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Nation’s Neglect of Low Performing Middle and High School Students Leaving Six Million Young People Behind

Press Release:

Nation’s Neglect of Low Performing Middle and High School Students Leaving Six Million Young People Behind

Alliance for Excellent Education Says Improved Literacy, Better Teachers, Smaller Classes & Personalized College Plans Key to Aiding Youth in Lowest Performance Quartile

Calling on the President and Congress to pass a four-point, research-based “Framework for Excellent Education,” a new report released today warns that without intervention nearly six million middle and high school students risk becoming drop-outs or stuck in low wage, dead-end jobs.

The report, Every Child a Graduate: A Framework for an Excellent Education for all Middle and High School Students, documents the growing academic crisis facing one-fourth of secondary school students that puts them, and the nation’s future productivity, at risk. Statistics show that fewer than 75 percent of all eighth graders graduate from high school in five years, and in urban schools these rates dip below 50 percent. About one-quarter of all high school students read at “below basic” levels, stunting their achievement in all subjects.

“These poor results are diminishing our children’s ability to compete and prosper in the new knowledge-driven economy. Students who drop out or fail to advance to college have significantly lower annual and lifetime incomes than those who stay in school and earn higher degrees,” says former U.S. Education Secretary Richard W. Riley, a member of the Alliance’s advisory board. “Ultimately, America cannot maintain its position as the world’s first economy and leading democracy if we continue to give second-class attention to the needs of middle and secondary school students.”

The Alliance urges the President and Congress to build on the success of last year’s landmark No Child Left Behind Act, which is focused mainly on the early years of schooling. Currently only 15% of Title I funds go to help low-performing secondary students yet new high school exit exams are creating additional pressures for schools and students to succeed-without help.

“These six million kids at-risk are not merely numbers. These are people we know. They are our nieces, our nephews, our grandchildren, the kids down the street. We cannot fail them,” said Susan Frost, Executive Director of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “Today, we are sounding a call to action to ensure that every child in this country benefits from an excellent education.”

Central to its mission of helping all middle and high school students receive an excellent education, the Alliance today unveiled its four-point Framework for an Excellent Education aimed at increasing opportunities for success among America’s lowest performing students. The framework urges the federal government to take steps under four key initiatives: Adolescent Literacy, Teacher and Principal Quality, College Preparation, and Small Learning Communities.

Specifically the framework recommends:

  • Strengthening and expanding the $5 billion Reading First program by adding an Adolescent Literacy Initiative to its mission. This would allow funding for literacy specialists to train teachers across subject areas to improve the reading and writing skills of all students in Title I middle and high schools. The funding would also pay for diagnostic assessments and research-based curricula.
  • Allowing a $4,000 annual income tax credit under the Teacher and Principal Quality Initiative to encourage teachers and principals to work in high poverty schools. The initiative also calls for federal funds to recruit new teachers for high-needs schools by targeting up to $20,000 in grants to college juniors with a 3.4 grade point average in their major and allowing up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness for highly qualified teachers in return for a four-year teaching commitment.
  • Developing six-year academic and support plans for all entering ninth graders under the College Preparation Initiative. Schools would ensure that students receive the services identified in the plan and transition smoothly to college or a meaningful career. Academic counselors would serve as student advocates, responsible for developing, monitoring, and ensuring the fulfillment of each student’s plan.
  • Creating smaller schools under the Small Learning Communities Initiative that would personalize and contextualize students’ educational experience and facilitate the implementation of other effective strategies.

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Launched last year with a grant from Gerard G. and Lilo Leeds, founders of CMP Media, Inc., the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for Excellent Education is a national policy, advocacy, and research organization created to help middle and high school students receive an excellent education. The Alliance focuses on America’s six million most at-risk secondary students-those in the lowest achievement quartile-who are most likely to leave school without a diploma or graduate unprepared for a productive future. For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, visit:

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.