Initiative to create 'grad nation'
The White House estimates that high school dropouts in America earn about $10,000 less than high school graduates.
In an effort to fight America's high drop out rate and prepare youth for successful careers, President Barack Obama, Gen. Colin Powell, America's Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Monday the formation of the Grad Nation campaign, a 10-year effort that aims to mobilize more high school graduates to attend college and reverse the high school drop out rate.
The program's goal is to make sure 90 percent of today's youth graduate from high school on time, Powell said in a White House blog.
"The time for talking and planning has ended. Now we must turn our attention to solutions," he said. "If we achieve this, we will not only be a more healthy and prosperous nation, but we can also help realize President Obama's goal of making the United States the global pacesetter of college graduation by 2020."
The campaign aims to identify states with graduate rates below 60 percent, which Obama said is mostly composed of African-American and Latino students in low-income areas.
The program will invest $900 million of the fiscal year 2011 budget in strategies to get those graduation rates up, transform the schools by bringing in new staff and training teachers to use better techniques in the classroom.
"In this kind of knowledge economy, giving up on your education and dropping out of school means not only giving up on your future, but it's also giving up on your family's future and giving up on your country's future," Obama said.
He said the campaign might even shut down a school for a short period of time and reopen it under new management. Students will be sent to another school in the meantime.
"So if a school is struggling, we have to work with the principal and the teachers to find a solution. We've got to give them a chance to make meaningful improvements," Obama said. "But if a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show signs of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability."
Other initiatives include investing in accelerated instruction programs in reading and math to help students make up credits to graduate on time, and creating and improving alternative high schools and transfer schools.
Other considerations include implementing innovative ideas to make class more interesting and engaging for students. A recent study indicates that many students drop out because they are uninterested in school and not motivated to do their work, Obama said.
The Obama Administration will support such strategies through $50 million committed to the Graduation Promise Fund and through reforms supported under the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a report on the White House Web site.
"That's how we can curb dropout rates and boost graduating rates," he said. "I have to point out, in the 21st century, high schools shouldn't just make sure students graduate — they should make sure students graduate ready for college, ready for a career and ready for life."
Obama said in the 21st century, students cannot afford to even just graduate high school, as the job market is becoming more competitive.
Students should look further to careers or higher education, he said. The program will create more and improve early college high school programs that allow students to earn high school diplomas and associate's degrees or college credits simultaneously.
The President's FY 2011 budget supports a new $100 million College Pathways Program, according to the report.
"Now, it's true that not long ago, you could drop out of high school and reasonably expect to find a blue-collar job that would pay the bills and help support your family," he said. "In fact, during this recession, a high school dropout has been more than three times as likely to be out of work as someone with at least a college degree."
Obama said since 12 percent of America's schools produce 50 percent of the nation's dropout rates, the campaign will to work to help states and particular school districts turn around their 5,000 lowest-performing schools in the next five years.
Transforming the schools would require help from not only teachers and administrators, but from the parents and students as well, he said.
"Education is not and cannot be the task of government alone," Obama said. "It will take parents getting involved in their children's education, consistently going to parent-teacher conferences, helping their children with their homework. They're not let off the hook. Education isn't a passive activity; it's an active one."