America's public schools are getting failing grades when it comes to graduation rates, according to a new study.
Watch an interview with author Jodee Blanco. Blanco wrote the New York Times bestseller Please Stop Laughing at Us.
America's Promise Alliance, an advocacy group founded by former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, studied 50 of the largest school systems.
In 17 of the school systems, less than half of the students managed to get their diploma, with the lowest graduation rates reported in Detroit, Indianapolis, and Cleveland.
Nationally, about 70 percent of U.S. students graduate on time with a regular diploma. About 1.2 million students drop out annually.
"When more than 1 million students a year drop out of high school, it's more than a problem, it's a catastrophe," Powell said.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is currently planning summits in every state to help students better prepare for college and the workforce. Spellings has called for requiring states to provide graduation data in a more uniform way, under the renewal of the No Child Left Behind education law still pending in Congress.
Under the 2002 law, schools that miss progress goals face increasing sanctions, including forced-use of federal money for private tutoring, easing student transfers, and restructuring of school staff.
Currently, each state calculates graduation rates using a variety of methods, many of which critics say are based on unreliable information about school dropouts. Under No Child Left Behind, states may use their own methods of calculating graduation rates and set their own goals for improving them.
Source: The Associated Press