On December 2-3, the U.S. Department of Education held its second annual National High School Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. The conference was billed as a “next step” for coordinating and strengthening the high school improvement efforts that are encouraged by the No Child Left Behind Act. The conference brought state and local leaders together to think about high school reform and ways to improve graduation rates. It also provided them with an opportunity to share information on a peer-to-peer basis with educators, policymakers, and business and education leaders, and to learn about high school reform efforts from content experts and Department of Education officials.
In her welcoming address and introduction of U.S. Secretary Rod Paige, Susan Sclafani, assistant secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education, stressed that far too many students were leaving high school without a diploma and that many others were graduating without the tools they needed to enter and succeed in college. She said that high schools need to help students become effective citizens who can perform at high levels regardless of whether they enter college or other postsecondary education or go directly into the workforce.
Secretary Paige told the audience not to accept high schools as “second best” just because that’s the way it has always been. He challenged attendees to lead by example and to do their part to find and share what works in reforming high schools. “Our purpose is to help states realize their own vision of long-term excellence in high schools-schools that successfully educate all students,” he said. “What’s more, provide a springboard for even greater success in college and the workplace.”
In regard to the role that the federal government could possibly play in high school reform, Paige discussed expanding the No Child Left Behind Act to provide a “framework” for state-designed plans. “We want to see high school students benefit from the same high expectations and accountability for results we’ve introduced in earlier grades,” he said. “And we want states to foster world-quality teaching, rigorous coursework, and creative, innovative structures so high school students remain engaged, excited, and-most of all-enrolled. At the end of the day, we want our high schools to be more than way stations. A diploma should be more than a glorified certificate of attendance. It should be a road map to a prosperous, purposeful future.”
Paige also talked about the economic impact of failing to properly prepare and graduate high school students-both for the individual and for society as a whole. “The lack of preparation sends ripples throughout society . . . It’s a domino effect-and it’s very costly: billions upon billions of dollars a year, not to mention the lives interrupted. It’s simply not fair to young men and women to put them in this kind of position.”
The department plans to create a proceedings page on its website that will cover the entire conference, including both general sessions and breakouts. Each state represented at the conference will create a “one-pager” that will be posted on the department’s high school site,http://www.ed.gov/highschool. The date for these postings has not been announced.
In the meantime, Secretary Paige’s complete speech is available at http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/2004/12/12022004.html.
|President Bush Signs “Ominous” Spending BillGiven the smallest budget increase in nearly a decade for the U.S. Department of Education (1.6 percent) and the bleak outlook for additional funding in fiscal 2006, many observers have given the fiscal 2005 spending bill a nickname: the “ominous” bill. Whatever it is called , the $388 billion fiscal year 2005 omnibus spending bill was signed into law by President Bush on December 8, after members of the U.S. House of Representatives returned to Capitol Hill to delete a controversial IRS provision from the bill on December 6.This issue of Straight A’s contains a special insert that outlines the spending totals for education programs that have an impact on middle and high school students and schools.