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Building a Grad Nation 2023: Final Report

 Building a Grad Nation 2023: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates

This year's Building A Grad Nation 2023 conclusive report, released in June 2023 and summarizing a 20-year endeavor to enhance high school graduation rates, reveals a notable increase from 71 percent in 2001 to 86.5 percent by the Class of 2020. This positive trend resulted in 5 million more students successfully graduating instead of dropping out during this period. Despite significant advancements through initiatives like the GradNation Campaign, persistent equity gaps remain, exacerbated by the substantial disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting student learning and well-being. Among various policy suggestions, the report advocates for the wider implementation of Student Success Systems.

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Educating Future-Ready Students: Policy Roadmap to Bridge Social and Emotional Learning and Career and Workforce Development

“Employers repeatedly sound the alarm that they are not getting the skilled workforce they need in the 21st century, and our young people have big dreams and potential that should be unleashed,” said Civic CEO John Bridgeland.  “Cultivating that potential through academic, social, and emotional preparation will enable generations to make valuable contributions to our communities, workforce, and democracy.”


A key goal of preschool to high school education is to ensure that students are “future ready"—with the knowledge, skills, and drive to navigate their careers and lives. But the future is rapidly shifting. How can policymakers, educators, business leaders, and community leaders come together to nourish students’ real-world competencies?

This report reframes what it means for students to be future-ready. Its aim is to provide a state policy roadmap for a PreK-12 education that prepares students to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Key to this effort is the integration of social and emotional learning (SEL) with career and workforce development (CWD). This roadmap builds on prior efforts by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Civic, and the Coalition for Career Development (CCD) Center to advance a state-level developmental framework for systematically integrating SEL and CWD.

May 9, 2022

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Building A Grad Nation 2021: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates

The high school graduation rate was at an all-time high of 85.8% in 2019, the final school year unaffected by the upheavals of the COVID-19 pandemic. The convening partners of the GradNation campaign—America’s Promise Alliance, Alliance for Excellent Education, Civic, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University—highlight key learnings about high school graduation in our country from the newly released 2021 Building A Grad Nation report.  


The report provides an essential pre-pandemic baseline, including a 50-state analysis outlining progress and challenges facing key student groups. Unless states make concerted, data-driven efforts to sustain improvements among key student groups, particularly English Learners and students with disabilities, COVID-19 could jeopardize graduation rate progress. The GradNation report outlines a series of policy recommendations for states to meet the demands of the current moment so that every young person reaches the graduation milestone college- and career-ready.  

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Postsecondary Attainment: Immigrant, English Learner, and American Indian/Alaska Native Students

New research briefs by Civic, supported by Lumina Foundation, explore the added challenges and barriers immigrant, English Learner, and American Indian and Alaska Native students experience in education. These populations typically face higher levels of student need, as they are more often low-income and are more likely to have multiple adverse childhood experiences. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized existing barriers, such as the digital divide and language skills.


Immigrants and American Indian and Alaska Native students are important parts of America’s schools, communities, and society. Too often, however, these students are not given the same educational opportunities or necessary attention as their peers in high school, leading to lower high school graduation rates and postsecondary attainment. 


There are a variety of factors that lead to inequitable outcomes for both of these students. Immigrant students face added challenges to education such as navigating new systems, family responsibilities, and financial pressures. American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students face geographic isolation, lack of access to rigorous high school courses, and the complex relationship between Tribal Nations in the U.S.


Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color, immigrants, and low-income populations in the United States. In many instances, this means that existing barriers, such as the digital divide and language skills, have increased exponentially for immigrant students.


To reduce the education gaps between immigrant and American Indian and Alaska Native students and their peers, and boost postsecondary attainment, policymakers and educators must build stronger postsecondary pathways and rise to the challenge of creating an education system that is more equitable.

Download: Immigrant Students and English Learners: Challenges Faced in High School and Postsecondary Education


Download: Boosting Postsecondary Attainment for American Indian and Alaska Native Students

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Ready to Engage: Perspectives of Teachers and Parents on Social and Emotional Learning and Service-Learning in America’s Public Schools

A new report from Civic in partnership with Hart Research Associates and made possible by The Allstate Foundation validates educators and parents countrywide who view social and emotional learning and service-learning as solutions to the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and divisions throughout the nation.


Ready to Engage: Perspectives of Teachers and Parents on Social and Emotional Learning and Service-Learning provides a unique view into parent and teacher perspectives on social and emotional learning (SEL) and service-learning (SL) programs from two nationally representative surveys and online discussion boards that capture heightened need during the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice movement.


The surveys found that more than half of parents and teachers say SEL and SL are equally important to academic instruction, and many assert that emotional skills are more beneficial than academic ones this school year. Other key findings include:

  • Parents and teachers endorse a holistic view of learning;

  • Parents and teachers believe SEL and SL are mutually beneficial strategies that develop the whole child;

  • Demand for SEL and SL opportunities in schools continues to outpace implementation; and

  • Low-income and rural schools are less likely to have access to SEL and SL.


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Building A Grad Nation 2020: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates

Across the nation, most students attend high schools with a graduation rate already at 90 percent or higher, but a disproportionate number of four-year non-graduates remain trapped in a subset of schools where the graduation rate is only 41.8 percent. Low- income, Black, Hispanic, English Learners, American Indian, and students experiencing homelessness and students with disabilities are all overrepresented in these schools, calling into question equal opportunity for students, regardless of race, socio-economic background, or any other challenge they may face.

Now, more than ever is the time to commit to meeting the moment on high school graduation and redoubling our efforts to prepare students for the rigors of postsecondary education, training, and work.

There is great uncertainty rippling through the world. As local and state economies are severely affected by the global pandemic, and predictions for a return to normalcy vary, much is unknown about what the future holds. What is clear is that the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped education in this country for the Class of 2020 and beyond.

We must continue to analyze all available data to understand COVID-19’s full impact. As the nation reviews the response of the health system and identifies ways for the economy to recover, it must also conduct a national review of our education system in times of crisis. In this moment, we must also do everything possible to provide students across America with a quality education and the supports they need, educationally, mentally, and physically to be able to come out of this crisis prepared for future success.


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Strategies for Success: Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness

America is ramping up efforts to improve outcomes for students experiencing homelessness. In addition to increased awareness of the problem, groundbreaking legislation and policies at all levels, public and private support organizations, local communities, and states are undertaking a variety of efforts to boost outcomes for some of the country’s most vulnerable children and youth. Examples around the country can inspire other schools, districts, communities, and states to identify, engage, and support students experiencing homelessness in America’s schools. Unlike the trauma
a young person experiencing homeless is exposed to, school can be a pillar of stability that puts students on a path to graduation and further education to successfully enter the workforce and civic life.

To learn more about a variety of efforts that identify and support students experiencing homelessness in schools and districts throughout the country, Civic conducted interviews with educators in Virginia, New Hampshire, Texas, Montana, and Michigan. The goal of this project is to identify strategies schools and districts are using to

successfully mitigate the challenges these students face attending and succeeding in school and disseminate those best practices.



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Ready to Lead: A 2019 Update of Principals' Perspectives on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Prepare Children and Transform Schools

This report builds on and updates many of the findings from the original nationally representative survey of K to 12 principals in 2017. The central messages of this 2019 update are that (1) principals continue to see social and emotional learning (SEL) skills as highly teachable and a priority in their schools; (2) more schools are implementing specific SEL benchmarks by significant percentages; and (3) principals and teachers are assessing SEL skills at much higher rates than just two years ago. At the same time, the survey shows that more work is needed to ensure SEL is systemic across schools and districts and for principals to think existing assessments are useful.

The most significant findings in the report, compared to survey data in 2017, are: (1) the percent of principals that believe social and emotional skills should definitely be included in state education standards has nearly doubled since 2017, and all told 87 percent of principals believe state standards probably should explicitly include SEL; (2) the percent of principals that believe a formal curriculum is necessary for teachers to successfully develop students’ social and emotional skills has jumped from 43 percent in 2017 to 70 percent; and (3) while schools have made a great deal of progress implementing social and emotional learning, small town and rural schools continue to lag significantly behind the rest of the country.



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Building A Grad Nation 2019: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates

In the aftermath of renewed attention and visibility to high school dropouts in the early 2000s, an increasing number of institutions began to partner to envision a “Civic Marshall Plan” with clear goals, an evidence-based plan of action to meet them, and accountability for results over two decades. The GradNation campaign was officially launched in 2010, committed to reaching a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the Class of 2020. After a little more than a decade of collectively working on the high school dropout challenge, extensive contributions of others in the field, and the hard work in schools, districts, and states to improve outcomes for students, substantial improvements have occurred, and we have learned a great deal about the nature of the challenge and what works to drive progress.


Troublingly, despite this progress, deep equity gaps remain, as Black, Hispanic, and low-income students continue to graduate high school at rates far behind their white and more affluent peers. In addition, English Learners, students with disabilities, and homeless students all have graduation rates below 70 percent.


Taken together, the statistics show that specific student groups are experiencing a very different kind of education than their peers. This year we continue to call out the disparities in high school graduation rates for specific student subgroups and for the low-performing schools many of them attend, which are disproportionately affected by poverty, structural inequities, and inequitable access to resources, supports, and opportunities.

This is what the GradNation goal was built upon and why we remain committed to sharing this annual update, working together with our partners to raise graduation rates, insist on quality, and ensure better life outcomes for every young person in the country. 


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Perspectives of Youth on High School & Social and Emotional Learning

The central message of this report is while current and recent high school students
today generally respect their teachers and give their high schools favorable marks,
most see a big missing piece in their education – a lack of social and emotional
skills development – and most recent students feel unprepared for life after high school.
Students, like teachers and administrators, see the benefits of attending schools that

emphasize social and emotional learning (SEL), especially in terms of improving relationships, reducing bullying, and preparing them for postsecondary education, work, and life.


Such schools are broadly appealing to students across backgrounds and from different
types of schools. Encouragingly, students in schools with a strong commitment to social
and emotional development report having better learning environments, feeling respected more, feeling safer, doing better academically, getting along well with others better, being better prepared for life, and being more likely to serve and give back to their communities than those students not in such schools.


These and other findings are the result of a nationally representative survey of current (age14-19) and recent (age 16-22) high school students, including in-depth interviews with students in schools with and without a strong focus on social and emotional learning. Listening to the perspectives of students completes a compelling picture that has included nationally representative surveys of pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers and principals to assess the role and value of social and emotional learning in America’s schools.


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Great American High School Campaign

Through much of the last century, high schools served as a driver of individual mobility and community progress. Today, however, in too many school districts and communities, high schools are no longer fulfilling that promise. There remain about 1,300 traditional high schools in need of serious improvement and redesign. With an average graduation rate of 49 percent, these low-graduation-rate high schools are concentrated in 18 states from the inner city to the heartland and sit at the fault lines of race, class, and inequity in America.

At the same time, clear rays of hope exist. Over the last two decades, the number of low-performing high schools has been cut in half, as high school graduation rates have reached an all-time high. While graduation at the remaining low-performing high schools still is just a 50-50 proposition, these schools make up a small percentage of high schools throughout the country, totaling just 10 percent of all traditional high schools enrolling 300 or more students.

From this progress, a clear vision emerges on how high schools can be reformed to once again serve as engines of economic and community development. This is why the Great American High School report, authored by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University, was released in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, as part of the GradNation campaign working to increase the national on-time graduation rate to 90 percent.   


The report identifies the progress made and remaining challenges in enabling all students to graduate from high school ready for college or career; documents the scale, scope, and location of the remaining low-performing high schools; shows the challenges these schools face; details what we know about effective and evidence-based high school reform; and lays out a path forward for high school redesign in the communities and school districts that need further support.


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Building A Grad Nation: 2018 Annual Report

Authored by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, and released annually in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education and America’s Promise Alliance, the Building a Grad Nation report examines both progress and challenges toward reaching the GradNation campaign goal of a national on-time graduation rate of 90 percent. AT&T, lead sponsor, has supported the report series since its inception through AT&T Aspire, the company’s $400 million commitment since 2008 to graduate more students from high school ready for college and career. Lumina Foundation, which has been a leader in the field on postsecondary education, is a supporting sponsor.

Introduction: For much of the 20th century, high school graduation was seen as the finish line between childhood and adulthood and a distinct marker of success in education. Completing the K-12 experience and earning a high school diploma meant that a young person was ready to go out into the workforce and earn a livable wage or, in the case of the select few, enroll in college.


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Moneyball for Higher Education: States

Time and time again, at critical junctures in our nation’s history, our leaders have bet on education as a route to future prosperity, equality of opportunity, and a stronger civic fabric. Today, our colleges and universities once again have a central role to play in helping Americans overcome years of stagnant incomes, preparing for a tidal wave of economic dislocation resulting from automation, and bridging growing civic and political divides.

Over the course of the 20th century, states built the community colleges and public universities that now enroll three-quarters of America’s college students. But higher education as a whole has low graduation rates and rising student debts. As a result, many colleges and universities are not yet the reliable path to the middle class or the force for social, economic, and civic progress that they should be.

The good news is that colleges have identified a growing number of ways to help students graduate from college and and rewarding jobs. However, too often colleges struggle to sustain even successful innovations, much less help them reach more students across campuses and the country. The challenge for state leaders is to help college leaders identify what works and apply it systematically to bene t students.


As a Democrat and a Republican, the authors of this report may not agree on everything, but we both believe that the strategic use of data and evidence can help more college students succeed. In this paper—part of a series published by Results for America—we present specific recommendations for state leaders to use data and evidence in the financing of colleges in order to improve student outcomes. We recently published a similar paper focused on federal policies. The steps we outline below can help promote upward mobility, foster shared economic growth, and enable Americans of all backgrounds to understand and cooperate with one another to solve our toughest public challenges.


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Moneyball for Higher Education: Federal

A uniquely American asset—our colleges and universities—has great untapped potential to increase opportunity and improve the lives of Americans. No country has a system like ours, which includes an unparalleled share of the world’s best research universities, distinguished liberal arts colleges, and community colleges that offer practical and affordable education, training, and second chances to millions.

Colleges and universities can be pillars supporting our efforts both to fuel economic growth and to strengthen our civic ties. Wages barely budged for a typical family between 2000 and 2016, after inflation. Only half of American workers born in the 1980s earn more than their parents did a generation ago. The changing nature of work and the rapid pace of automation add substantial uncertainty to the job market. Finally, America’s current civic picture is also disturbing, with historically low levels of trust in one another and in government institutions, a continued decline in volunteering, voting, and participation in community projects and organizations, and increased tensions in American communities.

Fortunately, higher education institutions have identified a growing number of potential tools to help students thrive in college and graduate prepared for more demanding careers and civic participation. These range from new approaches to student coaching to innovative ways to teach math through software. Among policy makers, there is growing support for applying evidence of what works to make better use of taxpayer dollars and solve persistent policy problems. For example, the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 requires states and school districts to better identify and apply what works to improve K-12 schools.

As a Democrat and a Republican, the authors of this report may not agree on everything, but we both believe that the strategic use of data and evidence can help many more college students succeed. Achieving this goal also helps to promote upward mobility, strengthen the middle class, foster shared economic growth, and enable Americans of all backgrounds to understand and cooperate with one another to solve our toughest public challenges.


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Progress and Challenges in Raising High School Grad Rates in Indiana

In 2015, Indiana had both the highest high school graduation rates of any state in the
nation at 87.1 percent, and the narrowest graduation gap—4.5 percentage points—between low-income and non-low-income students. This happened in a state in which well more than one-third of the cohort of students were low-income. Indiana was also in the top five states for closing the graduation gap between all and low-income students from 2011 to 2015.


This report considers factors that have contributed to Indiana’s progress, as well as the challenges that remain. In particular, the report focuses on closing gaps for those subgroups of students that still lag behind their peers, such as African-American students, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners.


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Ready to Lead: A National Principal Survey

The central message of this report is that principals across the United States understand how fundamental social and emotional learning (SEL) is to the development of students and their success in and out of school, but they need more guidance, training, and support to make solid and effective school-wide implementation a reality. Principals understand that SEL competencies are teachable, believe they should be developed in all students, and know that young people equipped with SEL skills will become better students now and better adults in the future. In today’s environment of increasingly demanding jobs and the fraying of American communities, nothing could be more important than to foster, teach, and promote the competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Some call it empathy, discipline, character, collaborative problem solving, or other names – but regardless of the name, they are the attitudes and skills that provide the glue of a functioning society, robust economy, and vibrant democracy.


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Building A Grad Nation: 2017 Annual Report

Authored by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, and released annually in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education and America’s Promise Alliance, the Building a Grad Nation report examines both progress and challenges toward reaching the GradNation campaign goal of a national on-time graduation rate of 90 percent by the Class of 2020. AT&T has been a long-time sponsor of the report series and was the lead sponsor of this year’s report.  State Farm is the supporting sponsor.   

Introduction: This year signifies two key milestones in the GradNation campaign to raise high school graduation rates. First, the release of the 2015 federal graduation rate data marks five years since states began reporting graduation rates with a common formula, the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR). Second, there are now just five years of federal data reporting between now and the culmination of the GradNation goal to raise high school graduation rates to 90 percent by the Class of 2020.


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Closing the College Gap: A Roadmap to Postsecondary Readiness

A Roadmap to Postsecondary Readiness and Attainment

Throughout much of the 20th century, the United States led the world in educational attainment and, in turn, economic and social progress. But that advantage has been slipping in recent decades, prompting the president and a host of governors and philanthropic leaders to set goals for America to reclaim
its place as the world leader in the education of its people, and to foster the economic, social, and civic progress that would result.

In Part I of this report, we examine new and existing data on three successive cohorts of young adults whose educational attainment at 25-34 years of age can be measured today or projected in the future. The current cohort of 25- to 34-year-olds graduated from high school in 2008 or earlier and earned postsecondary degrees in 2014 or earlier; the second cohort is in postsecondary education or finishing high school; and the third cohort is in 1st through 10th grades today. We wanted to take a dispassionate view of how we are actually doing on the key national priority of postsecondary attainment, on the pipeline from high school to postsecondary education, and on the way forward to boost college readiness, access, and persistence in the future. We nd reasons for hope and cause for alarm within each group.


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For All Kids: How Kentucky is Closing the High-School Graduation Gap

Over the last decade, the nation has been responding to its high school dropout challenge. Goals have been set, evidence-based plans developed, and coalitions built to meet the challenge and put more students on a better path. As a result of the hard work of students, parents, teachers, administrators, community-based organizations, business leaders, faith leaders, and policymakers at all levels, significant progress has been made. High school graduation rates have risen more than 11 percentage points in the past decade and two million more students have crossed the graduation line rather than dropping out.


Along the way, we have seen schools, districts, and states that have been setting a fast and sustained pace of progress that could inspire the rest of the country. One of those states is the Commonwealth of Kentucky. As you will learn in this carefully researched case study, Kentucky is a state with rates of poverty that exceed the national average, but with graduation rates for low-income students that are its envy. Kentucky is a diverse state with large urban centers in northern, central, and western Kentucky and some of the most impoverished areas in Appalachia and Eastern Kentucky. It was there in Martin County, Kentucky, in 1964 that President Lyndon Johnson launched his famous “War on Poverty” on Tom Fletcher’s front porch. It is in Floyd County next door that a school district and community embraced its dropout challenge and became one of the best in the state.


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Building A GradNation: 2016 Annual Report

The nation has achieved an 82.3 percent high school graduation rate – a new record high – and had another year of signi cant gains for nearly all student subgroups. These gains have been made possible by the schools, districts, and states that prioritized raising their graduation rates and made sure more students leave high school equipped with a high-quality diploma. Over the past decade, a majority of states increased the number of students graduating high school on time, and put themselves in good position to reach a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the Class of 2020. At the same time, the number of high schools failing to graduate one-third or more of students has been reduced, meaning fewer students are attending high schools where graduation is not the norm.

All of this progress, however, is tempered by the fact that this year the national rate of improve- ment – 0.9 percentage points – puts the nation off pace to reach the 90 percent goal, and marked the rst time since 2011 the national graduation rate increased by less than one point. There are also very real concerns that too many of our most vulnerable students remain in low-gradua- tion-rate schools, and that the alternative pathways that have been created to meet their needs may, in many cases, not be up to the task. Additionally, questions have been raised about the validity of rising graduation rates and whether the increasing number of high school diplomas being earned is translating into success in postsecondary education and careers. In this year’s Building a Grad Nation report, we examine these issues further and explore both the important progress the nation has made and the considerable challenges that remain.


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Since the 2010-11 school year, when most states began reporting graduation rates using the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR), the number of students graduating on time has increased every year, and in 2014, the rate surpassed 82 percent for the first time. These trends reflect and build on the increase in high school graduation rates since 2001, as measured by the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR). This progress is tempered by the persistent graduation rate gaps that continue to hold back large numbers of minority, low-income, and Limited English Proficient (LEP) students, as well as those with disabilities. These gaps must be addressed for the nation to achieve a 90 percent graduation rate for all students. 


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State Progress Reports 

The above Data Brief highlights state high school graduation rate trends and the progress being made to raise graduation rates for key student subgroups. It is accompanied by graduation progress reports for each of the 50 states and data tables providing more in-depth state-by-state graduation rate analysis. The brief keeps pace with the release of graduation rate data by the National Center for Education Statistics and lays a foundation for the more comprehensive annual Building a Grad Nation report published in spring 2016. 

To view your state's progress report, click on the link below: 





























New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota





Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota







West Virginia



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Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless students in America's public schools

This report examines the growing problem of student homelessness by interviewing and surveying currently and formerly homeless students and the state coordinators and local liaisons assigned to help them. Written by a team of researchers at Civic Enterprises, a public policy and strategy firm, in association with Hart Research Associates, the study was released by America’s Promise Alliance, a leader of the GradNation campaign.

Student homelessness is on the rise, with more than 1.3 million homeless students identified during the 2013-14 school year. This is a 7 percent increase from the previous year and more than double the number of homeless students in 2006-07. As high as these numbers seem, they are almost certainly undercounts.

Despite increasing numbers, these students – as well as the school liaisons and state coordinators who support them – report that student homelessness remains an invisible and extremely disruptive problem.

Students experiencing homelessness struggle to stay in school, to perform well, and to form meaningful connections with peers and adults. Ultimately, they are much more likely to fall off track and eventually drop out of school more often than their non-homeless peers.


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Building A Grad Nation: 2015 Annual Report

"More young people are graduating from high school today than ever before—and gaps in graduation rates are closing—even as standards are rising. The credit for these gains goes to educators, students, parents and community partners. Yet we know that, in today’s knowledge-based economy, a high school diploma isn’t enough. So while we should be encouraged by projections like the one in this year’s Grad Nation report, we know that more hard work remains to truly prepare all—not just some—students for success in college, careers and life. Education must be the equalizer that can help overcome the odds stacked against too many of our students." 

-Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education 

In 2013, the national high school graduation rate hit a record high of 81.4 percent, and for the third year in a row, the nation remained on pace to meet the 90 percent goal by the Class of 2020. This sixth annual update on America’s high school dropout challenge shows that these gains have been made possible by raising graduation rates for students who have traditionally struggled to earn a high school diploma, and focuses on the student subgroups and geographic areas that both contribute to this progress and are key to driving toward the 90 percent goal.

Continuing a pattern seen in earlier years, rates of improvement among states and large districts varied considerably between 2011 and 2013. Some districts, including those with a majority of low-income and minority students, made big improvements, while others lost ground. This is significant because it indicates that high school graduation rates are not increasing because of broad national economic, demographic, and social trends. Rather, the constellation of leadership, reforms, and multi-sector efforts at state, district, and school levels drove this progress, and shows that with focus, graduation rates can be increased for all students in every part of the country

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Building A Grad Nation: 2014 Annual Report

"The new 'Building a Grad Nation' report ought to be required reading for those who believe that the high school dropout is too intractable to successfully take on." 

-Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education 

For the first time in U.S. history the nation's high school graduation rate rose above 80 percent.  In addition to more than eight out of 10 high school students graduating on time, the number of students enrolled in dropout factories has dropped 47 percent over the last decade and minority students have led the way in increasing graduation rates and leaving dropout factories all while quality standards have grown increasingly strict.  

These substantial increases have been driven by key factors beginning with increased national awareness of the crisis of low high school graduation rates, and efforts to spotlight the problem.  Accountability of schools and high expectations for better outcomes, better data to track the problem, and increased school performance and improvement have helped to drive change.  

Despite crossing the incredible threshold of 80 percent graduation rate, there is still much left to be done.  There is still a persistent achievement gap between low-income and middle- and high-income students.  African American and Latino students have graduation rates that while rising, trail behind those for Asian and White students.  Many students with disabilities, a population crucial to overall graduation rates, are not graduating on time and with their peers.   

Now the nation turns to the goal of raising the graduation rate to 90 percent by the Class of 2020.  Success will depend on closing the opportunity gap, tackling big city challenges, and making special education students part of the solution.  Through a collaborative effort among public, private, and nonprofit sectors, the nation can achieve a national graduation rate of 90 percent by 2020!


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The Mentoring Effect: Young People's Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring

The Mentoring Effect is a compelling report informed by the first-ever nationally representative survey of young people on the topic of both informal and formal mentoring, as well as a literature and landscape review and insights from a variety of key leaders in business, philanthropy, government, and education.   The report was commissioned by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership with support from AT&T, and in partnership with Hart Research. 

The survey found that 9.4 million at-risk young adults had been matched in mentoring relationships through mentoring programs while they were growing up.  Despite this positive trend, one in three young people surveyed did not have a mentor while they were growing up.  Applying their experiences to the U.S. Census demographics for 8-18 year olds, it is projected that 16 million young people, including 9 million at-risk youths will reach adulthood without connecting with a mentor of any kind.  

The findings of this report are consistent with a powerful mentoirng  effect as demonstrated by the life experiences of the young people surveyed and the link mentoring has to improved  academic, social, and economic prospects.  This mentoring effect is growing, and if harnessed, has the potential to help meet a range of national challenges and strengthen our communities and economy.  

This report outlines opportunities for the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to systematically integrate mentoring as a key youth strategy.  This report describes a series of paths forward that would lead to a society where all young people have access to quality mentoring relationships and the support they need to succeed in school, work, and life.  


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The Missing Piece: A National Teacher Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools

In too many classrooms, students and their teachers focus so much attention on the cognitive elements of education that other life skills are left behind.  While reading and writing are intentionally taught, the skills of resilience and responsibility are often not. As a result, an “either/or” dynamic has been established that prioritizes academic skills, at the expense of “social and emotional” learning, which includes essential life skills such as self-awareness and management, grit and determination, empathy and conflict resolution, discipline and industriousness, and the application of knowledge and skills to real-world situations. This counterproductive dynamic has been established despite overwhelming evidence that social and emotional learning (SEL) boosts student achievement, improves attitudes and behaviors and reduces emotional distress.


In this report, teachers recognize the importance of SEL on student outcomes and endorse social and emotional learning as a key part of American education. The Missing Piece, shares the findings from a nationally representative sample of 605 educators from preschool through 12th grade. The national survey shows that SEL can help address key national challenges, including that America’s educational advantage is slipping. Teachers agree that social and emotional learning is a key part of the solution to address these challenges. Teachers across the country also explained that SEL increases student interest in learning, improves student behavior, prevents and reduces bullying, and improves school climate. The Missing Piece showcases powerful examples of schools, districts, and states intentionally prioritizing SEL in programs and policies with tremendous results. The report closes with Paths Forward, recommendations on the local, state, and federal level in policy and practice that accelerate SEL implementation in schools. 


Press Release

Executive Summary

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Building A Grad Nation: 2013 Annual Report

"The new 'Building a Grad Nation' report ought to be required reading for those who believe that the high school dropout problem is too intractable to successfully take on."

- Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education

New research reveals that for the first time in our nations history we are on track to reach the national goal of 90% high school graduation rates by the class of 2020.The report shows that two states, Wisconsin and Vermont, already have a graduation rate of 90 percent.   Twenty states are on pace to reach 90 percent by 2020.  Seven states need to accelerate progress, and 23 are off pace to reach the goal. 

This growth in graduation rates was driven in large part by significant gains in Hispanic and African American graduation rates, with Hispanic rates achieving the greatest gains, jumping 10 percentage points from 61 percent in 2006 to 71.4 percent in 2010.  Similarly, African American graduation rates rose from 59.2 percent in 2006 to 66.1 percent in 2010. The South also contributed to this accelerated pace, home to five of the top 10 states with the greatest improvements since 2006 but also the top seven states with the greatest decline in “dropout factory” high schools.  There are 1.1 million fewer students attending these schools in 2011 than in 2002.


The full report provides additional detail on the latest graduation rates and dropout factory trends at the state and national levels.  The report also features states and school districts that are making significant gains, serving as a challenge that others can too. It also shares promising practices from nonprofits, businesses, media, educational and governmental institutions across the country. 


Press Release

Executive Summary

BGN 2013 In The News

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GradNation Community Guidebook Update

The Community Guidebook is part of the Grad Nation campaign, a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations, and communities working together to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and return the U.S. to first in the world in college completion. It adds to existing sources of knowledge and information on the high school dropout crisis, such as the annual Building a Grad Nation report and the Building a Grad Nation Summit.

 The Community Guidebook compiles current research and outlines proven solutions and best practices including school and community interventions, for raising graduation rates. It provides a comprehensive framework to help communities design local dropout prevention efforts as well as 16 downloadable tools that communities can use immediately.

The Community Guidebook also addresses other important issues such as education reform, school transformation, Common Core State Standards, multiple pathways to graduation and the importance of quality out-of-school opportunities. It also provides communities with a blueprint on how to engage youth as part of the solution and develop their own “Dropout Prevention and Graduation Improvement Team” and “Community Graduation Compact” as guideposts for building and tracking their progress. 


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In 2012, the frustrations and hopes of a nationally representative sample of school counselors and administrators reflect the central message of this report: although counselors and administrators believe in the college and career readiness mission of counselors, a lack of focus, training, accountability, and resources for counselors stands in the way of real progress. Counselors are ready to lead in the college and career ready mission, but their graduate schools fail to train them for this mission, schools pull them away from this critical work, and their administrators do not hold them accountable for the activities that usher more students to college. 

In short, though counselors are poised to meaningfully contribute, they are operating with a broken compass. Encouragingly students in schools where counselors are trained and held accountable for college-going activities are more likely to go to college. There is a growing national movement to better utilize school counselors and with changes in policy and practice, counselors can emerge s invaluable resources in our nation's schools to boost college and career readiness in a time of fiscal constraint.


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Building A Grad Nation: 2012 Annual Report

"The new 'Building a Grad Nation' report ought to be required reading for those who believe that the high school dropout problem is too intractable to successfully take on."
-- Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education

New research reveals more than half of states increased graduation rates and number of “Dropout Factory” high schools declined by 23% since 2002. The 2012 Annual Update of Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the Dropout Epidemic report found that 24 states increased their high school graduation rates by modest to large gains, while the number of high schools graduating 60 percent or fewer students on time—often referred to as “dropout factories”— decreased by 457 between 2002 and 2010, with the rate of decline accelerating since 2008.

The report also features states and school districts that are making significant gains, serving as a challenge that others can too. It also shares promising practices from nonprofits, businesses, media, educational and governmental institutions across the country.


Press Release

Executive Summary

Executive Summary (Espanol)

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Enterprising Pathways: Toward a National Plan of Action for Career and Technical Education

As other economies have superseded the U.S. in middle-class growth, the strength of our overall economy is in jeopardy. In order to succeed, our workforce needs preparation and skills. Reinvigorating the American workforce by providing multiple, opportunity-based pathways to the middle class will be critical to revitalizing our economy and strengthening America’s global competitiveness. The purpose of this report is to inform a national debate among business leaders, educators, policymakers, and the public about the role of career and technical education (CTE) in the United States.



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On Track for Success

Many of America’s children are on track for success, but far too many are falling behind.While some of our nation’s most precious resources—our future doctors, teachers, and engineers—are reading above grade level, solving complex algebra equations, and applying what they learn in the classroom beyond the schoolhouse walls, many are struggling to keep up. Some have simply stopped trying.Too many have difficult life circumstances. Others do not see the connection between school and their dreams. In America today, one in four children fails to graduate from high school on time. Even fewer finish college.


A student’s decision to drop out of high school is not a sudden act, but a slow process of disengagement over a period of years. With good research in recent years, it is clear that warning signs of dropping out are apparent well before students actually leave school, signaling the gathering storm of trouble for some as early as the elementary or initial middle grades. Research also shows that most students at risk of falling off track could graduate if they were provided with the appropriate supports early enough and those supports were sustained.

Over the past decade, schools, districts, and states have become increasingly savvy with data collection and analysis to drive student outcomes.The development and use of Early Warning Indicator and Intervention Systems (EWS) are at the cutting edge of the data- driven, outcomes-focused, high-impact education movement.These systems can increase educators’ effectiveness by helping them use data to identify those students who are on track to graduate, and those who are falling behind, far enough in advance to provide appropriate interventions.


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2011 National Survey of School Counselors

School counselors are highly valuable professionals in the education system, but they are also among the least strategically deployed. This is a national loss, especially given the fact that school counselors are uniquely positioned, in ways that many educators are not, to have a complete picture of the dreams, hopes, life circumstances, challenges and needs of their students. Counselors have both a holistic view of the students in their schools and the opportunity to provide targeted supports to keep these students on track for success, year after year.

For the past century, counselors have been hard at work performing many roles in their schools, from guiding student decision making, helping students to address personal problems and working with parents, to administering tests, teaching and filling other gaps unrelated to counseling. Counselors’ roles have been as diverse as the students

they serve, often resulting in an unclear mission, a lack of accountability for student success, and having school counseling seen as “a profession in search of identity.” Consequently, even though there are nearly as many school counselors as administrators across America, counselors have been largely left out of the education reform movement.

College Board 2011 National Survey of School Counselors State Briefs:

School Counseling in California

School Counseling in Florida 

School Counseling in Michigan

School Counseling in New York

School Counseling in Ohio

School Counseling in Texas


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Across the Great Divide

While access to higher education has expanded significantly in the United States over the last century, a new crisis has emerged: disturbing numbers of students who enroll in post-secondary education are failing to complete their degrees with huge consequences to them, society, and the economy. Today, more than 70 percent of high school graduates enroll in some kind of advanced education within two years. Yet, just over one-half of bachelor's degree candidates complete their degree within six years, and less than one-third of associate's degree candidates earn their degree within three years. America has a serious college completion crisis. Stagnant college completion rates are not only a problem for those students who, by dropping out, earn less over the course of their lives than those who graduate, but also to the economy as a whole, which is less competitive without a workforce prepared to meet the demands of the nation's employers. Nearly two-thirds of job openings in the next decade will require some post-secondary education. To fill these jobs, the US will need to accelerate its progress and produce 3 million more students who graduate with a post-secondary degree by the end of this decade.


America's companies and higher education institutions have significant roles to play in meeting this challenge and in shaping the workforce of the future. To better understand the views of these two critical groups of leaders, Civic Enterprises and Hart Research surveyed a national cross section of 450 business leaders and 751 post-secondary leaders at community colleges, private sector career colleges, and less selective four-year institutions for their perspectives on the challenges, goals, and work ahead to cross the great divide. This report offers a clear-eyed view of the state of American education, where business and higher education leaders can make a difference, and a roadmap for focusing on what needs to be done to prepare future workers for the demands of tomorrow's economy. 


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Education as a Data-Driven Enterprise

Education is on the road to a transformation into a data-driven enterprise. With better information shared with the appropriate stakeholders, individuals at all levels—teachers and parents, principals and superintendents, business and nonprofit leaders, and policymakers and practitioners—can accelerate their efforts to boost student achievement and to put in place the reforms, policies, and practices that strengthen education for all children. Although the U.S. education system increasingly produces and collects more data, that information often is not shared, or comes too late to prompt appropriate interventions and supports. Moreover, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders such as parents, students, and community partners, lack the training and capacity to use that information to inform their decision making.


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Building A Grad Nation: 2011 Annual Report

America continues to make progress in meeting its high school dropout challenge. Leaders in education, government, nonprofits and business have awakened to the individual, social and economic costs of the dropout crisis and are working together to solve it. 

Last year, we reported that the number of "dropout factories" -- those high schools that graduate 60 percent or less of their students -- had declined from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,746 in 2008. We are now able to report that from 2008 to 2009 (the most current data available), the number of dropout factory high schools decreased by an additional 112 schools to 1,634, representing an annual rate of progress approximately three times as fast as the previous period.


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Closing the College Completion Gap

A degree beyond high school has become an essential element of opportunity in America and is a proven pathway out of poverty. Faith-based institutions committed to addressing social injustice and poverty should consider the power of keeping more young people on track to obtain such a degree. These efforts have become an urgent national priority.

Last year, President barack Obama stated, “in a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity—it is a pre-requisite.” The President’s call for Americans to commit to at least one year of postsecondary training by 2020 reflects the changing realities of our global economy.

The majority of our nation’s young people, especially low-income Americans, are finding it difficult to complete this pathway to success. Every year, more than 90 percent of low-income teenagers say they plan to attend college, but only half of these students will actually enroll in college. only slightly more than half who enroll will finish, and the time to degree is getting longer. only 20 percent of young people who begin higher education at two-year institutions graduate within three years. At four-year institutions, about four in 10 students receive a degree within six years.


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Building A Grad Nation: 2010 Annual Report

The central message of this report is that some states and school districts are raising their high school graduation rates with scalable solutions in our public schools, showing the nation we can end the high school dropout crisis. America made progress not only in suburbs and towns, but also in urban districts and in states across the South.

Progress in states and school districts has often been the result of rising to a standard of excellence — with clear goals and expectations from the state to the classroom, by challenging all students with a more rigorous curriculum to obtain a meaningful diploma that prepares them for college and work, and through a targeted approach sustained over time that provides extra supports to the school leaders, teachers and students who need them the most. Progress was not the result of a magic bullet, but a weave of multiple reform efforts, sustained, integrated, and improved over time.

Important progress is being made on a range of reforms, policies, and practices at all levels that will help ensure more students graduate from high school, ready for college and productive work. Although this is producing real results, including an increase in the national graduation rate, the pace is too slow to meet the national goal of a 90 percent
high school graduation rate by 2020. We must calibrate our educational system to the greater demands of the 21st century through a Civic Marshall Plan to make more accelerated progress in boosting student achievement, high school graduation rates, and college- and career-readiness for our nation to meet national goals and fulfill the promise of the next generation.


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Raising Their Voices

After conducting research and issuing three reports on the perspectives of high school dropouts (The Silent Epidemic, 2006), parents (One Dream, Two Realities, 2007), and teachers (On the Front Lines of Schools, 2009), we discovered that these constituencies share different and often conflicting views of the causes and cures of dropout. We found that students, parents, and teachers have perspectives that exhibit significant disconnects that, if not more fully understood and bridged, will continue to set back efforts to keep more young people in school and on track to graduate prepared for postsecondary education. We brought together these three key constituencies, from the same schools, in Baltimore, Maryland; Dallas, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Kingsport, Tennessee. In each case, individuals remarked that this was the first time that teachers, parents, and students had been brought together to talk about any issue, including the dropout crisis. The discussions were enlightening and constructive and fostered an atmosphere of mutual respect.


A primary purpose of this report is to present the findings from the candid discussions that were held in these four communities and to provide deeper insights around the disconnects that have inhibited communication. We found that the act of bringing these individuals together shed light on the barriers that each group faces and led to a collective will to combat the problems that stand in the way of student success. In order to arm other communities with the tools they will need to have similar dialogues, and to engage these three vital constituencies in common solutions to combat the epidemic of student dropout, we have attached the discussion guide we used in each of the four communities that contains all the guidelines needed to facilitate this conversation in a productive and action-oriented manner. Although these discussions varied from community to community and are not nationally representative, the findings from these focus groups have national implications that will serve other communities well as they strive to reverse the disturbing trend of high school dropout.


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The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts

The central message of this report is that while some students drop out because of significant academic challenges, most dropouts are students who could have, and believe they could have, succeeded in school. This survey of young people who left high school without graduating suggests that, despite career aspirations that require education beyond high school and a majority having grades of a C or better, circumstances in students’ lives and an inadequate response to those circumstances from the schools led to dropping out. While reasons vary, the general categories remain the same, whether in inner city Los Angeles or suburban Nebraska.


Older Reports

Achievement Trap: How America is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students from Lower-Income Families, 2007
  • Today in America, there are millions of students who are overcoming challenging socioeconomic circumstances to excel academically. They defy the stereotype that poverty precludes high academic performance and that lower- income and low academic achievement are inextricably linked. They demonstrate that economically disadvantaged children can learn at the highest levels and provide hope to other lower-income students seeking to follow the same path.

One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America's High Schools, 2008
  • Parents are central to the educational success of their children. In an effort to give parents a voice and to provide ideas on how schools and parents can work more effectively together to strengthen the education of children, we conducted a series of focus groups and a nationally representative survey of 1,006 parents of current and recent high school students in urban, suburban and rural communities across America. Parents are clearly ready to help their children succeed academically, but they need better information and tools from the schools to do so- ranging from how to help with homework to how to get into college. We hope this report will prompt dialogue and action at all levels to foster meaningful collaboration between schools and parents to help more children fulfill their potential and realize their dreams. 

More to Give: Tapping the Talents of the Baby Boomer, Silent and Greatest Generations, 2008
  • The central message of this report is that tens of millions of Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation, while not as civically active as the Greatest Generation in their younger years, are healthier, living longer and appear ready to increase their civic participation in retirement. The sheer number of Boomers provides an opportunity to have a transformative effect. We believe there is significant potential to increase volunteering and civic engagement in America, particularly among regular volunteers, churchgoers, Boomer women, African Americans, Hispanics, and to design policies and initiatives that tap the talents of these extraordinary generations.   

Engaged for Success: Service-Learning as a Tool for High School Dropout Prevention, 2008
  • This report presents original and secondary research that shows the ability of service-learning to address some of the principle causes of dropping out. It highlights findings from a nationally representative survey of 807 high school students, including 151 at-risk students, who share their views of service-learning. The report also examines the results of focus groups of service-learning teachers who provide specific examples of the ways in which service-learning has affected their students, as well as interviews with current students who offer their perspectives on service-learning programs. Service-learning holds the potential to address each of the underlying causes of low graduation rates, while incorporating the strategies most recommended for preventing students from dropping out. 

On the Front Lines of Schools: Perspectives of Teachers and Principals on the High School Dropout Problem, 2009
  • This report provides those on the front lines of education -- our teachers and administrators -- a stronger voice in the dropout debate and more support within schools and communities to help address the challenge. In highlighting both the opportunities and barriers to addressing the dropout problem, we hope to further spark educators, parents, students, policymakers, and others to continue to make this issue an urgent national priority and to make the promise of equal opportunity the President envisions for every student a reality.

The Case for Reform: Raising the Compulsory School Attendance Age, 2009
  • This report provides  information to state and local leaders about the merits of raising the compulsory school age, including the latest research, compelling arguments, and examples of how other states are making progress to raise the compulsory school age in order to strengthen the arsenal of tools states and communities have to combat the dropout epidemic. 

Thanks to progress made from 2000, 10.6 million lives have been saved from malaria. But 800 children still die from malaria every day. You can help be part of the effort to end malaria deaths.  Go to:

Gracias a los progresos realizados entre 2001 y 2020, se han salvado 10.6 millones de vidas de la malaria. Pero aún mueren 800 niños de malaria cada día. Usted puede colaborar con la iniciativa para acabar con las muertes por malaria. Visite:

Washington, DC 20036


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