The GradNation Campaign

The GradNation campaign launched amidst a sense that the nation lacked a big goal in education. The landmark study,
A Nation at Risk, had called out a “rising tide of mediocrity in our education system, which threatened our very future as a Nation and a people.” And yet 25 years later, in 2008, it was evident that very little had changed and the issues raised in the report were still relevant.

Against this backdrop, America’s Promise set out to lead a campaign to raise awareness and mobilize people across sectors around a common cause and goal. There emerged consensus that the high school graduation rate signals the health of the nation and economic possibility for those who graduate. The goal was simple: increase the national graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020. Achieving the goal requires continued commitment and innovation across sectors and at the national, state, and community levels.

How it began


105 Dropout Prevention Summits

The graduation rate is 74.9 percent. America’s Promise hosts 105 Dropout Prevention Summits in every state reaching 30,000 participants, 3,200 young people, and 1,400 organizations and raising youth voice on local efforts



The GradNation Campaign Launches

The graduation rate is 78.2 percent. The GradNation Campaign launches with President Barack Obama, General Colin Powell and Alma Powell, and Arne Duncan setting the national goal of a high school graduation rate of 90 percent by 2020.

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First Annual Building a GradNation Summit

The graduation rate is 79 percent. America’s Promise hosts first of four annual Building a GradNation Summits.

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Center for Promise

The graduation rate is 80 percent. America’s Promise Alliance launched the Center for Promise to deepen the GradNation campaign’s knowledge and understanding about what is needed to create the conditions for young people in America have the opportunity to succeed in school and life.

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100 Community Summits

The graduation rate is 81.4 percent. America’s Promise launches 100 Community Summits, reaching more than 24,500 people, including over 4,000 young people, over a two year period of time.

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Don’t Call Them Dropouts Report Released

The graduation rate is 82.3 percent. Center for Promise released Don’t Call Them Dropouts finding that the reasons why students leave school is complex and multifaceted. Many students leave school because of toxic environments and being resilient they need more support and guidance to thrive.

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Released Don’t Quit on Me Report

The graduation rate is 83.2 percent. Center for Promise released Don’t Quit On Me finding that too many young people are facing too many hurdles to graduation with too little help; relationships matter, but their importance to graduation varies by type, source, and intensity; and young people are more likely to graduate if they have access to a web of support.

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State Activation Partnership

The graduation rate is 84.1 percent. The campaign announced State Activation partnerships with Arizona, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.

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Released GradNation Action Platform

The campaign released the GradNation Action Platform, an evidence- and practice-based framework of best practice to improve local graduation rates, and a communications strategy anchored in the places, partners, and practices emerging from the platform’s planks.

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The Acceleration Initiative

The campaign announced the Acceleration Initiative, partnering with five places where leaders have successfully identified specific student need and corralled the resources to meet youth where they are: Georgia and Michigan and community-level partnerships in Albuquerque, NM, Greeley, CO, and Los Angeles, CA.

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Updated 4/29/2021