As all of us are moving full-steam ahead into 2011, we at America’s Promise Alliance are mindful of the progress made last year as a nation to increase the high school graduation rate. The vision for 2011 will be intensified as the Alliance strives to quicken the transformation of America from a dropout nation to a Grad Nation, along with the collaborative efforts of our partners, funders and stakeholders.

Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, our report released late in 2010, chronicles the remarkable work accomplished to lower the national dropout rate. As we seek to mobilize all Americans to redouble those efforts, we must be prepared to tackle the significant challenges that remain. Our pace must be quickened to meet the overall goal of the Grad Nation campaign of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020, with no school having less than an 80 percent graduation rate. We will focus much of our work on the lowest performing schools (those with less than a 60 percent graduation rate), their feeder middle and elementary schools, and the children and families who live in those neighborhoods.

We are dedicated to providing young people in communities throughout the country with the support they need to graduate high school ready for college and a 21st century career. Through our community programs, our website of resources, and continually evolving Grad Nation movement, we are confident that positive change will continue.

Our founding chairman General Colin Powell and current chair Alma Powell, in addition to several of our nation’s leaders, have emphasized the critical state that will become our country should our education system fail our young people. The future of our country, our national security, and the wellbeing of all of us resides in the success of our students.

Our next big project will be the “First Annual Building a Grad Nation” summit in early Spring. Be sure to check our website regularly for updates as we continue to build the momentum to a Grad Nation. Together we can continue to have a meaningful impact on the lives of our young people and ensure a hopeful future for our nation.

As part of the Grad Nation campaign, we are working with Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and the Alliance for Excellent Education to implement the Civic Marshall Plan to transform the lowest performing schools. While our Grad Nation campaign aims to mobilize all Americans—parents, teachers, students, policymakers, leaders of faith, businesses, non-profits and more—to play their role in ending the high school dropout crisis, the Civic Marshall plan will be a focused effort to transform those schools in most need.

Be sure to visit the America’s Promise website for the latest updates on Grad Nation. You can also find a number of toolkits, fact sheets and more to help engage your communities and policymakers in making meaningful decisions to help move our country forward when it comes to education.

For more information on Grad Nation visit:

Today’s guest commentator, Marguerite W. Kondracke, is president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance. If you or your organization is interested in providing guest commentary for the First Focus blog, please email Jenn Sacks and