Public Media Is Helping
Local Communities Keep
More Students on the Path
to a High School Diploma,
College & Successful Careers

About the Initiative

BGNCover 300The 2014 Annual Building A Grad Nation report was released by Civic Enterprises, America's Promise Alliance, The Alliance for Excellent Education, and the Everyone Graduates Center at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University on Monday, April 28th at the 2014 Building A Grad Nation Summit in Washington, DC.

The report reveals for the first time in U.S. history the nation’s high school graduation rate rose above 80 percent. With high school graduation rates moving in the right direction, the U.S. remains on track to meet the national goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

The report features public media’s work through American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, as a key to building knowledge, highlighting solutions, and increasing community-based partnerships that contribute to progress in addressing the dropout crisis. Learn more about the initiative

Key Findings

1) For the first time, the U.S. graduation rate rose above 80%

Since 2006, the overall average graduation rate has increased from 73 percent to 81 percent as measured by 2012 Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates (AFGR) recently released by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education. The largest gains have been achieved by Hispanic students with an improvement of 15 percentage points, from 61 percent in 2006 to 76 percent in 2012. African American graduation rates grew from 59 percent in 2006 to 68 percent in 2012. Download Full Report


2) "Dropout Factories" continue to decrease in prevalance.

“Dropout factories,” schools that graduate fewer than 60 percent of students, also continued to decrease in prevalence, with 32 percent fewer schools in 2012 compared to 2002. The number of dropout factories totaled 1,359 in 2012, down from 2,007 in 2002. Since 2002, 1.2 million fewer students, a decline of 47 percent, are enrolled in dropout factories. Additionally, the numbers of African American and Hispanic students attending these schools has continued to decline. In 2012, 23 percent of African American students attended a dropout factory compared to 46 percent in 2002. Similarly, 15 percent of Hispanic students attended a dropout factory compared to 39 percent in 2002. Download Full Report

3) Reaching the last 10% improvement for the goal of 90% graduation by 2020 requires focus on 5 key geographic and demographic areas:

The opportunity gap. Graduation rates for low-income students – those who participate in the federal free and reduced-price school lunch program – are below or well below the national average in 41 states, while middle- and upper-income students are exceeding the national graduation rate in 40 states. In fact, 14 states have met the 90 percent graduation rate goal among their middle- and upper-income students.

Big cities. More than half of the 1,300 remaining dropout factories are in large urban areas. Most big cities with high concentrations of low-income students had graduation rates in the 60 percent range, with some as low as 50 percent.

Special education. Students with learning and other disabilities represent 13 percent of all students nationally, and the average graduation rate for these students lags the national average by 20 percent.

California. California is the most populous state with the highest poverty rate in the U.S. and a population that is 61 percent non-white. The state is also a laboratory for innovation in education.

Graduation rates for young men of color in key states. Despite progress made, graduation rates are still far too low for these populations. In key states in the South and Midwest, graduation rates for African American males are in the 50 and 60 percents.

“Our progress is amazing.  Close to 400,000 more students per high school class are graduating now than in 2001 and more than 1 million fewer students attend dropout factories,” said Robert Balfanz, research scientist and co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. “The work that remains, however, is also stunning.  In a significant number of states, one-third of students from low-income families are not graduating. Likewise, about 40 percent of young men of color and large numbers of students with disabilities do not receive diplomas. This, at a time, when a high school diploma is a necessary gateway to adult success.”

Public Media's Role in Addressing the Dropout Crisis

North Carolina Public Radio WUNCPublic media stations are well positioned to help communities address critical issues as the most trusted institution in the country when it comes to education, reporting and local service. Locally owned and operated with more than 120 million Americans tuning in monthly and nearly 65 million listening each week, public broadcasting stations can put a spotlight on the issue and bring diverse communities together through programming that educates, informs, and inspires.

In 2011, as part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s (CPB) strategic framework around Digital, Diversity, and Dialogue, CPB launched American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen. This initiative was a five-year commitment to partner with stations in at-risk communities and help address the high school dropout crisis as a key media partner with the America’s Promise Alliance Grad Nation campaign. Working with key station leaders and potential partner organizations, CPB aligned public media’s content and services with the strategies outlined in the Civic Marshall Plan.

Through over 1700 hours of national and local education-related television and radio journalism, documentaries from diverse perspectives, over 800 digital student and teacher resources, public media stations leveraged their convening power and community connections to amplify the voices of teachers, parents, students and concerning community stakeholders – all affected by the issue. American Graduate has illuminated new possibilities for collaboration and inspired others to action.


The Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education in a Summer 2013 report concluded that local public media stations have a critical and unique role to play in building community capacity to meet the national priority of ending America’s high school dropout crisis. As part of a survey among American Graduate community partners conducted by the Everyone Graduates Center, respondents confirmed that public media stations told the story of the dropout crisis in a way that enabled more people to get involved. Community partners also reported that public media facilitated greater focus and collaboration among community organizations and that students’ participation in American Graduate programs resulted in their increased commitment to school, to graduating, and to preparing for their future.


Ray-Suarez-townhallA series of local American Graduate Community Town Halls this year brought together businesses, parents, students, educators, intervention and faith-based organizations to discuss the challenges facing students beyond the classroom and identify a renewed plan of action. Key themes emerged around the need for increased participation from caring adults across all sectors and access to quality early childhood education as a long-term preventative solution. In addition, survey data confirmed that individuals were motivated to actas a result their participation in the town halls and broadcasts.

The American Graduate initiative is helping to reshape the story from a crisis to an opportunity for success. By celebrating and telling the story of “movers” in the community and inviting others to share their personal stories of champions, American Graduate can inspire millions to identify simple or scalable ways they can become American Graduate Champions.



Connect With American Graduate Stations in Your Community

More than 80 public radio and television stations in over 30 states have joined forces with over 1000 community partners and at-risk schools to shed light on the problem and share solutions. Through American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, local public television and radio stations are empowering individuals at the community level with knowledge by increasing national and local reporting, convening diverse local stakeholders, and providing access to free resources for teachers and parents. By working together and remaining vigilant, we are increasing the footprint of progress, reaching more children and communities and seeding the foundation for a prosperous economic future for our country. Discover What's Happening In Your Community



The unique perspectives of those impacted by the dropout crisis are highlighted in these reports:

Map the Pace of Grad Rate Progress


Public Media Is
Proud To Work With: