Washington has improved its statewide on-time graduation rate from 72.2 percent in 2002 to 73.7 percent in 2009, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University and a public-policy organization called Civic Enterprises.

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More kids are graduating from high school in Washington state these days, but a report to be released Monday says about 21,000 students still attend high schools where four of 10 students do not earn a diploma in four years.

Washington has improved its statewide on-time graduation rate from 72.2 percent in 2002 to 73.7 percent in 2009, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University and a public-policy organization called Civic Enterprises.

The number of schools graduating 60 percent or fewer students in four years — sometimes referred to as “dropout factories” — decreased by 17 during that time period. The number of kids attending schools with such low graduation rates was cut in half.

That wasn’t good enough to make the list of most improved states, according to the report scheduled to be released in Washington, D.C., at the Building a Grad Nation summit. The summit is primarily sponsored by America’s Promise Alliance, a children’s advocacy organization founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Washington is taking a variety of approaches toward improving its graduation rates, according to Nate Olson, a spokesman for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The work focuses on both keeping kids in school and helping them achieve. For example, a guidance program called Navigation 101 helps them develop a plan in eighth grade to aim toward graduation, college and career.

Building Bridges is a statewide program to get dropouts back in class. The Legislature adopted the PASS Act — Pay for Actual Student Success — in 2011. It basically pays schools for improving graduation rates.

Building Bridges tries to keep kids engaged in middle school. Two programs help kids work and go to school at the same time, and the state offers several college-scholarship programs also aimed at keeping kids in high school.

“I think we’re making progress,” Olson said.

He blames a dip in graduation rates between 2010 and 2011 on the state budget cuts, which he believes are finally affecting students because the programs designed to help them aren’t getting the dollars they need.

“Some of the supports that were in place for the kids who most need them were cut these past few years. That affects graduation rates,” Olson said.

Twenty states saw their graduation rates go up between 3 and 17 percent between 2002 and 2009, according to the report, which was written by John Bridgeland and Mary Bruce of Civic Enterprises, a public-policy firm focused on social change, and Robert Balfanz and Joanna Fox of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Washington improved its graduation rate by about 2 percent during that time.

The researchers note that Washington is making progress, but the group of organizations that paid for the research is pushing the nation toward graduation rates of 90 percent or higher.

Only one state, Wisconsin, has a graduation rate of 90 percent.

Washington’s on-time graduation rate rose to 76.5 in 2010, but it dropped slightly to 75 percent for the class of 2011.

The report does not list the 15 Washington high schools considered “dropout factories.”

According to statewide data, among the more than 1,000 high schools in this state, dozens have on-time graduation rates below 60 percent, but at least half of them are alternative high schools or “credit retrieval programs,” where students who miss their graduation year or are heading in that direction are sent to get the help they need to graduate eventually.

Education officials in Washington like to emphasize what they call “extended graduation rates” of five years or longer because they think it’s a more realistic number. That rate for the past few years has hovered a little above 80 percent.