In its flagship report, Every Child a Graduate, the Alliance for Excellent Education called for the development of a six-year plan for all entering ninth graders which would assess a student’s needs and identify courses, additional learning opportunities (such as tutoring), and other supports necessary to help the student graduate from high school and transition smoothly to college or a career.
Over the last several weeks, as Congress has considered the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, efforts have been made to include a similar proposal in this legislation. In the Senate, a bill has been introduced that permits the use of federal funding for the development of a written “graduation and career plan” for a secondary and technical education student. The bill would make the plan an “allowable use” of funding, but would not mandate funds be spent on it.
According to the Senate bill, the graduation and career plan would be developed with career guidance and academic counselors or other professional staff in consultation with parents. It would include a personalized map of the courses a student needs to graduate with a high school diploma as well as any other requirements for admission to an institute of higher education. The plan would also identify several options for a student beyond his or her high school graduation.
Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee unanimously passed its version of the Perkins bill, which was introduced by Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY), to the Senate floor where it awaits final action. The bill enjoys bipartisan support and includesSenate HELP Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) and top Democrat Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) as cosponsors.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives is also considering reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Representative Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), who also introduced the Graduation for All Act, proposed an amendment that would allow the use of Perkins funds for graduation and career plans, but he withdrew it when he learned it would garner opposition from the majority.
While the final outcome of the Perkins reauthorization is still up in the air due to the impending adjournment of Congress before the elections, the advocacy community remain hopeful that the different versions of the bill can be passed and the differences between the two resolved in conference before the election. One difference to be considered is whether the House will accept the Senate inclusion of the graduation plan as an allowable use of Perkins funds.
|President Bush Proposes $200 Million for Performance Plans
As mentioned in the last issue of Straight A’s, President Bush recently called for a new $200 million fund that states would use to encourage schools to develop performance plans, based on eighth-grade data, for entering high school students. These “performance plans” would build on the president’s Jobs for the 21st Century initiative that seeks to improve high schools and “ensure that every high school student graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in higher education and the workforce.”
The president’s proposal would also include periodic classroom-based assessment of individual students to determine progress and establish whether remedial work was needed. According to a fact sheet released by the White House, “Research shows that providing teachers with weekly information on the performance of individual students, with computer-generated suggestions on what to teach, what to review, and specific lessons for remedial work, is effective in accelerating student achievement and ensuring that students do not fall behind during an individual school year.”
The complete proposal, “Strengthening Education and Job Training Opportunities,” is available athttp://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/09/20040902-3.html.
|Senate Democrats Introduce No Child Left Behind Improvement Act
Regulations issued for No Child Left Behind by the U.S. Department of Education do not currently require graduation rates to be broken down by minority subgroups. As part of new legislation introduced by the eight Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, a new $100-million-a-year competitive grant program would help states to develop or increase the capacity of their data systems for assessment and accountability purposes, including the collection of graduation rates. The bill, No Child Left Behind Improvement Act, S. 2794, would also require states to report graduation rate data, broken down by various subgroups of students, to the federal government.
In addition to reporting twelfth-grade graduation rates, states receiving this money would have to report annual enrollment data for the beginning and end of the academic year for all schools in the state. This legislation would also include subgrants to local school districts for longitudinal data systems that would measure the progress and achievements of individual students.
The bill also authorizes $250 million a year for school construction and renovation and $50 million annually to promote more accurate testing of students, especially those in special education programs and with limited English skills.
More information is available at http://www.edweek.com/ew/ewstory.cfm?slug=04Kennedy.h24.