Literacy Proponents Denounce Proposed Budget Cuts

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March 13, 2019 12:47 pm

Administration’s Third Attempt to Eliminate Comprehensive Literacy Program

WASHINGTON, DC—Advocates for Literacy, a coalition of over 60 organizations focused on increasing the federal commitment to improve literacy instruction through evidenced-based practices, strongly opposes the elimination of the $190 million Literacy for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) program—referred to as Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants—in the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal.

Creating a globally competent workforce depends on students acquiring reading and writing skills that enable them to develop important abilities in such areas as math, science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing. Despite the fundamental importance of reading and writing, only 35 percent of fourth-grade students, 35 percent of eighth-grade students, and 37 percent of twelfth-grade students performed at or above the proficient level on the reading assessment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – the Nation’s Report Card. Furthermore, significant gaps in the average scores between student groups remain unchanged for many of the nation’s neediest populations. Research clearly demonstrates that a high-quality, literacy-rich environment beginning in early childhood is one of the most important factors in determining school readiness and success, high school graduation, college access and success, and workforce readiness.

The Advocates for Literacy coalition believes that literacy is a critical component of job readiness, and it is essential that all American students graduate with the literacy skills they need to be successful in the workplace. A strong federal commitment to literacy is imperative. The Coalition believes the Administration’s budget missed an important opportunity to support students and the economy.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was established to ensure that all students have equitable access to a quality education and to narrow achievement gaps; high-quality reading and writing instruction are foundational components of a quality education. LEARN supports states in a comprehensive, systemic approach to strengthen evidenced-based literacy and early literacy instruction for children from early learning through high school and supports district capacity to accelerate reading and writing achievement for all students. Additionally, LEARN is the only funding stream that helps states and districts support high-quality professional development for teachers, librarians, principals, specialized instructional support personnel, and other educators to improve literacy instruction for struggling readers and writers, including English learners and students with disabilities.

A strong federal commitment to literacy is imperative to ensure a strong economy and national defense. We believe the administration’s budget misses the mark to invest in our nation’s future.


Advocates for Literacy is a coalition of over 60 organizations that supports improved literacy instruction through comprehensive, birth through grade twelve state-led literacy plans that target struggling and economically-disadvantaged students with low-performing English language arts assessment scores. Members include Academic Language Therapy Association; ACT; Advocacy Institute; Alliance for Excellent Education; American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; American Federation of Teachers; American Occupational Therapy Association; Association on Higher Education and Disability; Association for Middle Level Education; CAST; Council of Administrators of Special Education; Council for Exceptional Children; Center for the Collaborative Classroom; Education Northwest; Early Care and Education Consortium; Easterseals; Every Child Reading; First Five Year Fund; First Focus Campaign for Children; Grimes Reading Institute; Higher Education Consortium; HighScope Educational Research Foundation; Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters; Institute for Educational Leadership; International Dyslexia Association; International Literacy Association; Keys to Literacy; Knowledge Alliance; Learning Ally; Learning Disabilities Association of America; Literacy How, Inc.; National Adolescent Literacy Coalition; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators; National Association of School Psychologists; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Association of State Boards of Education; National Association of State Directors of Special Education; National Black Child Development Institute; National Black Justice Coalition; National Center for Families Learning; National Center for Learning Disabilities; National Council of Teachers of English; National Down Syndrome Congress; National Down Syndrome Society; National Education Association; National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform; National Rural Education Association; National Urban Alliance for Effective Education; National Women’s Law Center; National Writing Project; Parents as Teachers; Reading Partners; Reading Recovery Council of North America; Scholastic Inc.; School Social Work Association of America; TASH; Teach Plus; TESOL International Association; The Arc; United Way Worldwide; WestEd; and ZERO TO THREE.



New ERN/All4Ed Report Reimagines Transition to Higher Ed, Details How States Can Build a Fast Track to College

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February 21, 2019 11:13 am

A new report, released today, finds that the 12 in K-12 education may be unnecessary for nearly a quarter of high school students.

The report, by Education Reform Now and the Alliance for Excellent Education, introduces two accelerated pathways for college-ready juniors that would provide meaningful access to full-time, college-level coursework, while generating savings for students, families and the state. Nearly 850,000 high school juniors currently qualify for one of these “Fast Track” pathways, 30 percent of whom come from low-income families.

Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, fast track pathways empower students and families to make a choice that best meets students’ academic, financial and personal needs.

“If we can expand early access to college-level work and improve credit transfer, we can save students—particularly those from low-income backgrounds—time, money, and frustration,” said report co-author Michael Dannenberg. “The three key words on which the college affordability debate should be focused are ‘time to degree’.”

The primary suggested new pathway would allow students to either enroll in a full-time sequence of college-level coursework in high school, enabling them to graduate with at least a year’s worth of college credit that would be recognized at all in-state institutions; the second would offer students the option to graduate high school early—before 12th grade—with the reward of a scholarship that reduces their full-time college costs at in-state public colleges.

Speeding up postsecondary education time to degree could save students, institutions and taxpayers substantial sums—savings that could be reinvested to improve high school curricula for advanced students and help other students working to get on-track to graduate college and career ready.

The report finds that states could capture as much as $7.2 billion in gross savings from their higher education budgets for students who do not need to enroll in a fifth or sixth year of college because of fast track pathways.

“Finding the right fit for students based on preparation and aspiration increases student success and saves time and money,” said Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers, who has implemented versions of these pathways in her state. “When students display college readiness while in high school, it makes sense to accelerate their college timeline. That’s what the Mitch Daniels Early Graduation Scholarship does, as well as other early college models that incent thoughtful fast-track models.”

Read the full report here or watch the animated video explaining the report.


Education Reform Now is a national think tank and advocacy organization that develops and drives forward bold, new ideas that can transform the American public education system from pre-school to and through higher education to better serve all students, especially low-income students and students of color.

The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.


Deborah Delisle Named President of Alliance for Excellent Education

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January 22, 2019 12:22 pm

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction to Succeed Gov. Bob Wise

WASHINGTON, DC—The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) today announced that Deborah (Deb) Delisle will replace Gov. Bob Wise as its next president and chief executive officer (CEO) on February 1. Delisle brings more than forty years of experience as a teacher, principal, curriculum coordinator, district superintendent, and state superintendent to All4Ed’s mission of ensuring that every student, especially those who are underserved, graduates from high school prepared for college, a career, and life. More recently, she served as executive director and CEO of ASCD and assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education in the Obama administration.

“Deb is perfect to guide All4Ed in its next chapter to help advance U.S. secondary education,” said Dan Leeds, chair of All4Ed’s board of directors. “She was elected unanimously by the board, is committed to equity, has excelled at every level of the U.S. public education system—from classroom teacher to U.S. assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education—and served as head of one of the largest education membership associations in Washington, DC. Deb is a strong leader and the right person to expand All4Ed’s impact at the federal, state, and district levels.”

As assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education, Delisle served as the primary advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on all matters pre-K through twelfth grade. During her three years at the U.S. Department of Education, Delisle oversaw more than eighty programs with a portfolio of almost $25 billion.

“Deb has devoted her life to creating educational opportunity for others; this work is very personal,” said Sec. Duncan, now a managing partner at Emerson Collective. “She knows firsthand the life transforming power that only education has. Gov. Wise has provided smart, strategic, and courageous leadership during his tenure, and Deb will absolutely build upon the foundation he created.”

Throughout her career, Delisle has sought to change policies, advocate for the most vulnerable youth, transfer research into practice, and transform schools so that every student has the resources, support, and structures necessary to lead a productive and fulfilling life in an increasingly global environment.

“Deb is a champion for students and a strong voice for educational equity,” said Roberto Rodríguez, president and CEO of Teach Plus, former deputy assistant to President Barack Obama for education, and member of All4Ed’s board of directors. “Her leadership will position All4Ed for even greater impact at the intersection of policy, research, and practice.”

Prior to coming to Washington, DC, Delisle built an impressive career in Ohio, serving as state superintendent of public instruction under former Gov. Ted Strickland. She also led the minority-majority Cleveland Heights–University Heights City School District as associate superintendent for two years and superintendent for five years.

“As state superintendent of public instruction, Deb was a trusted advisor and partner in our shared goal of building a world-class education system for Ohio students,” said former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. “In Deb, All4Ed will get a dedicated and passionate leader with a laser-like focus on equity and an unwavering commitment to students with the greatest needs.”

“Deb is a proven visionary leader who brings out the best in students, adult educators, and community partners,” said Nick Petty, director of undergraduate inclusive excellence at Cleveland State University and former principal of the Ginn Academy in Cleveland. “She is innovative and always creating the cutting edge of trends in education. I have known her for more than a decade and firmly believe she leaves every organization better than when she arrives.”

As president and CEO of All4Ed, Delisle will lead an equity-focused organization with a strong history of success. At the federal and state levels, All4Ed works to ensure that federal education laws and state accountability systems recognize and support historically underserved students and provide them with the opportunity to graduate from high school ready for college and a career. All4Ed also works directly with more than 3,000 school districts under its Future Ready Schools® initiative and, over the last year, launched a major initiative on the science of adolescent learning (SAL) through which scientific evidence on how middle and high school students learn and develop is translated into actionable information that can inform policy and practice decisions made by school and district leaders.

“I’m honored and humbled to follow in the footsteps of Governor Bob Wise,” said Delisle. “During his nearly twenty-five years as congressman and governor, and fourteen years at All4Ed, Governor Wise worked tirelessly to give a voice to those without one and champion action on behalf of those facing the greatest need. Across the many roles I have held, there is nothing more important to me than prioritizing actions that strategically focus on every child in America, especially our most vulnerable citizens who are routinely underserved. It was this mission of equity and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion that drew me to All4Ed.”

In addition to her extensive work experience, Delisle brings perspective gained from serving on numerous boards and commissions, including governing board of the Minority Student Achievement Network, executive board of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers executive board, NWEA, KnowledgeWorks, the Center for Teacher Quality, the Longview Foundation, and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

“Every single day in the United States, far too many students are feeling anxious, disengaged, and divided as they face daily challenges ranging from gun violence to bullying and food insecurity that interfere with their safety, learning, and development,” said Dr. Timothy Shriver, board chair of CASEL, chairman of Special Olympics, and co-chair of the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. “I’ve seen firsthand Deb’s passion, commitment, and knowledge for addressing these issues head-on and ensuring that kids go to school in learning environments where they feel safe and seen, inspired and challenged, and a sense of purpose and belonging.”

Throughout her career, Delisle has received many honors, including the Betsy M. Cowles Leadership Award, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators Distinguished Service Award, the Ohio Education Association Vision Award, the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators Distinguished Service Award, and being named one of University Heights most influential people. In August 2011, the Cleveland Heights–University Heights City School District honored Delisle by dedicating a school as the Deborah S. Delisle Education Options Center to recognize her lifetime of service to students. In July 2014, she was identified by the National Journal as one of five women in America who influence and shape national education policy.

“During my fourteen years at All4Ed, the United States made great progress in increasing its high school graduation rate to an all-time high of 84 percent,” said Wise. “But the world has changed. A high school diploma, which still eludes many students of color and students from low-income families, is no longer sufficient to guarantee a student a successful and productive future. As new All4Ed president, Deb brings great experience and knowledge in delivering an excellent education to students and schools facing the greatest challenges. She is the perfect person to lead All4Ed and to ensure that every child—every child—receives an education that provides the knowledge, skills, and determination to succeed in whatever path he or she chooses.”

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The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.


New All4Ed Report: How Students Learn as Important as What Students Learn

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December 06, 2018 11:33 am

WASHINGTON, DC— During adolescence, students confront a variety of issues as their bodies and brains undergo rapid transformations—more so than any other time outside of birth to early childhood.

A new report released today from the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) underscores the importance of culture, experiences, and environments during this period of life and explains why adolescents need to learn in safe, supportive, and culturally responsive environments. The report, which includes recent findings from neuroscience, cognitive science, and psychological research, also examines how culture and multiple environmental factors—from community values and social expectations to poverty, prejudice, and inequity—influence classrooms, schools, and student learning.

“During adolescence, trying to learn is like crossing a busy New York City street,” said Bob Wise, president of All4Ed and former governor of West Virginia. “Only for the students, the buses, cabs, and electric scooters are the rapid body and brain changes, peer pressure, and everything else coming at them during adolescence.

“That’s why research tells us that the environments where students learn and the conditions under which they learn are crucial, especially for historically underserved and marginalized students who frequently face challenges outside the classroom from prolonged exposure to stress and inadequate access to nutrition and health care. For students, supportive educators and environments can turn that New York City street into a well-run intersection with a veteran traffic officer.”

According to the report, Science of Adolescent Learning: Valuing Culture, Experiences, and Environments, adolescence is not only a time for increased opportunity for learning, it also is a period of heightened stress due to the many biological and social changes students face, including physical maturation, drive for independence, increased sensitivity to social interactions, and brain development. These various stressors not only impact physical health, they can both directly and indirectly disrupt learning processes in still-developing adolescent brains.

Particularly at risk are historically underserved and marginalized students who often experience additional learning obstacles because of stressful experiences related to poverty and inequity, including the impact of prolonged exposure to stress, inadequate access to nutrition and health care, and more. “Poverty-related stress contributes to worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety, delinquency, attention problems, and poor physical health, each of which can affect school attendance, academic engagement, and learning,” the report notes.

Inequality, bias, and the persistence of structural discrimination also constitute serious hazards to the positive development of all adolescents, the report notes. And while all adolescents must examine and confront these issues, historically underserved students disproportionately experience stress related to these pernicious aspects of society.

Making adolescence more complicated for all students, educators, and parents is the rise of the internet, social media, and smart phones, which have changed the way adolescents learn, play, and interact with each other. And while this digital revolution has enabled anytime, anywhere learning, the report finds that it also offers new challenges for adults as they seek to keep adolescents both physically and psychologically safe while simultaneously allowing the adolescents the opportunity to use digital technologies to explore and interact with others in ways that benefit their social, emotional, and cultural development.

Science of Adolescent Learning: Valuing Culture, Experiences, and Environments offers several recommendations and strategies for educators, policymakers, and parents as they seek to better engage, motivate, and prepare middle and high school students for future success. One key strategy focuses on school culture—the shared values and norms of a school.

“When students feel that their schools recognize and value their cultural and community beliefs, their motivation to engage in academic and extracurricular activities increases,” the report notes. “Culturally responsive practices also support historically underserved and marginalized students in coping with the bias, discrimination, and negative stereotypes they too often face because of their cultural, racial, and socioeconomic identities.”

The report also recommends that policymakers and educators capitalize on the learning opportunities that diverse cultures and communities offer. They can do this by incorporating aspects of out-of-school learning environments, such as technology and current and historically relevant connections to academic work, in school experiences.

Science of Adolescent Learning: Valuing Culture, Experiences, and Environments is the third of four reports in All4Ed’s Science of Adolescent Learning Consensus Statement series. The first report examined changes in the body and brain while the second report focused on adolescents’ risk taking, peer dependence, and changing motivations. The fourth report will cover how identity and empowerment influence student learning.

Science of Adolescent Learning: Valuing Culture, Experiences, and Environments is available at

For more information on All4Ed’s Science of Adolescent Learning initiative, visit

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The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.

SAL, Science of Adolescent Learning, Science of Learning

Future Ready Schools® Announces Two California Workshops for District and School Leaders

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November 27, 2018 04:27 pm

Free Workshops to Provide Opportunities for California’s Educators to Learn, Network, and Collaborate

WASHINGTON, DC— Today, Future Ready Schools® (FRS)—led by the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed)—announced two free workshops in December that will bring together educators from across California to learn how to create more engaging learning environments for students. Supported by Discovery Education, a leading provider of digital content and professional development for K–12 classrooms worldwide, the workshops will provide California’s school and district leaders with the opportunity to learn from each other and nationally recognized education experts on how to leverage technology to personalize learning for students, engage teachers, and improve student learning outcomes.

“Through these workshops, FRS crowd-sources expertise and connects similarly situated individuals within schools and districts in California who share skills and face similar challenges,” said Bob Wise, All4Ed President and former governor of West Virginia. “The end result is a powerful network of passionate educators who are maximizing student-centered learning opportunities and leveraging technology to prepare students for success in college, a career, and citizenship.”

Scheduled for December 6 in Rancho Cucamonga and December 7 in Woodland, these workshops will help educators create systemic action plans for student-centered, personalized learning that leverage the power of technology while considering a district’s unique challenges and strengths. By developing these plans prior to purchasing additional technology, educators can ensure a smoother implementation and better integration with existing efforts to improve teaching and learning.

“In the rush to purchase the latest device, some districts skip over the vision and planning steps—sometimes resulting in devices being left on the shelves or awkward fits into instruction,” said Wise. “These FRS workshops will help California’s school and school district leaders plan and strategize while also connecting them with a support network of individuals who have overcome—or are facing—the same challenges they are.”

During the workshops, school district leaders will examine curriculum, instruction, and assessment; personalized professional learning; innovative learning spaces; community partnerships, and other research-based areas. Leaders will receive free tools and resources to empower them to transform their schools into ones that better prepare students for the world they face tomorrow.

The workshops are based on the FRS framework and include differentiated sessions for district team members, along with extensive training for FRS project managers on the FRS Interactive Planning Dashboard, a free online tool that serves more than 1,000 school districts and 15,000 educators. Through the dashboard, school district leadership teams develop plans to use technology effectively and improve learning outcomes. Meanwhile, the FRS five-step planning process, which is aligned with Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act, allows district leaders to set a vision for student learning, assess their needs, identify gaps, obtain strategies, and plan and track their progress over time. This process begins before districts invest valuable resources to purchase laptops, tablets, and other technological devices.

As an additional feature, the two California workshops also will demonstrate the alignment between the FRS planning process and California’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). LCAP is a three-year, district-level plan that describes a school district’s key goals for students, as well as the actions, services, and expenditures necessary to meet the goals while also addressing state and local priorities.

A project of All4Ed, FRS helps school districts develop the human and technological capacity needed to personalize student learning and prepare students for college, a career, and citizenship. Over the last three years, 3,200 school district superintendents—representing more than 19 million students—have signed the Future Ready District Pledge, committing to personalize learning by tailoring instruction to students’ strengths and needs while engaging them in challenging, standards-based academic content, with the help of effective digital learning strategies.

To learn more about the FRS workshops, visit


The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.

Future Ready Schools® (FRS) is a bold effort to maximize digital learning opportunities and help school districts move quickly toward preparing students for success in college, a career, and citizenship. FRS provides districts with resources and support to ensure that local technology and digital learning plans align with instructional best practices, are implemented by highly trained teachers, and lead to personalized learning experiences for all students, particularly those from traditionally underserved communities. FRS is led by the Alliance for Excellent Education alongside a vast coalition of organizations.  

About Discovery Education
As the global leader in standards-based digital content for K–12 classrooms worldwide, Discovery Education is transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content, professional learning, and the largest professional learning community of its kind. Serving 4.5 million educators and over 50 million students, Discovery Education’s services are available in approximately half of U.S. classrooms, 50 percent of all primary schools in the United Kingdom, and more than 50 countries around the globe. Inspired by the global media company Discovery Inc., Discovery Education partners with districts, states, and like-minded organizations to captivate students, empower teachers, and transform classrooms with customized solutions that increase academic achievement.

Future Ready

In Roughly 1,300 High Schools Across America, On-Time Graduation Still Elusive

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October 04, 2018 02:40 pm

Ellie Manspile,
Daria Hall,

New GradNation Report Takes a Closer Look at What it Would Take to Provide All Students with Access to a “Great American High School”

 Number of Low-Performing Schools Continue to Decline, Targeted Approach Designed for the Highest Need High Schools Required for Further Progress

After more than a decade of progress in improving high school graduation rates, there remain about 1,300 traditional high schools in need of serious improvement and redesign, according to new research from the GradNation campaign. Among them are more than 800 low-graduation-rate high schools with an average graduation rate of 49 percent.  From the inner city to the heartland, these high schools sit at the fault lines of race, class, and inequity in America.

The Great American High School report, authored by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University, was released today in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, the four leading organizations of the GradNation campaign working to increase the national on-time graduation rate to 90 percent.

“In spite of a decade’s worth of progress in reducing the number of low-performing high schools, we continue to live in two educational nations where a student’s chance at graduating high school varies wildly based on the school they attend,” said John Bridgeland, president & CEO, Civic Enterprises. “Most students attend schools where the average graduation rate has already reached the national goal of 90 percent and dropping out is rare. In the remaining schools, however, on-time graduation for students is only a 50-50 proposition.”

The research, which analyzes five national data sources from graduation rate data to Census data, identifies the progress made and remaining challenges in enabling all students to graduate from high school ready for college or career; documents the scale, scope, and location of the remaining low-performing high schools; shares the challenges these schools face; details what we know about effective and evidence-based high school reform; and lays out a path forward for supporting high school redesign in the communities and school districts that have not continuously improved.

Low-Performing High Schools Across the Nation. Great progress has been made in turning around low-performing high schools over the past decade, but to finish the job efforts must rise to serve students facing the greatest challenge.

  • A relatively small number of schools—1,329 in total—have a low-graduation-rate (below 67 percent) or weak promoting power, which compares the number of seniors in a high school to the number of freshmen four years earlier, continues to drive much of the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color. This number represents only 10 percent of all traditional high schools enrolling 300 or more students—illustrating how targeted the problem remains.
  • There are 800 high schools educating 50 percent of the nation’s African American and Hispanic students who are still off-track to graduate.
  • The remaining low-graduation-rate and weak promoting power high schools are concentrated in districts with some of the highest rates of children living in poverty, as well as neighborhoods facing the double burden of being low-income and living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.
  • Half of these high schools educate essentially only students of color (90 percent minority). Three-fourths of these high schools are majority minority. Only a quarter of the low-graduation-rate and weak promoting power high schools are majority white.
  • Among the remaining low-graduation-rate and weak promoting power high schools, most are district-operated (76 percent), but nearly a quarter are charters (24 percent).
  • The remaining low-graduation-rate and weak promoting power high schools are concentrated in a subset of 18 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

In most cases, the challenges these high schools encounter are not confined within the walls of the school but are shaped and heightened by the challenges faced by the school district and community in which they are located. Overall, data show that the identified low-performing high schools are tasked with educating high concentrations of the most at need and struggling high school students in the nation. (Click on the map below for a larger version.)


Five Archetypes and Similarities. To illuminate the intersection of school and community needs, the report describes five archetypes of the 1,300 low-graduation-rate high schools: a large urban fringe high school with a heavily Hispanic student body; an iconic big city neighborhood school; a rural high school educating an increasing number of poor, white students; the only high school in an economically distressed rust belt city; and an impoverished Southern school with an entirely Black student body.

While these archetypes emphasize the importance of local context in designing solutions, they also share similarities: intense concentrations of student need; limits on their organic capacity to respond to that need and bring additional resources into their schools, in part because the district, community, and school are all struggling to meet high levels of student need; attempted reform without sustained success, notwithstanding external pressure to improve; and proud histories.

“The nation’s remaining low-performing high schools have not been swept up in the first waves of reform. They often have proud histories and are located in communities with economic challenges,” said Bob Balfanz, director, Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education. “As states begin to act on their ESSA plans, the time is now to organize support for the neighborhoods and communities most in need, and to redesign their high schools to become engines of community development, growth, and cohesion in the 21st century.”

“Improving the remaining low-performing high schools in the United States should be an urgent priority for communities, states and the nation,” said former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  “With 50 percent of off-track African-American and Latino students found in just 800 schools, we have an opportunity to focus like a laser on achieving educational equity.”

Policy and Practice Recommendations. As a result of ESSA, all states must identify these low-performing schools very soon, which presents an opportunity for stakeholders to better support them. The report presents a path forward through high school redesign that includes (but not limited to): tightly aligning redesign efforts with state ESSA plans for low-performing high schools; getting the needs assessment right; gathering authentic community input; building and pairing school networks with technical assistance providers to develop capacity and spread know-how; and using a common set of on-track indicators for tracking results.

“The nation has made good progress in reducing the number of low-performing high schools over the last decade. This report shows us just how close we are to the finish line,” added John Gomperts, president & CEO, America’s Promise Alliance. “Research and practice has helped us to identify what works. With the right resources, support and relationships in place, more schools, together with their communities, can make more progress to help more young people reach their full potential. Let’s get the job done.”

Authors. The Great American High School report is co-authored by Robert Balfanz at the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and Jennifer DePaoli, John Bridgeland and Matthew Atwell of Civic Enterprises.

Full report. To read the full report, access state-by-state data and other resources, visit:

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Civic Enterprises is a public policy and strategy firm that helps corporations, nonprofits, foundations, universities, and governments develop and spearhead innovative public policies to strengthen our communities and country. Created to enlist the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to help address our nation’s toughest problems, Civic Enterprises fashions new initiatives and strategies that achieve measurable results in the fields of education, civic engagement, economic mobility, and many other domestic policy

The Everyone Graduates Center at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University seeks to identify the barriers to high school graduation, develop strategic solutions to overcoming these barriers, and build local capacity to implement and sustain the solutions so that all students graduate prepared for adult success.

America’s Promise Alliance leads the nation’s largest network dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. As its signature effort, the GradNation campaign mobilizes Americans to increase the on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent and prepare young people for postsecondary enrollment and the 21st century

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those who are traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and


New All4Ed Report: Embracing Adolescents’ Risk Taking, Peer Dependence, and Changing Motivations Can Improve Educational Outcomes and Academic Engagement

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September 28, 2018 10:17 am

WASHINGTON, DC—Ever wonder why teenagers are so quick to adopt Instagram, Snapchat, and other forms of social media? Or take up X Games sports such as skateboarding and snowboarding? Released today at the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES) 2018 Conference, a new report by the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) explains how changes in the brain make adolescents more likely to be influenced by their peers, take risks, and even become disengaged in school as their motivations change.

“Unlike younger students, adolescents are not motivated by stickers and extra time at recess,” said Bob Wise, All4Ed President and former governor of West Virginia. “Additionally, the opinions of their peers become more important and adolescents increasingly seek novel and thrilling experiences—all while the role of adults shifts from a providing role to a supporting role. By understanding these changes in adolescents, educators, parents, and policymakers can ensure that students are engaged in their education, motivated to succeed, and take positive risks that further their education, as well as their development as individuals.”

According to the report, Science of Adolescent Learning: Risk Taking, Rewards, and Relationships, changes in the adolescent brain affect what motivates adolescents and, subsequently, how they learn. Specifically, adolescents are more sensitive to social recognition, which leads them to higher instances of reward-seeking and sensation-seeking behaviors, especially if peers support that behavior.

But while adolescents’ “risky” behaviors often are associated with negative choices such as crime or drug use, educators can provide adolescents with school-based opportunities to take risks associated with positive academic and social outcomes—such as trying out for the school play or starting a business.

To help educators and policymakers navigate the changes students experience during adolescence, the report offers several recommendations. For example, to help build supportive relationships with students, educators can use lunch time, student advisory periods, and other less structured time to build supportive relationships with students separate from discussions about classes and homework.

School and district leaders can provide opportunities for students to engage in high-quality service learning and work-based learning that motivate students and provide them with opportunities to build positive relationships with peers and adults in their community. Policymakers can promote diversity and prevent racial isolation, incentivize teen mentorship programs, and encourage schools to offer college courses and provide pathways for students to earn industry credentials and obtain work experience while in high school.

Science of Adolescent Learning: Risk Taking, Rewards, and Relationships is the second of four reports in All4Ed’s Science of Adolescent Learning Consensus Statement series. The first report in the series examined changes in the body and brain while future reports will focus on valuing culture, experiences, and environments and how identity and empowerment influence student learning.

Science of Adolescent Learning: Risk Taking, Rewards, and Relationships is available at

For more information on All4Ed’s Science of Adolescent Learning initiative, visit

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The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.

Science of Learning

Governor Bob Wise, CEO of the Alliance for Excellent Education, to Step Down in 2019

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August 08, 2018 10:26 am

All4Ed Will Conduct Nationwide Search to Find Next CEO

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) announced that Gov. Bob Wise plans to step down as chief executive officer (CEO) on January 31, 2019. All4Ed’s board of directors will conduct a nationwide search for the organization’s next CEO, assisted by the executive search firm Isaacson, Miller.

“On behalf of the All4Ed board of directors, we have tremendous respect, admiration, and gratitude for the outstanding contributions Bob has made to federal and state policies that have improved the high school experience for millions of students,” said Dan Leeds, chairman of the All4Ed board. “All4Ed’s next CEO will have very big shoes to fill, but we are confident that we can find an individual who can match Bob’s passion, vision, and drive. And when paired with a supportive board and the tremendously talented team that Bob has built, All4Ed’s new CEO will have every tool and resource necessary to further All4Ed’s mission to ensure that all students—particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved—graduate from high school with the skills necessary to succeed in college and a career.”

Wise joined All4Ed in February 2005, after twenty-four years serving as governor, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and state legislator for West Virginia. He built a small federal policy shop into an organization that routinely writes and consults on federal legislation and expanded All4Ed’s policy support to state governments and school districts. Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), All4Ed has been working with a variety of states to improve their ESSA plans. To assist district and school leaders in effectively using technology to personalize learning for students, Wise directed the expansion of Future Ready Schools®. Under Wise’s leadership, this network, launched by the U.S. Department of Education and now led by All4Ed, has grown to 3,200 school districts that educate nearly 40 percent of America’s students. Additionally, in 2018, Wise added a major new initiative connecting researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to ensure that the science of adolescent learning is an integral part of all education decisionmaking. Under his leadership, All4Ed has increased its number of funders and increased revenue by 300 percent and placed alumni and interns in key positions in government, policy organizations, and philanthropy.

“Although I am ending this chapter at All4Ed, I am not closing the book,” said Wise. “Thanks to the support of a tremendous staff and an engaged board, All4Ed has made many significant accomplishments during my fourteen-year tenure. During that time, I also have been privileged and honored to work with many devoted peers at the federal, state, and local levels in pursuit of an excellent education for all students. As I turn the page and enter the next chapter of my life—one that will be devoted to social service—I look forward to sharing the knowledge I have learned with others seeking to improve outcomes for all students.”

With support and guidance from the All4Ed staff and board, Wise’s many accomplishments at All4Ed include the following:

  • Advocating for a common calculation for high school graduation rates and raising awareness about the importance of increasing high school graduation rates, which have grown from a national average of roughly 73 percent when Wise joined All4Ed to more than 84 percent today
  • Working to ensure that the Every Student Succeeds Act includes appropriate accountability measures around low-performing high schools and high schools where historically underserved students underperform their peers
  • Increasing the amount of federal funding allocated to high schools
  • Expanding broadband access for 99 percent of students through the Federal Communications Commission’s increase in funding for the E-rate program
  • Promoting the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) among policymakers and the public to better understand how U.S. students compare internationally and to learn lessons from high-performing nations
  • Advocating for and supporting the adoption of college- and career-ready standards in all fifty states
  • Advocating for and securing federal funding for a comprehensive literacy program that serves children from birth through grade 12
  • Developing “The Graduation Effect,” a model to demonstrate the economic impact of increasing the high school graduation rate to 90 percent for the nation, all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and more than 140 metropolitan areas
  • Creating Digital Learning Day to highlight great teaching practice and showcase innovative teachers, leaders, and instructional technology programs that are improving student outcomes
  • Building All4Ed’s in-house studio and pioneering the use of video advocacy, including webinars in education policy and practice to reach audiences beyond the beltway and throughout the United States

After stepping down as CEO of All4Ed, Wise plans to remain active in education. He will serve All4Ed as a nonresident senior fellow and will continue to serve on the board of the National Public Education Support Fund as well as on other boards.

Finally, in typical Bob Wise fashion, Gov. Wise recorded a short video to announce that he is stepping down, but also to thank the many individuals and organizations he’s worked with over the years in support of improved learning opportunities for all students. And he even found a way to use a potted plant as a prop. Watch the video below:

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The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.


New All4Ed Report: By Understanding and Supporting Brain Changes During Adolescence, Educators Can Better Prepare Students for College and Adulthood

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August 02, 2018 03:28 pm

Twenty-Two of World’s Leading Researchers on Adolescent Learning and Development Offer Essential Findings That Educators, Policymakers, and Parents Need to Know

WASHINGTON, DC—During adolescence, students experience a variety of biological changes in their bodies and brains. A new report released today by the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) argues that by understanding these changes—as well as the science behind student learning and development—education leaders can take advantage of this important developmental stage to support adolescent learning, close achievement and opportunity gaps, and ensure that students develop the higher-order thinking skills they will need in college, work, and adulthood.

“Early childhood has long been recognized as a key point for an individual’s development and learning, with positive effects lasting long into adulthood,” said Bob Wise, president of All4Ed and former governor of West Virginia. “Recently, however, research has identified adolescence as a second critical window of brain development. As such, adolescence represents a period of immense opportunity and vulnerability, so it is essential for educators to provide students with engaging, rigorous, deeper learning opportunities during this time to maximize their learning and development.”

The report, Science of Adolescent Learning: How Body and Brain Development Affect Student Learning, stresses that the more students engage in challenging learning experiences, when paired with the appropriate support, the more their brain cells grow. For example, working memory skills strengthen when students engage in assignments and assessments that require that they solve complex problems and connect information to their own experiences, rather than simply regurgitate memorized information.

“Adolescence is a ‘use it or lose it’ period when an absence of engaging, rigorous, deeper learning opportunities can restrict students’ brain development now, with implications for the rest of their lives,” Wise said.

The report recommends ways education practitioners and policymakers can support adolescent learning for all students, including historically underserved populations. For instance, educators can positively impact brain development by providing rich learning experiences that connect academic learning to students’ personal interests, prior knowledge, and current events, capitalizing on adolescents’ increased ability to remember personally relevant information. Meanwhile, district and school leaders can provide teachers and counselors with support and professional learning necessary to provide students with guided opportunities to develop social and emotional skills and emotion-regulation strategies as they navigate increasingly complex social environments.

For policymakers, the report notes that Title I, the federal government’s primary source of financial support for students from low-income backgrounds, is allocated disproportionately to elementary schools. It recommends that school districts use new flexibility provided under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to target Title I funds toward high-poverty high schools. Additionally, the report suggests that states use new flexibility provided under ESSA to embed complex performance tasks into statewide assessments to encourage students to develop critical-thinking skills. The report also notes that states can use new opportunities in the recently passed rewrite of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to develop partnerships among school districts, institutions of higher education, and employers to provide historically underserved students with opportunities to participate in college and career pathways that include work-based learning to develop students’ higher-order thinking skills while preparing them for postsecondary education.

Science of Adolescent Learning: How Body and Brain Development Affect Student Learning is the first in a series of four reports informed by All4Ed’s Expert Advisory Group, composed of twenty-two experts and researchers in adolescent learning and development. Together, these researchers have agreed upon a set of twenty essential findings, or consensus statements, that educators, policymakers, and parents need to know about how adolescents learn and develop. The report lists all twenty consensus statements, but focuses on the five statements centered on changes in the body and brain. Future All4Ed reports in the series will focus on consensus statements related to risk taking, rewards, and relationships; valuing culture, experiences, and environments; and how identity and empowerment influence student learning.

Science of Adolescent Learning: How Body and Brain Development Affect Student Learning is available at

For more information on All4Ed’s Science of Adolescent Learning initiative, visit

Science of Adolescent Learning, Science of Learning

Statement from Gov. Bob Wise in Support of New Career and Technical Education Law

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July 31, 2018 12:35 pm

WASHINGTON, DC—Passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, President Trump on July 31 signed a bill to rewrite the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. In support of the bill, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise today offered the following statement:

“Both common sense and the science of learning show that students learn best by doing; quality career and technical education (CTE) engages students’ interests while preparing them for meaningful careers.

“The economic success of the nation depends on a qualified and competent workforce that demonstrates advanced levels of knowledge and skill along the education continuum. Ensuring that all students are prepared for both college and a career to meet these demands comes by giving all students access to high-quality CTE programs that are integrated with rigorous academics and real-world learning experiences.

“By emphasizing quality and equity, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act provides state and district leaders with an important array of tools to ensure students graduate from high school ready for college and a career while demonstrating the nation’s commitment to elevating the quality of local CTE programs and addressing the performance of individual groups of students.

“The new law broadens accountability at the secondary school level to measure students who have attained postsecondary credit, a recognized postsecondary credential, or a work-based learning experience upon graduating from high school. It also provides support for state and school district work underway across the country to provide students with the chance to achieve their full potential through pathways that integrate CTE and academics, work-based learning, and opportunities to earn credit toward a college degree through dual or concurrent enrollment.

“In California, for example, 300,000 students attend high schools that offer Linked Learning, which has been found to increase high school graduation rates and prepare students for college. This new law will support these and similar efforts nationwide by placing a greater emphasis on the quality of students’ CTE experience and prioritizing partnerships with postsecondary institutions and employers.

“Just as important, the new law targets high-quality opportunities toward historically underserved students by specifically including their performance in state systems of accountability and improvement. This comes at a critical time, when students of color comprise a majority of students enrolled in public school, and two-thirds of the nation’s jobs require a postsecondary credential.

“By updating the federal law supporting career and technical education, Congress completed an important summer homework assignment. I applaud their bipartisan work and I look forward to supporting states, school districts, institutions of higher education, and employers, as they implement this new law.”

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The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.

Career & Technical Education, Linked Learning