by KYW’s Dr. Marciene Mattleman

As more skills are needed to be successful in the workforce, the sad news is that the national high school graduation rate has slipped.

In 2006, 69% of our youth earned a high school diploma; in 2007, only 68.8% graduated in four years translating to 11,000 fewer graduates than the year before. Compare this with 1969 when the national graduation rate was 77%.

Findings, posted in Education Week’s “Diplomas Count” study, identify 21 big city “overachievers” with higher graduation rates than might be expected. Five districts outpaced expectations by 18 percentage points or more: Newport-Mesa Unified in California, David Douglas in Portland, Oregon; Texarkana Independent, Memphis City in Tennessee and Visalia Unified in California.

Newport-Mesa, with a very diverse population including 40% Latino graduated 86%, passing a prediction of 40%.

If one half of the dropouts in the 50 largest cities were reduced, the graduates’ earnings would be $4.1 billion a year and would increase state and local tax revenues by as much as $536 million.

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