Mesa schools graduate a higher percentage of students than any other of the 50 largest cities in the United States.
A report released today by America’s Promise Alliance shows that 77.1 percent of students in the Mesa Unified School District graduate from high school, compared with the national average of 70 percent.
“This is a validation of our efforts,” said Linda Rottman, an area assistant superintendent for Mesa schools who oversees the high school division. “We are just thrilled.”
Rottman said Mesa has developed a series of programs that focus on engaging the individual, and she believes it is that focus that allows the district to graduate as many students as it does.
“Despite the size of Mesa schools, we have never lost sight of the individual student,” she said. “We feel like, if you can tap the heart of a child, you can help them be successful.”
School choices, tutoring, transitional programs and career planning are just some of the tools the district uses to help its students graduate, she said.
Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance, an organization founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, said ranking first among urban districts is an accomplishment for the district.
“Mesa can celebrate that of the 50 largest cities in the country, they are at the top,” she said. “Yet you would still like to see every child go on to earn a diploma.”
America’s Promise is expected to announce today a series of summits in each of the states to “mobilize the nation” on this subject.
At the summit, the need for curriculum reform, after-school programs, efforts to improve health care and nutrition programs, increased resources and greater accountability, will be advocated.
“We need to get the nation to realize, this is a serious problem,” Kondracke said. “It’s more than a moral imperative; it’s becoming an economic imperative,” she said. A high school diploma, she said, is the absolute minimum education for a young person to find success in the work force.
Nationwide, a young person has about a 50/50 chance of graduating from public school in an urban area, according to the report.
The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that high school dropouts from the last year’s graduating class will cost the U.S. more than $329 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes. Nearly half of all black and American Indian students will not graduate with their class, while less than six in 10 Hispanic students will, the report found.
So, why is Mesa doing better than cities like Detroit, where less than 25 percent of its students graduate?
Kondracke said she can speculate that Mesa has a more committed community, stronger leadership, stronger families and fewer of the urban problems other cities encounter.
“I would love for Mesa to beat the drum and say ‘Let’s finish the job, and help our sister cities to do it, too,’ ” she said.
|City||Principal School District||Graduation Rate (2003-04)|
|Mesa, Ariz||Mesa Unified District||77.1%|
|San Jose, Calif.||San Jose Unified||77.0%|
|Nashville, Tenn.||Nashville-Davidson Co. School District||77.0%|
|Colorado Springs, Colo.||Colorado Springs School District||76.0%|
|San Francisco, Calif.||San Francisco Unified||73.1%|
|Tucson, Ariz.||Tucson Unified District||71.7%|
|Seattle, Wash.||Seattle School District||67.6%|
|Virginia Beach, Va.||Virginia Beach City Public Schools||67.4%|
|Sacramento, Calif.||Sacramento City Unified||66.7%|
|Honolulu, Hawaii||Hawaii Department of Education||64.1%|
|Louisville, Ky.||Jefferson County School District||63.7%|
|Long Beach, Calif.||Long Beach Unified||63.5%|
|Arlington, Texas||Arlington ISD||62.7%|
|Memphis, Tenn.||Memphis City School District||61.7%|
|San Diego, Calif.||San Diego Unified||61.6%|
|Albuquerque, N.M.||Albuquerque Public Schools||60.8%|
|El Paso, Texas||El Paso ISD||60.5%|
|Charlotte, N.C.||Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools||59.8%|
|Wichita, Kan.||Wichita Public Schools||59.6%|
|Phoenix, Ariz.||Phoenix Union High School District||58.3%|
|Austin, Texas||Austin ISD||58.2%|
|Washington, D.C.||District of Columbia Public Schools||58.2%|
|Fresno, Calif.||Fresno Unified||57.4%|
|Boston, Mass.||Boston Public Schools||57.0%|
|Fort Worth, Texas||Fort Worth ISD||55.5%|
|Omaha, Neb.||Omaha Public Schools||55.1%|
|Houston, Texas||Houston ISD||54.6%|
|Portland, Ore.||Portland School District||53.6%|
|Las Vegas, Nev.||Clark County School District||53.1%|
|San Antonio, Texas||San Antonio ISD||51.9%|
|Chicago, Ill.||City of Chicago School District||51.5%|
|Tulsa, Okla.||Tulsa Public Schools||50.6%|
|Jacksonville, Fla.||Duval County School District||50.2%|
|Philadelphia, Pa.||Philadelphia City School District||49.6%|
|Miami, Fla.||Dade County School District||49.0%|
|Oklahoma City, Okla.||Oklahoma City Public Schools||47.5%|
|Denver, Colo.||Denver County School District||46.3%|
|Milwaukee, Wis.||Milwaukee Public Schools||46.1%|
|Atlanta, Ga.||Atlanta City School District||46.0%|
|Kansas City, Mo.||Kansas City School District||45.7%|
|Oakland, Calif.||Oakland Unified||45.6%|
|Los Angeles, Calif.||Los Angeles Unified||45.3%|
|New York, N.Y.||New York City Public Schools||45.2%|
|Dallas, Texas||Dallas ISD||44.4%|
|Minneapolis, Minn.||Minneapolis Public Schools||43.7%|
|Columbus, Ohio||Columbus Public Schools||40.9%|
|Baltimore, Md.||Baltimore City Public School System||34.6%|
|Cleveland, Ohio||Cleveland Municipal City School District||34.1%|
|Indianapolis, Ind.||Indianapolis Public Schools||30.5%|
|Detroit, Mich.||Detroit City School District||24.9%|