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SENATORS INTRODUCE SECONDARY SCHOOL REFORM ACT: Legislation Targets Low-Performing High Schools and the Middle Schools that Feed Into Them

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“Without a high school diploma, our young people face a lifetime of lower wages and limited opportunities.”

On June 30, Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC)Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)Patty Murray (D-WA), and Herb Kohl (D-WI) introduced the Secondary School Reform Act, which targets high schools serving low-income students with graduation rates below 75 percent that do not receive School Improvement Grant funding. Middle schools that feed into these high schools would also be eligible for funding under the legislation.

“Without a high school diploma, our young people face a lifetime of lower wages and limited opportunities,” Hagan said. “We need to identify students at risk of dropping out early and provide schools with the resources and flexibility required to lead them to success. At the same time, we must encourage innovation in our low-performing high schools so every child possesses the tools to achieve in today’s twenty-first-century economy. I look forward to working with Senator Whitehouse and all of my colleagues in a bipartisan matter to include the Secondary School Reform Act in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.”

The Secondary School Reform Act would fund partnerships between high-need school districts and external organizations, such as nonprofits and institutions of higher learning, to implement effective secondary school reforms. At the school district level, these reforms could include a districtwide early-warning indicator and intervention system to identify students at risk of dropping out, address their needs, and get them back on track for graduation. It could also provide credit recovery opportunities for struggling students and share information with students, their families, and school staff about high school graduation requirements and college entrance requirements.

At the high school level, the legislation would fund comprehensive, customized, and effective secondary school reform strategies, such as ongoing monitoring of student academic achievement to ensure students are on track for on-time high school graduation as well as individual graduation plans for each student to help define their postsecondary and career goals and create the pathways necessary to reach those goals. For middle schools, the bill would provide students with a personalized learning environment and additional academic guidance, and provide teachers and school leaders with quality professional development and other support to strengthen instruction.

“When emergency medical personnel arrive at an accident scene, they immediately deliver treatment to the most severely injured,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Similarly, boosting the national graduation rate requires performing educational triage on the nation’s lowest-performing middle and high schools. By focusing reform efforts on high schools with graduation rates below 75 percent and the middle schools that feed into them, the Secondary School Reform Act does just that. By using such strategies as early-warning indicator systems, career academies, and other reform efforts, this legislation will help to strengthen the nation’s graduation rate and prepare the students of today for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Read more about the Secondary School Reform Act at https://all4ed.org/files/SecondarySchoolReformAct_summary.pdf.

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