New Data on National Graduation Rates Point to Need for Commuity-Based Solutions to Dropout Crisis

Release Date: 
Tue, 12/15/2015


(Rochester, NY) December 15, 2015 –  New data on high school graduation rates released today by the U.S. Department of Education underscore the continued need for innovative, community-based solutions highlighted by American Graduate, a local/national public media initiative designed to illuminate community-based solutions to the high school dropout crisis. For the past four years, WXXI has been working on a cradle-to-career approach to support the success of every child through its local American Graduate initiative.

The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics today showed that the graduation rate for the nation's class of 2014 reached a record high 82%, an increase of 1 percentage point from the class of 2013's graduation rate. In New York State the graduation rate reached 77.8%. The data follows the passage last week of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the first major national education overhaul since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.

One of the new features of the ESSA is that school districts must use graduation rates as one of several measures of progress.  WXXI recognizes that students need support throughout their school years to ensure graduation. This is especially important in those schools and among demographic groups with chronically high dropout rates.  High on the list of successful interventions is the presence of supportive, caring adults – parents, educators and caregivers – who can help at-risk students navigate the many challenges they face to complete high school.

WXXI supports those key adults by providing educational resources and training workshops, including the use of PBS LearningMedia New York, a high quality curriculum-based library of over 100,000 digital assets including short videos, interactives, images, and documents. The library aggregates the best of public media for preK-12 educational settings at no charge to the user. The collection continues to grow as local stations, like WXXI and PBS contribute content to the service.  A recent national study of PBS LearningMedia found that:

  • Across subject areas, student performance on content assessments showed significant improvement, increasing by eight percentage points;
  • On average, students outperformed national assessment norms by 10 percentage points;
  • Students also outperformed state assessment norms, by an average of 11 percentage points; and
  • More than half (56%) of students also showed an increase in the frequency with which they engaged in critical thinking practices.

WXXI’s Ready to Learn program supports young learners’ curiosity, social, and emotional skills, as well as emergent literacy and school readiness. Through on-air and online programming and resources, workshops, and informal learning events, WXXI teaches educators and families how to use Ready to Learn resources effectively. In fact, studies confirm that children who watch PBS Super Why score 46% higher on standardized measures of early literacy, kids who play PBS Martha Speaks: Dog Party app for 2 weeks have a 31% gain in vocabulary, and children who watched Sesame Street in preschool spent more time reading for fun in high school and got higher grades in English, math and science.

Homework Hotline, WXXI-TV’s live call-in show, helps middle school and high school students across New York State with homework problems right on the air. The program airs Monday through Thursday on WXXI-TV and on PBS stations across New York State, as well as streaming online at Kids can also call Dial-A-Teacher, operated by Rochester Teachers Association, for additional help or use the Homework Hotline online resources. Beyond homework help the series expands students’ knowledge base with video segments on a variety of topics including career exploration, history, science, and the environment. 

While there is no single silver bullet to boost graduation rates, it’s up to individual communities to assess its greatest needs and address them with a high-quality support system for students. WXXI’s American Graduate initiative will continue working in our community to convene, converse, and cover the ideas and issues that are helping keep students on track for the 21st century workplace. To learn about WXXI’s American Graduate work, visit:

Contact: Kristin Tutino, WXXI, 258-0253