U.S. graduation rate highest in four decades

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A new report from the U.S. Education Department shows high schoolers across the country are graduating at the highest rate in nearly four decades. In 2010, 78 percent of students graduated on time -- the best number since 1976. Here in the Quad Cities, local organizations are coming together to make sure that trend continues.

For many students at Davenport North High School, a high school diploma is a necessity.

"I want to do law enforcement, but I don't know where I'm going to college yet," said senior Zach Fries.

"After high school, I plan on going to college. I want to be an orthodontist," said junior Tamika Tucker.

Not all their classmates, though, are as driven.

"It's around 600 kids every year that drop out (in the Quad Cities), and so when we look at what that means for our economy and social problems, that's a significant problem," said Matt Mendenhall of the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend.

It's why United Way and the Community Foundation have teamed up, creating a community-wide collaboration called "Achieve Quad Cities" to make sure kids graduate, ready to take the next step.

"If one organization could have fixed it, it'd be fixed by now. No one owns this issue. The schools are obviously the key player, but parents need to be involved, agencies need to be involved, funders need to be involved, public sector folks need to be involved," said Scott Crane, president of United Way Quad Cities.

Achieve Quad Cities is already creating partnerships, like a STEM learning center at the Putnam Museum and career exploration at area businesses. For many students, it's those job opportunities that keep them in the classroom.

"There's no point to be out in the streets or trying to get a job now, because even with high school, everyone should look to go on to college after high school," said Fries.

"I feel like if you don't have a high school diploma, you can still succeed in life, but I feel like you have a better chance of getting a job that gets you more money and more opportunities," added Tucker.

   Both Iowa and Illinois report graduation rates well above the national average at 88 and 84 percent, respectively. Similarly, the Rock Island, Moline and Bettendorf school districts are all ahead of the national number.