House Democrats Introduce Legislation to End High School Dropout Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–November 19, 2009.  Democratic lawmakers announced today they will introduce critical legislation to address the high school dropout crisis, which poses a growing threat to the nation’s economic stability and global competitiveness. Nearly one-third of all high school students do not to graduate every year, costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Nationwide, about 7,000 high school students drop out every day. Only about 70 percent of students now graduate from high school with a regular diploma. There are 2,000 “dropout factories” across the country, which produce more than 50 percent of the nation’s dropouts, and a recent study suggests that in the 50 largest U.S. cities, only 53 percent of students graduate on time.  Poor and minority children disproportionately attend these dropout factories, and graduation rates for African American, Hispanic, and Native American students are significantly lower than those of their white peers. In addition, only 56 percent of all students with disabilities earn diplomas each year.

The Graduation for All Act would help end this crisis by providing eligible school districts with competitive grants to help turn around their lowest-performing high schools, often deemed “dropout factories,” as well as struggling, feeder middle schools. In order to be eligible to receive a grant, a district must first identify schools most in need of comprehensive reform, determine a strategy for turning around each school, and form a team of experts and community leaders, called a Graduation Improvement Team, to help carry out these turnaround strategies. Districts receiving grants would be required to implement data systems to help better detect early warning signs of dropout behavior (such as frequent absences or failing a course), use appropriate interventions targeted to student needs and monitor the impact of interventions so that they can be refined as necessary. Research shows identifying and addressing these patterns early on can help keep at-risk students in school.

“We are failing our students, failing our communities and failing our nation if we allow this dropout crisis to continue,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “Ending this epidemic is a civil rights imperative, a moral issue and an economic necessity. This bill says that it is no longer acceptable to let an at-risk student fall through the cracks and empowers schools to make the changes needed to help at-risk students thrive in school, earn a diploma and go on to college or a good job.”

“We must stop the everyday dropout rate of thousands of students from our middle schools and high schools. In particular we must address the problems encountered by so many minority students who are at a higher risk of dropping out of school. “The Graduation for All Act of 2009 builds on ‘The Graduation Promise Act’ which directly addresses our nation’s dropout crisis,” said U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), Chairman of Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Competitiveness. “I continue to work with Chairman George Miller and other Members of Congress on the Education and Labor Committee on legislation to address our nation’s dropout problem. The only way for the United States to be a world class contender in the global market is to ensure that all of our children stay in school and graduate not only high school, but college as well. We are working together to make that happen.”

“I am extremely proud to join with my colleagues to introduce the Graduation for All Act. This legislation includes provisions from my legislation, the Fast Track to College Act, which makes important investments in early college high school partnerships and dual enrollment programs,” said U.S. Rep. Dale E. Kildee (D-MI), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. “These programs enable students, especially those underrepresented in postsecondary education, to earn an associate’s degree or up to two years of transferrable college credits at no cost to their families, while still in high school.  These programs have a proven track record of reducing dropout rates, keeping students engaged, and providing a seamless transition to college.”

“The dropout rate has reached epic proportions in minority communities,” said U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL).  “Only 48% of African American males and 58% of Latino males graduate from high school.  The social, economic and human costs are horrific.  This bill will meaningfully advance efforts to identify and help individual youth at risk for dropping out early on and we know that early identification and intervention significantly reduces the dropout rate and significantly increases the graduation rate.”

“One of the most important aspects of this legislation is that it provides students in high-need schools with rigorous curricula and the teacher support to master college-ready courses.”  said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), architect of the nationally acclaimed college access program GEAR UP. “Students will be given information about the college admission process and financial aid opportunities keys to encouraging students to keep their focus on a college education.  We have learned through GEAR UP that increasing academic rigor, demystifying the college and financial aid application processes, and focusing on post-secondary education dramatically increases high school graduation rates.  This bill builds on that experience and I am proud to have contributed to its development.”

“This bill not only makes a strong financial commitment to ending our nation’s school dropout crisis, it puts the right programs in place to encourage greater college enrollment and improve educational opportunity at many age levels,” said U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). “No cause could be more important than educating American students, and this bill gives timely and needed support to struggling middle schools and high schools around the country to make that goal achievable.”

“I applaud Chairman Miller and my colleagues for moving forward on this vital issue, ” said U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA). “This is a significant step forward in our fight to address the drop out dilemma.  Recent research has shown that nearly 600,000 students dropped out of the high school class of 2008 in the nation’s fifty largest cities and the surrounding areas.  We must do more to stem this tide and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to bring support to Iowa and states across America.”

“This legislation will make a strong investment in education, intervention services and resources that are critical to addressing the dropout crisis and turning low performing schools into high achieving schools,” said U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA). “We must address these shortcomings that are persistent in our schools in order compete in today’s global economy with a highly skilled and educated workforce.  I am pleased that this is one more step we are taking to improve the quality of education for all our children.”

The legislation also will help prepare students for college and careers by requiring schools to provide them with their financial aid options and other college-related information. This bill includes $150 million for Early College and dual enrollment programs to allow students to earn up to two years of college credit at no cost to the student, which would help decrease the overall cost of college for these students.

For more information on the Graduation for All Act, click here.