A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about a Chicago charter school.

I was naive enough to believe that if a group of ninth graders could not read it was unique to this Chicago school. Today I read a report by Christopher B. Swanson, Ph.D. titled "Cities in Crisis: A Special Analytical Report on High School Graduation." Dr. Swanson’s report clearly shows that we are in an academic crisis in the U.S.

This report shows beyond a doubt America’s urban high schools are in a state of crisis. "Our analysis finds that graduating from high school in the America’s largest cities amounts, essentially, to a coin toss." In the most extreme cases, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, and Indianapolis, fewer than 35 percent of students graduate. "The 50 most heavily populated cities in the U.S. were identified using 2006 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. These urban centers are widely distributed across the country, with top-50 cities scattered across 29 states."

That "conventional wisdom had long placed the graduation rate around 85 percent" is an illusion. School districts in fifty of our largest urban areas graduate 5 or less students out of every 10 - this is a crisis. "The challenges we face may be more grave than many have suspected or that some are still willing to acknowledge." Graduation rates may even be lower among certain student populations, "particularly racial and ethnic minorities and males."

There are deep inequalities that exist in American public education, while urban districts are in crisis, their suburban counterparts have much higher rates of high school graduation. "Two very different worlds... exist within the nation’s public education system." With the disparity between urban and suburban districts it seems ridiculous to talk about "a fundamental commitment to creating a public education system in which earning a high school diploma is the norm for all students in every community, and where dropping out is a rare exception." The general public just doesn’t care, in Ohio, where school districts are funded as local tax districts people celebrate the defeat of tax levies.

This report examines graduation statistics from the 2003-04 school year. "National and state results for the graduating class of 2004 were published in Diplomas Count 2007: Ready for What?, a special issue of Education Week (available online at www.edweek.org/go/dc07). District-level data on graduation rates as well as customized, downloadable reports for every school system in the country can be accessed using EdWeek Maps (maps.edweek.org). This online data and mapping service also allows users to create and navigate local maps of graduation patterns anywhere in the country."

Dr. Swanson’s report "Cities in Crisis: A Special Analytical Report on High School Graduation." is available on the America’s Promise Alliance web site www.americaspromise.org

The America’s Promise Alliance reports that "Every 26 seconds, one American high school student drops out of school," this is about 1.1 million students per year.