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What’s Working in Philadelphia High School Graduations? What’s Not?

The on-time high school graduation rate in Philadelphia has risen from 52 to 65 percent over the last eight years. A new report shows that the most rapid progress has been among traditionally at-risk groups including Black males, Hispanics, students in foster care, and those involved in the juvenile justice system.

The improvement, much of which occurred during a period of shrinking District resources, coincided with the work of Project U-Turn. That is the city’s longstanding and multifaceted project to stem the tide of students who drop out of school by ramping up and coordinating services they need. The general rise in graduation rates mirrors an increase nationwide over the same period, but not all urban areas showed gains.

In the latest report growing out of the project, researchers analyzed individual student data from seven cohorts of first-time 9th graders, beginning with the class that started high school in 2002 and continuing through the class that started high school in 2008. The goal was to provide more detailed information on what had been driving the increases and gain insights into which initiatives and policies were effective.