Achieve Report Shows High School Diplomas More Meaningful Today Than Four Years Ago

Thursday, February 19, 2009Printer-friendly version



Sandy Boyd, (202) 419-1542,

Cover of Closing the Expectations Gap 2009

WASHINGTON – February 19, 2009 – Achieve today released, “Closing the Expectations Gap,” its fourth annual report on the progress of high school reform efforts in all 50 states. The report, which tracks efforts by states to set expectations for high school graduates that are in line with the demands of college and careers, shows progress in a majority of states towards making the high school diploma more meaningful – particularly in the area of standards – though there is still considerable work to be done.

Since Achieve launched the American Diploma Project (ADP) Network in 2005 to challenge states to work together to align their standards, graduation requirements, assessments and accountability systems with the realities of college and the workplace, Achieve has surveyed all 50 states and the District of Columbia about the status of their efforts to adopt and implement the rigorous ADP agenda.

"States have shown impressive leadership in adopting college- and career- ready standards and graduation requirements. They must now go from setting standards to measuring whether they are being met. States must not only raise graduation requirements for students but hold schools accountable for the same result. To prepare all students for postsecondary success, states and districts must also provide the curriculum, instructional tools and supports students and teachers need," said Mike Cohen, Achieve’s president.

The 50-state survey looks at the number of states that have raised standards and adjusted their graduation requirements, P-20 data systems, assessments and accountability systems to support the college- and career-ready agenda.

Specifically, the report’s findings include:

  • All but six states have aligned, or plan to align, their end of high school standards in English and mathematics with college and career readiness expectations. Twenty-three states have completed this work.
  • In 2005, only two states required students to complete a college- and career-ready curriculum in order to earn a high school diploma. Today, 20 states and the District of Columbia have set their graduation requirements at the college- and career-ready level.
  • Only 10 states have assessments rigorous enough to measure whether high school students have met college and career readiness standards. Twenty-three additional states are planning to put such assessments in place in the next several years.
  • Before 2006, only three states had P-20 longitudinal data systems and regularly matched student-level K-12 and postsecondary data to measure progress and improve the transition from high school into college or the workplace. Now, 12 states have P-20 data systems, and all but one state are working to put such a system in place.
  • School accountability systems in most states are currently not anchored in the goal of graduating all students college- and career-ready. In most cases, the expectations for schools are much lower. States are beginning to develop more ambitious goals and broaden the indicators used to report on school progress and hold schools accountable for improvement.

To see a full copy of the report, go to here.

Watch the press event video.

To learn more about Achieve, visit


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Created in 1996 by the nation’s governors and corporate leaders, Achieve is an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit education reform organization based in Washington D.C. that helps states raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability. Achieve is leading the effort to make college and career readiness a national priority so that the transition from high school graduation to postsecondary education and careers is seamless. To make college and career readiness a priority, in 2005 Achieve launched the American Diploma Project Network. Starting with 13 original states, the Network has now grown to include 34 states educating nearly 85 percent of all U.S. public school students. Through the ADP Network, governors, state education officials, postsecondary leaders and business executives work together to improve postsecondary preparation by aligning high school standards, assessments, graduation requirements and accountability systems with the demands of college and careers. For more information about the work of Achieve, visit