Washington lawmakers continue to search for areas of improvement with No Child Left Behind. There is consensus that the law needs to be change, however the specific changes are what’s up for debate.  The foundation of the discussion is how to better serve the 5 percent of students and schools that have the lowest performance and achievement gaps wider than the norm. Changes in teacher evaluations, school assessments, and standardized testing are topics that guide the discussion.

For the health of the economic future of the country, lawmakers know the high school graduation rate must improve. It is estimated that nearly a quarter of those who entered high school this year will not graduate according to a new report by the National Center for Education Statistics. High school dropouts cost between $320 billion and $350 billion in lost wages, taxable income, health care, incarcerations, and other social services. The difference in lifetime wages between a dropout and one who earns a GED is approximately $630,000.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, the 2009 dropout rate for African Americans stood at 9.3 percent compared to whites at 5.2 percent. Also in 2009, the dropout rate for low-income students was five times greater than their high-income counterparts — 7.4 percent compared with 1.4 percent.

The Manhattan Institute released a study in 2006 that surveyed the 100 largest school districts in the United States. It found that  only 48 percent of African American males earn a high school diploma; 11 percent less than African American females. More disconcerting is the news that 1 in 4 black males who drop out of high school will end up incarcerated.