On June 19, nine of the nation’s major organizations representing communities of color announced an unprecedented effort to ensure that America’s secondary schools have the capacity and motivation to prepare every student for graduation, college, work, and life. The partnership, dubbed the Campaign for High School Equity, will shine a spotlight on the importance of graduating all students from high school with diplomas that prepare them for the future.
“The Campaign for High School Equity is an historic alliance of respected civil rights organizations standing together to call for the improvement of middle and high school education for the nation’s communities of color,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “These students are particularly underserved. Their struggles with especially difficult and frequently ignored challenges too often result in dropping out of high school and into a life of little or no opportunity. The Campaign for High School Equity is a movement to change this outcome by helping these students with federal, state, and local policies that meet their needs—because all Americans must be educated to the highest level possible to ensure America’s future.” The Alliance is serving as the convener and coordinator for the Campaign.
Currently, however, large groups of minority students are not receiving the education that they deserve. According to Diplomas Count 2007, a recent report from the national publication Education Week, only 57.8 percent of Hispanic students, 53.4 percent of African American students, and 49.3 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native students graduate from high school with a regular diploma, compared to 76.2 percent of white students. In addition—and contrary to the model minority myth—many Asian Americans also face barriers in education. For example, about 50 percent of Cambodians and Laotians and about 60 percent of Hmong aged twenty-five and older who are living in the United States have less than a high school education.
One of the Campaign for High School Equity’s main priorities will be ensuring that federal and national education reform efforts include systemic change at the high school level. As noted in the Campaign’s inaugural publication, A Plan for Success: Communities of Color Define Policy Priorities for High School Reform, the federal government, by passing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), has become intimately involved in reform at the elementary level, but it has largely ignored America’s secondary schools.
In A Plan for Success, the Campaign makes a compelling case for the need to invest in high schools and lays out a blueprint for meaningful reform that Congress should use when it reauthorizes NCLB later this year. Specifically, the Campaign calls on Congress to align high school standards, assessments, curriculum, and instruction with college- and work-readiness standards in an effort to make all students proficient and prepared for college and work. The report also includes recommendations on redesigning the American high school, improving teacher and principal effectiveness, and linking families and communities to students’ academic and social outcomes.
The Campaign’s member organizations will work together and individually to educate diverse communities about the need for serious reforms in high school education and to mobilize elected leaders, policymakers, parents, and students to push for changes that produce positive outcomes for students of color and low-income students.
The Campaign for High School Equity boasts a diverse membership, composed of organizations that are particularly known and respected for their leadership and historic roles in the civil rights movement. Its members include the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, the National Council of La Raza, the National Indian Education Association, the National Urban League, and the Southeast Asia Resource Center.
More information on the campaign and the report, A Plan for Success: Communities of Color Define Policy Priorities for High School Reform, as well as audio and video from the release event, is available at http://www.highschoolequity.org/.