Federal

Senate Measure Targets High Schools With Serious Dropout Problems

By David J. Hoff — May 01, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a plan last week to turn around U.S. high schools with the worst dropout problems.

In the most comprehensive congressional proposal addressing high school improvement introduced this year, five members of the Senate education committee are sponsoring a bill that would authorize $2.4 billion a year to provide grants to high schools with the highest dropout rates and support proven methods to increase their graduation rates and help middle schools identify students at risk of not completing high school.

Half of the nation’s dropouts attend 15 percent of its high schools, one researcher told the Senate education committee, pointing out that the problem can be addressed with a targeted grant program reaching about 2,000 schools.

“These high schools are unfortunately the nation’s dropout factories,” Robert Balfanz, an associate research scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at a hearing on April 24.

With a small percentage of schools contributing to half the problem, Congress won’t need to take dramatic action to find a solution, said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the education committee and one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

“It suggests to me that this possibly is a manageable problem,” Sen. Kennedy said.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., introduced the Graduation Promise Act on April 23. In addition to Mr. Kennedy, the co-sponsors are Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C.; Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. All the backers are members of the education committee.

“We are at a point where there is a critical mass of concern about this dropout problem,” Mr. Bingaman said at the April 24 hearing. “We now know enough to do something significant.”

He said he hopes the bill will eventually be incorporated into the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, which includes the Title I program for disadvantaged students and other K-12 programs.

The $12.7 billion Title I program allocates 92 percent of its money to elementary schools, Mr. Bingaman said, leaving little funding to improve middle and high schools.

High school reform is shaping up as a significant issue for Congress as it considers the reauthorization of the 5-year-old NCLB law this year.

In its reauthorization blueprint, the Bush administration proposes that high schools add two years of testing to measure whether students are prepared for college or the workforce. It also would allocate 90 percent of Title I spending increases to high schools. (“Bush Plan Would Heighten NCLB Focus on High School,” Feb. 7, 2007.)

The Graduation Promise Act is one of several bills that Sen. Kennedy backs in an attempt to outline his priorities for the second generation of the NCLB law, one of his aides said last week. Mr. Kennedy would be willing to incorporate other members’ proposals on high schools when drafting the larger NCLB reauthorization proposal he brings before the committee, the aide said.

The staff of the Senate education panel is drafting an NCLB bill that it expects to present to the committee for a vote by summer.

Addressing the Problem

Under the Graduation Promise Act, states would receive grants to address the needs of their lowest-performing high schools. Those schools would be identified by low levels of advanced coursetaking, poor performance on state tests, low attendance rates, and other measures that researchers link to high dropout rates. The states would produce plans to change those schools, choosing options ranging from target interventions to school overhauls.

States also would need to come up with plans to identify middle schools where students showed the early signs that they were likely to drop out, such as high failure rates in academic courses and low attendance rates.

Mr. Balfanz, who is one of the leading researchers on high school dropout rates, told the Senate committee last week that the key feature of the bill is the way it would target the schools that have the lowest graduation rates. Although mostly in impoverished areas, those schools are spread across the country.

The widespread nature of the problem will help win support for the bill, Sen. Kennedy said after Mr. Balfanz’s testimony.

“It’s interesting that it’s North, South, East, and West,” Sen. Kennedy said. “That’s the basis you have around here for a coalition to do something.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 02, 2007 edition of Education Week as Senate Measure Targets High Schools With Serious Dropout Problems

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal AFT's Randi Weingarten on Kamala Harris: 'She Has a Record of Fighting for Us'
The union head's call to support Kamala Harris is one sign of Democratic support coalescing around the vice president.
5 min read
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks at the organization's annual conference in Houston on July 22, 2024.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks at the organization's biennial conference in Houston on July 22, 2024. She called on union members to support Vice President Kamala Harris the day after President Joe Biden ended his reelection campaign.
via AFT Livestream
Federal Biden Drops Out of Race and Endorses Kamala Harris to Lead the Democratic Ticket
The president's endorsement of Harris makes the vice president the most likely nominee for the Democrats.
3 min read
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington. He announced Sunday that he was dropping out of the 2024 presidential race and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris as his replacement for the Democratic nomination.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Federal What We Know About Kamala Harris' K-12 Record, and Other Potential Biden Replacements
Harris is the frontrunner for the top of the ticket. A look at her record on K-12, along with those of other Democratic contenders.
8 min read
Vice President Kamala Harris embraces President Joe Biden after a speech on healthcare in Raleigh, N.C., March. 26, 2024. President Joe Biden dropped out of the 2024 race for the White House on Sunday, July 21, ending his bid for reelection following a disastrous debate with Donald Trump that raised doubts about his fitness for office just four months before the election.
Vice President Kamala Harris embraces President Joe Biden after a speech on health care in Raleigh, N.C., on March 26, 2024. Biden on Sunday announced he wouldn't run for reelection and endorsed Harris as his replacement.
Matt Kelley/AP
Federal Opinion The Great Project 2025 Freakout
There's nothing especially scary in the Heritage Foundation's education agenda—nor is it a reliable gauge of another Trump administration.
6 min read
Man lurking behind the American flag, suspicion concept.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty