Appearing at a high school in Little Rock, Ark., President Bush and U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced a new partnership in five states to encourage students to take more rigorous courses in an effort to prepare them for postsecondary education and work. The State Scholars Program is a partnership between the business community and educators that challenges students to complete courses of study beyond the minimum requirements for high school graduation. The program also targets students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are less likely to qualify for college admission or to enroll in college by the fall following high school graduation.
Business plays a vital role in the program by working directly with students to reinforce the value of the Scholars Course of Study. Local businesses help schools promote the program and help provide scholarships and other rewards for those completing the program. The Scholars Core Academic Course of Study includes at least four years of English, three years of math (algebra I and II and geometry), three years of lab science (biology, chemistry and physics), three and a half years of social studies and two years of a foreign language.
The program is designed to reduce the number of college freshman who need to take remedial courses. Currently that number accounts for nearly half (49 percent) of all college freshmen. More than 20 percent of four-year college students and 40 percent of two-year college students drop out after their freshman year-many because they are unprepared academically.
The U.S. Department of Education will award a grant to the Center for State Scholars, based in Austin, Texas. The center will partner with the Business Roundtable and other business organizations to select states that want to increase the level of rigor to prepare students for the new economy. Four other states in addition to Arkansas will be chosen by Oct. 15. Up to $2.4 million is available to help implement this program.