Far too many of our nation’s middle and high school students are in trouble. A quarter of them read considerably below grade level. Thirty percent of them drop out of school before graduation. More students are getting a diploma, but many remain unprepared for college or a career. Their teachers, particularly in high-needs schools, are often not trained in the subjects they teach; others enter the schools unprepared for the reality of teaching and leave the profession after only a few years. Few students get the personalized attention that is so critical to planning effectively for the future, and achieving success in the present.
Local, state, and federal fiscal constraints are adding to the problems. In an era of shrinking public revenues and increasing needs, funding for schools is contracting or holding level, and educational intervention programs that are designed to help at-risk young people-particularly at the high school level-are being cut back or eliminated.
On Nov. 17 and 18, the Alliance for Excellent Education held its first annual invitation conference on the American high school to discuss some of the most difficult challenges facing the nation’s secondary schools: literacy, adequacy, and equity. The conference brought together congressional staff, key decision-makers from the administration, policymakers, and other leaders from the education community to think about ways to assure that every American child has the opportunity to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for a successful transition into college or a rewarding job.
The first day of the conference focused on the adolescent literacy challenge that confronts high schools and the role of the literacy coach in meeting this challenge. On the second day, participants examined the adequacy and equity debate surrounding education funding and the shared responsibility that local, state, and federal governments have in resolving funding differences between school districts.
The conference featured the release of four papers that delve deeper into these topics. This issue of Straight A’s includes a brief summary of those four papers. A special section of the Alliance Web site, https://all4ed.org/events/first_HSpolicyconference on the Alliance conference will include the complete agenda, a transcript of the proceedings, and complete versions of all four reports and other materials distributed at the conference.