.S. students graduate on timewith a regular diploma and about 1.2 million students drop outannually.
"When more than 1 million students a year drop out of highschool, it's more than a problem, it's a catastrophe," said formerSecretary of State Colin Powell, founding chair of the alliance.
The group announced plans to hold summits in every state duringthe next two years on ways to better prepare students for collegeand the work force.
The report found troubling data on the prospects of urban publichigh school students getting to college. In Detroit's publicschools, only 24.9 percent of the students graduated from highschool, while 30.5 percent graduated in Indianapolis Public Schoolsand 34.1 percent received diplomas in the Cleveland Municipal CitySchool District.
Researchers analyzed school district data from 2003-2004collected by the U.S. Department of Education. To calculategraduation rates, the report estimated the likelihood that a 9thgrader would complete high school on time with a regular diploma.Researchers used school enrollment and diploma data, but did notuse data on dropouts as part of its calculation.