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Published in Print: February 9, 2005, as Governors’ Association Offers Steps to Help States Improve High Schools

Governors’ Association Offers Steps to Help States Improve High Schools

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Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, the chairman of the National Governors Association, has unveiled a list of 10 steps that states could take to accelerate improvements in high schools.

He released “Getting It Done: Ten Steps to a State Action Agenda” during his address to a meeting of the Education Writers Association here on Jan. 29.

He described the list as “some ideas that governors can actually implement on a statewide basis relatively quickly and relatively cheaply,” to engage them in more systemwide reform. Several of the ideas focus on preparation for higher education. For example, the recommendations include:

• Defining a rigorous college-preparatory and work-readiness curriculum for high school graduation and rewarding schools that voluntarily adopt it;

• Creating statewide common course agreements so that college-level work in high school counts toward a postsecondary credential;

• Expanding access to college-level learning opportunities for low-income and minority students, English-language learners, and students with disabilities, through avenues like Advanced Placement, dual-enrollment courses in college and high school, and virtual high schools; and

• Giving college- and work-readiness assessments in high school to identify what courses and additional support students need before they graduate.

Those and other ideas on the list will help set the stage for the upcoming National Education Summit on High Schools, scheduled to be held Feb. 26-27 in Washington. The event is being co-hosted by the NGA and Achieve Inc., a Washington-based nonprofit organization that advocates higher academic standards.

Mr. Warner, who has made high school improvement a priority for his term at the helm of the NGA, said he expects all 50 state governors to attend the conference.

In the coming weeks, the governors’ association also will release a companion guidebook with best practices from states already implementing the recommendations.

‘Big Challenge’

The list released last week by the NGA also encourages states to challenge business, education, parent, community, and religious groups to back initiatives that improve college awareness.

Every state is also urged to set up a permanent education roundtable or commission to foster coordination between early-childhood, K-12, and higher education, and to devise statewide “pathways to industry certification.”

Among the ideas that are focused most squarely on students, the NGA list includes financial incentives to encourage disadvantaged high school students to take college-preparatory coursework, along with financial support to help students pass high school exit examinations. The list also includes designing literacy and mathematics programs to help get low-performing students back on track to take college-prep courses by 10th grade.

But outlining goals and objectives for states is a far cry from making them a reality. “The big challenge we’ll be putting before governors and CEOs and others is to get the system expectations” aligned between high schools, businesses, and higher education, said Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve, during the EWA meeting. “This is not a simple thing; this is not a short-term objective.”

Vol. 24, Issue 22, Page 18

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