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Former Governor of West Virginia and Alliance for Excellent Education President Releases Book Calling for Federal Action to Address Education Crisis in High Schools

Press Release:

Former Governor of West Virginia and Alliance for Excellent Education President Releases Book Calling for Federal Action to Address Education Crisis in High Schools


In Raising the Grade, Governor Bob Wise Outlines Solutions and Strategies to
Create Meaningful High School Reform

In the newly released book, Raising the Grade: How High School Reform Can Save Our Youth and Our Nation (Jossey-Bass), Governor Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and one of the nation’s leading experts on high school reform, draws attention to the crisis in America’s high schools that sees approximately 1.2 million students failing to graduate every year, and calls for a federal response to this pressing issue.  Drawing on lessons learned in his twenty-four years of experience as a public official, Governor Wise advocates proven, research-based solutions that have worked in high schools across the country and outlines a practical policy framework for the federal government to implement in order to support meaningful, systemic reform at the high school level.

Through a combination of hard data, real-life examples and compelling personal anecdotes, Raising the Grade lays out the moral and economic imperatives for the urgent need to invest in and support high schools, while providing concrete and practical solutions that are working in some communities and can serve as models in others.

“During my more than two decades in public service, I always believed that I was doing the best job I possibly could to improve educational opportunities for the young people in my state and district,” said Governor Wise, now president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a policy and advocacy organization focused on high school education reform. “With the benefit of hindsight, however, I have realized that my efforts – though well intentioned – were missing a crucial element. I focused primarily on the bookends of education: early childhood, with the passage of a bill creating four-year pre-K; and higher education, via the PROMISE scholarship, which helped thousands of West Virginia students remain in the Mountain State for college. Secondary education was largely ignored.  I want to share the lessons I have learned in my public and political career to make sure that we don’t repeat our past mistakes.”

Raising the Grade rigorously documents the enormous costs associated with the nation’s staggering high school dropout rates, which take the form of lost taxes, greater strain on social services, increased prison rates and lost productivity. The poor performance of American students relative to their peers in international economic comparisons is a signal that the United States is being overtaken by other developed nations, leading to a decline in America’s ability to compete economically in a changing global environment. The most visible sign of this trend is that despite a greater percentage of U.S. students going to college today, the percent of the U.S. population with a high school diploma or equivalent has dropped from 1st to 13th, and our college graduation ranking has dropped from 2nd to 15th among participating Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) member nations.   In Raising the Grade, Governor Wise argues that if the United States is to maintain its competitiveness at the international level, all students must acquire the knowledge and skills that are key to success in college and in the twenty-first century workplace.

While recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the needs in our high schools, Governor Wise identifies a check-list of ten common factors – including implementing a rigorous curriculum, increasing personal attention and tailoring specific programs for those students that need extra help – that have proven successful in turning around failing schools. In addition, Raising the Grade outlines a framework for strategic federal involvement, including creating voluntary national standards aligned to college and work-readiness; promoting innovation, research, and data; establishing meaningful high school accountability; and ensuring that highly effective teachers and principals are recruited and stay in the schools that need them most.

Part of the reason for the failings in America’s high schools is that while the federal government spends significant resources to improve early childhood and elementary education – through Head Start and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind), among other programs – the needs of high school students have been largely neglected by policymakers. In Raising the Grade, Governor Wise outlines the direct link between funding and achievement levels, and calls on the federal government to act.

“While an expanded federal role in high school reform is needed, I do not believe that merely increasing spending – or throwing more money at a dysfunctional system – is the answer,” said Governor Wise. “Rather, targeting federal dollars to drive systemic and strategic reform – changing the way we do business, and then investing in what works – is the answer.”


What People Are Saying About
Raising the Grade: How High School Reform Can Save Our Youth and Our Nation

Governor Bob Wise zeroes in on the weakest link in U.S. public education, namely our high schools…and articulates an action agenda for everyone in a position to make a difference, from educators in the classroom to policymakers in the nation’s capital.  Raising the Grade rates an “A” in my book.
– Hugh Price, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, Brookings Institution

Governor Wise uses a very effective blend of hard data, clear examples…and personal anecdotes to make the case for high school reform.  Every policymaker from the schoolhouse to the statehouse, and from the classroom to Congress, should read this book.
– Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board and former governor, West Virginia

In Raising the Grade, Governor Wise uses his extensive experience in education to make a compelling case for the transformation of America’s high schools. The prosperity of every state – and our nation -demands a response to the issues that are so candidly described in this book. In it, the governor lays out an invaluable plan for federal action that should be required reading for every elected officeholder across the country.
– Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., former governor of North Carolina and chairman, James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy

Our country is facing a dropout crisis.  Each year over a million students do not graduate with their peers.  This crisis has an effect on our communities in terms of lost income and increased costs for social programs.  We do not have the luxury of ignoring this crisis if we expect our students to compete effectively in the global economy. Governor Wise has been a critical leader on identifying the problem and solutions to the dropout crisis and his insightful analysis should be a must-read for all who care about the future of our nation.
– U.S. Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott


About Governor Bob Wise

Governor Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. Under his leadership, the Alliance has continued to build its reputation as a respected authority on high school policy and to advocate for reform in America’s secondary education system, working to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for success. Since joining the Alliance, Governor Wise has become a sought-after speaker and advisor on education issues. He has advised the U.S. Department of Education and frequently testifies before the U.S. Congress. From 2001 – 2005, he was the Governor of West Virginia, where he fought for and signed legislation to fund the PROMISE Scholarship Program, which has helped thousands of West Virginia students remain in the Mountain State for college. From 1983 to 2001, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 2nd District of West Virginia. During his tenure, he worked aggressively to preserve federal financial aid for students to attend college. For several terms, he was a member of the Democratic Party Leadership team, as a regional whip and as a whip-at-large. Wise also serves on a number of Boards of Directors, Boards of Trustees, and Advisory Boards in his capacity as the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. Governor Wise earned a bachelor’s degree from Duke University in 1970 and a J.D. from Tulane University College of Law in 1975.

About the Alliance for Excellent Education

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a nonprofit Washington-based policy and advocacy organization that works to make every child a graduate, prepared for postsecondary education and success in life. For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, please visit:

Meghan Sherman, 212-784-5715

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.