The Graduation Effect

with Deborah Delisle of the Alliance for Excellent Education

America's high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, yet nearly 1 in 4 black students and 1 in 5 Latino students do not graduate on time. Deborah Delisle of the Alliance for Excellent Education outlines the economic ripple effects of improved high school graduation rates.

Posted on:

Feb 03, 2020

Hosted by: Paul Lisnek
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Lisnek: Since January of 2010, the U.S. economy has added more than 11 million jobs that have gone to workers with at least some post-high school education. Hi. Welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Paul Lisnek. While our nation's high-school graduation rate is at an all-time high, more than 15% of students don't finish high school. Deborah Delisle is president and CEO of Alliance for Excellent Education. She's joining me to discuss efforts to improve the high-school graduation rate and the resulting economic impact on the country. Deborah, it's good to see you.

Delisle: Thank you so much for having me.

Lisnek: So, I have to ask you, there is a correlation rate, obviously, between graduation rate and jobs and success. Why is that? Talk about that.

Delisle: Well, it's just such an important component of our communities, and too often, we think about high school graduation rates in a sad way. Sorry about this child who doesn't graduate and sorry for the family, but this has huge implications for the community and the nation at large, so, for example, I have some really interesting statistics to share. If the United States were to reach a 90% graduation rate, just slightly above the current rate, that would mean approximately 14,260 new jobs for those students. We would boost the gross domestic product by $5.7 billion annually. We'd increase annual earnings by $3.1 billion, and we would increase federal tax revenue by $504 million for those individuals.

Lisnek: That's significant.

Delisle: It's huge. And I think communities have to be aware that they have to do everything they can to partner with schools, especially with businesses, to ensure that our kids are graduating ready for success in a global economy.

Lisnek: So, before we talk about how we get there, let me start by asking what the roadblocks are. What is it that's keeping us from reaching those levels?

Delisle: I think there are several roadblocks that we should consider, one of which is that schools offer different possibilities and different opportunities for kids. It is no secret that there are many students who drop out of high school, for students of color, in particular. 25% of African-American students, 20% of Hispanic students do not graduate. There are even worse statistics for Native American students. So, when you see those students who don't finish high school, you know that they're not even on a pathway to gaining a decent job after high school. And so the roadblocks tend to be kids are disengaged from school. The economic reality is, is that sometimes their focus is on working for their families to help them, as well. And in addition to that, some kids just don't engage with school. And somewhere along that K-through-12 pathway, they got away from it, and we know that discipline interacts with kids. It'll set them off into the juvenile justice system. So, there are many, many reasons for it. I think we have to be aware in our individual communities what those reasons are. We have to explore why kids are not completing high school, and then even more so, why they're not going on to some type of post-secondary education training, whether they're getting a job or enlisting in the military, for example, or if they were going for a training program and get a license, like as a plumber or even as an EMT, or going on to post-secondary education, be it at a community college or a four-year institution.

Lisnek: So as I listen to you, what that tells me is, there is no-one-size-fits-all grand fix here. There can't be there.

Delisle: There isn't.

Lisnek: So, it's a complex question, but let's at least touch on it. How do we get there? What are some of the steps? Part of it seems like we've got to address different communities in different ways.

Delisle: Yeah, I think we have to be very proactive in our communities and understand that this is truly a community issue. It's not just about the schools. And oftentimes, schools don't necessarily know what to ask for out of community businesses, for example. So, I think it's incumbent upon all of us to reach out to schools and say, how can we help? For example, a local business might step in and say, we will be willing to offer some internships for students so they begin to see what career possibilities are available. In addition to that, sometimes it's a health condition of students. Sometimes kids are hungry. So, again, by working with the community resources that are available, we can really pinpoint and target some of those various difficult situations in which kids find themselves and help them in whatever way we can. We always call those "wraparound services."

Lisnek: And by the way, I have to ask. As you talk about internships, I thought to myself, you know what? And maybe mentorships, as well.

Delisle: Yes, absolutely. So important. So important. I can't say enough about it. And there are some wonderful things going on across the country. Oftentimes, they're not always in the news, but we have individuals, for example, who are even getting paid internships and mentorships in the summer and getting high school credit at the same time. Can you imagine what a powerful lift that is for a student who can go into a hospital, perhaps do some research in a science class -- or excuse me, in a in a situation, in a university or in the health care clinic, and then, simultaneously, get high school credit for that? We have many students now who are gaining high school credits and college credits simultaneously. So, they may graduate from high school with the equivalent of an associates degree, two years already under their belt. They understand what it means to be a college student, and it helps with the impact on the finances of a family because so many of our students are going into debt, because college is so expensive right now.

Lisnek: It takes a village. It takes a community to make all of this happen.

Delisle: Absolutely, and it really takes a commitment to ensure that every student in America has opportunities that we would want for our own students. So in my prior experiences, whenever I visited schools, I always ask one essential question, which is, is this school good enough for my own kid? If that question is in a "no" and we allow it to be okay for other people's kids, we're doing a great disservice to all of our students.

Lisnek: So, we'd like to ask you finally where people can get information, but I have a sub reason for doing that, which is, we've talked about the national situation and some national statistics. Truth is, if people go to the website, they will actually find state by state information, as well.

Delisle: Yes. So important. And thank you so much for bringing that up. So, with the Alliance for Excellent Education, we created a tool online. It's a free resource. It's called the graduation effect. So, you can find it on our website, and you could also Google, and you will find the reports there. They're considering every single state in addition to large metropolitan areas.

Lisnek: Alright. Debra Delisle from the Alliance for Excellent Education. Thank you so much for your time.

Delisle: Thank you so much. Thank you.

Lisnek: And thank you for your time today. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across our country, just go to I'm Paul Lisnek. Thanks for watching.

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