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Public-private partnerships help in a big way, researchers said, citing such organizations as Diplomas Now, which helps turn around schools in metropolitan areas, a major area of concern since graduation rates in America’s 50 largest cities average only 50 percent.

As Congress and the White House ponder reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, “Build a Grad Nation” also urged support for several pieces of legislation, including the Success in the Middle Act “to improve the performance of the middle schools that feed into the dropout factory high schools, including support for the development of early warning data and intervention systems.”

With schools and students moving in the right direction, now is the time to pick up the pace and surge forward with “more boots on the ground,” education leaders said.

“Public schools are showing improvement thanks to reforms and other efforts that have been put in place, but we need to dramatically increase the pace of progress,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

“Ending the dropout crisis is within reach,” said John Bridgeland, CEO of the District-based public-policy firm Civic Enterprises, which co-wrote the “Build a Grad Nation” report with Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center.

“We now know why students drop out and what can keep them on track. With better data and accountability across schools and states, the spread of early warning systems, unprecedented federal support to transform dropout factories and nonprofits mobilizing more boots on the ground to support students, we can keep more young people on the path to success.”