Project Achieve

Project Achieve

We’ve always assumed that high school graduation is an opening to college and career. But new research has shown that fewer than half of students graduating from high school across the country and considered “ready” for college or careers.

ACHIEVE is a project created to provide analysis of each state’s graduation requirements. It is comprised of a team of educators, researchers, advocates, and other experts looking to develop solutions for education leaders as they address common challenges facing high school students. In its 2014 annual report, Closing the Expectations Gap, Achieve found that only 23 states had adopted policies that require students to participate in coursework that prepare them for college or career.

According to the Iowa Department of Education, graduation requirements for high school are:

  • Each school or school district must require the following as part of its graduation requirements: 1) one-half unit of United States government, 2) one unit of American History, and 3) student participation in physical education for one-eighth unit in each semester of enrollment in high school.
  • Beginning with the students in the 2010-2011 school year graduating class, the requirements for high school graduation for students in school districts and accredited nonpublic schools shall include four years of English and language arts, three years of mathematics, three years of science, and three years of social science. Any additional graduation credits or units are locally determined.
  • Financial Literacy requires all students, beginning with the graduating class of 2021, to complete one-half unit of financial literacy as a high school graduation requirement.

Unfortunately, options for graduation are often left to individual students and families, leaving them to determine what academic preparation their child needs for future education and career. In more than half of states, students have to “opt in” to take a set of mathematics and science courses that meet requirements for entering a public 4-year institution. This means that expectations for students in these states are lower than what is needed for admission into a college or university. 

According to ACHIEVE, Iowa is a state needing improvement in measuring specific indicators of a student’s progress toward high school graduation, and college or career readiness. Here is how we come in:


This is the type of information we share with stakeholders and policymakers in our work with national afterschool program providers. For over a decade, Iowa has been a member of the Iowa Afterschool Alliance, a statewide network of partners working to improve the quality and availability of after-school programs. In addition, both Brooke Findley and Terry Hernandez have participated in Iowa and national meetings, and shared our success with Chrysalis After-School programs and our high school mentoring project, GirlPower. It’s how we stay informed, improve our programs, and contribute to the knowledge of other afterschool providers.