According to Sandy Kress: "Graduation rates in our nation improved from 72 percent in 2001 to 79 percent by 2011. We are not where we need to be, but this reversal from the downward trend of previous decades is significant, positive, and cause for hope."
"These gains did not happen accidentally," Kress asserted.
Sandy Kress explained: "The nation began to lift student achievement and reduce dropouts by using consequential accountability to drive greater and better attention to the needs of at risk students. This started in many states in the mid-late 1990s. President Bush and the Congress came together in 2001 to pass the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), extending and deepening this accountability throughout the nation. Then governors, educators, and parents aligned practice in the field to these accountability policies."
Sandy Kress discussed precisely how it happened: "Schools that received federal money were held accountable for educating at risk students to the expectations of grade level. Parents of students who were attending schools that were failing them were given public school choice and supplemental tutoring. Schools that fell short for any major subgroup of students who are at risk of dropping out were required to improve, correct, or restructure. And, with the encouragement of the governors, we made the counting of dropouts consistent across the country and insisted that dropouts be a major feature in accountability for all schools that receive federal aid."
"Yet," Kress warned: "just as these policies and practices have led to recent new tops in graduation rates, forces of resistance to accountability have emerged that seek to undermine each and every one of these policies that contributed to the gains. And, sadly, the federal government is now granting waivers to the states allowing them to weaken in these ways."
Sandy Kress concluded: "Some seem to want merely to brag on the gains; some seem to want to level the pillars under the foundation upon which the gains were built; and some cynically are doing both at the same time! Neither bragging nor weakening accountability will garner further gains. We must stay the course and quicken the pace."