Common Core? Graduation Rates? What's Next in Education?

What's Next in Education?

Over the past several years, more than forty states, the District of Columbia, The Department of Defense Education Activity and four American territories have all voluntarily adopted education standards, called the Common Core Standards.

Simply put, they are a set of guidelines designed to help ensure students are prepared for college, and/or careers, once they finish high school.  These standards, which focus on math and language arts, were developed through the efforts of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), in 2009 and 2010.  

They were announced in June of 2010 and it took several years for states to fully transition to these new standards.  Keep in mind, these standards don't tell states, or schools, how to teach specific content or what curricula should be implemented.  Additionally, some states have opted to employ different standards, with the same goal of ensuring that children are college-ready and/or are ready for careers in the 21st century.

But, the real question (regardless of whether or not a state has Common Core) is:

Are we really doing enough to educate our children for the future?

Graduation Rates

Over the past several years (prior to the full adoption of Common Core by many states), from 2010 - 2011 to 2013 - 2014, America has seen an increase in high-school graduation rates for almost every demographic; as measured by the amount of students who entered into the 9th grade for the first time and graduated with a regular high school diploma, within 4 years.

Changes in Graduation Rates 2010- 2013-14.jpg

The 82.3% total graduation rate, seen in 2013 - 2014, was the highest since these types of data began being collected (referred to as the adjusted cohort graduation rate - ACGR).  

NOTE:  "The ACGR uses detailed student-level data to determine the percentage of students who graduate within 4 years of starting 9th grade for the first time." (NCES)

In fact, measured slightly differently, graduation rates hovered at around 71% - 74% for decades before these sharp increases were seen in 2010 and beyond.

These changes were driven by increases in graduation rates among Black students, English learners, Hispanic students and low-income students over this period.  This is great news, but is it enough?

It is hard to point to any one factor as the single cause of these increases, but we can't afford to go back to a time when our graduations rates were in the low 70s (90% or higher should be the goal, at least).

Averaged freshman graduation rate (AFGR) for public high school students: School years 1990–91 through 2012–13.  "The AFGR estimate is less precise than the ACGR, but it can be estimated as far back as the 1960s." (NCES)

National Center for Education Statistics, Public High School Graduation Rates  (Last Updated: May 2016)

National Center for Education Statistics, Public High School Graduation Rates
(Last Updated: May 2016)

Despite these gains, there are still gaps and serious areas for improvement, especially where black students are concerned.  In many states, black children who enter the 9th grade for the first time and who graduate with a regular high school diploma, within 4 years, do so at a rate of 69% or below.

For example, in California the rate is 68%, in Michigan it's 64.5% and in Ohio it's 62.7%.

Adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) of White and Black public high school students, by state: 2013–14

This cannot be acceptable any more.  I hope to shine light on the issues and to discuss solutions so that we don't go through the next four years with these kinds of numbers and DO NOTHING ABOUT IT.  The answers lie with us--it can't be left up to the school systems.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The new education law, now in effect, is a current reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)--it is called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The ESSA was signed into law in December of 2015 by President Obama.

The new act requires states, among other things, to submit a plan to the Department of Education as a requirement for receiving federal, title 1, assistance. 

"Current law requires a state that receives title I-A funding to submit a state plan for approval by the Department of Education (ED). The bill specifies that a state plan must be reviewed by peer reviewers whose names are made public."  (ESSA,  Many states are now in the process of publicly developing their plans for submission to the Department of Education by April of 2017 (or by September 2017), with the intention of implementing many aspects of these plans during the next school year, 2017 - 2018.

On this site, we will be closely following this act and the education plans of several states, as a way of tracking national and state-level educational issues and progress--to help you stay informed and to champion realistic solutions to our nation's educational challenges.

Please stay tuned for more updates!


Copyright, Red and Black Ink, LLC. 2017.



Every Student Succeeds Act.  114th Congress (2015 - 2016).

"Public High School Graduation Rates," National Center for Education Statistics.  (Last Updated: May 2016)

"U.S. High School Graduation Rate Hits New Record High. Achievement gap continues to narrow for underserved students."  U.S. Department of Education.  DECEMBER 15, 2015.

Danita Smith