June 7, 2011
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On Education Week's 'Diplomas Count' Report
The nation's high school graduation rate is at its highest level in 20 years, according to "Diplomas Count," released today by Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.
WASHINGTON—Record-setting graduation rates are a clear sign that there are successes in America's public schools, but more hard work remains. The challenge is to ensure we prepare all children for life, college and careers, which includes a focus on improving graduation rates, but this challenge is more difficult in light of recent laws that cut school budgets, marginalize teachers, privatize schools and put the needs of millionaires above the needs of students.
The overall graduation rate of 72 percent still leaves far too many young people behind, especially boys, minorities and urban residents. Further, the record rates occurred in 2008, before the full effect of budget shortfalls hit our schools and before the wave of recently enacted state legislation that will undoubtedly hurt students.
As the report makes clear, postsecondary education continues to be an excellent investment, both for individuals and for taxpayers. Community and technical colleges offer rich career opportunities through associate degrees, certificates and other credentials, and four-year degrees further improve individuals' prospects for long-term economic success and personal growth.
Taken together, the report's findings serve as both a reminder of the good work educators do every day in their classrooms, and a warning about what is at stake if we choose not to continue investing in education, valuing teachers or supporting the public schools that so many parents and students rely on.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.