A high school diploma: the new OSCAR®?

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Do you remember the thrill you felt upon receiving your college acceptance letter?This powerful 30-second spotcan help you recall that emotion (watch video). There you go! Now you remember that intense feeling of joy as you saw the world opening up before you. I'm sure you agree that every young person deserves the chance to go to college. And earning a high school diploma is a necessary and critical step in the college process. But for too many students--especially students of color and low-income students--finishing high school is a nearly impossible feat.

There's a dropout crisis in America. It was brought to the national consciousness largely through the 2006 report by Civic Enterprises called The Silent Epidemic which was featured in a Time Magazine cover story called Dropout Nation. The report flagged that "Almost one third of all public high school students--and nearly one half of all blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans--fail to graduate from public high school with their class."

Since that defining moment, thousands of educators, policymakers, business leaders, young people and staff from community organizations have mobilized to turn this dropout crisis around. Hallmarks of this movement, now referred to as Grad Nation, include evidence-based reforms and interventions, common core standards, and better data (disaggregated adjusted cohort data). And just this week, the movement now has some promising results which were released during the Grad Nation Summit:

"For the first time the nation is on track to meet the goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the Class of 2020--if the pace of improvement from 2006 to 2010 is sustained over the next 10 years."

The high school graduation rate rose to just over 78 percent in 2010, which is remarkable and promising; but this still means that roughly one in four students in America dropout before finishing high school. And According to America's Promise, "that's one every 26 seconds or more than one million students a year."

Watching the Academy Awards this week, and seeing the look of wonder and amazement in best actress winner Jennifer Lawrence's eyes, made me think about the million+ students each year who are slipping through America's cracks. Earning a high school diploma for them is like Jennifer Lawrence achieving an Oscar--overcoming incredible odds to attain this credential which immediately helps open up a brighter future.

GlaxoSmithKline has partnered with America's Promise--the convener of Grad Nation--for several years. We are proud to be a part of the solution for tackling our nation's dropout crisis. Indeed, the healthcare industry has a stake in building our next generation of researchers and healthcare leaders to continue to improve the health of our nation.And while this incremental improvement in the graduation rate is heartening, we hope it will only strengthen our nation's collective resolve. Check out the new report here, and let me know what you think.