In an appearance at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va. yesterday morning, President Bush, along with U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, and Margaret Spellings, Bush’s nominee to succeed Paige, outlined a $1.5 billion high school initiative to help every help school student graduate with the skills necessary to succeed. Bush’s initiative would include $1.2 billion for high school interventions such as reading help for struggling high school students and an early intervention program that would help incoming ninth-grade students who were at risk of falling behind. Bush said the remaining $250 million would go toward state assessments to ensure that high school diplomas are “not merely a sign of endurance, but the mark of a young person ready to succeed.”
Specifically, Bush proposed the following initiatives:
- An early intervention program to identify incoming ninth graders who are at risk of falling behind. Under the program, high school teachers would analyze eighth-grade test data and design a program to help students catch up while they still can. The program would be flexible and uniquely tailored to the needs of the student and developed in consultation with a parent. Bush didn’t specify a dollar figure for the program, but proposed spending $200 million for it in his presidential campaign.
- As measurement of an early intervention program’s success and a student’s progress, Bush proposed tests in reading and math in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades. Currently, states are only required to test in grades 3-8 and one year in high school.
- To combat reading deficiencies among older students, the president’s fiscal 2006 budget will ask Congress to expand his Striving Readers initiative to $200 million. These funds would go to help more than one hundred school districts “train teachers in research-based methods so they can provide effective interventions for middle and high school students struggling in reading.” Currently, the program is funded at $25 million.
- To improve the mathematics achievement of secondary school students, Bush would provide $120 million for school districts to implement research-based programs that help math teachers strengthen their teaching skills.
- An “Adjunct Teachers Corps,” that would provide teaching opportunities for professionals to teach middle and high school courses, especially math and science.
- A $500 million incentive fund that would allow school districts to reward teachers based on increased student achievement, teaching in low-income schools, or other criteria that the district chooses.
- To promote the expansion of IB and Advanced Placement (AP) programs in school across the country, President Bush will ask for $52 million in his fiscal 2006 budget to help sure that teachers in low-income schools are well-trained to teach AP and IB courses.
- To help state develop a State Scholars program that encourages students to take more rigorous courses, Bush would provide $45 million.
- $1,000 in additional Pell Grant aid during the first two years of college for low-income students who successfully complete the State Scholars curriculum.
In reaction to the president’s proposal, Alliance interim president Cindy Sadler said that the president “demonstrated much-needed federal commitment to a severely underserved population – America’s high school students. The enhanced programs and higher standards applied to early childhood education must be extended throughout the K-12 continuum. But the funding shrinks as our students grow older. The gap in support is widening to an alarming chasm: with 25 percent of our secondary school students-that’s six million kids-reading so poorly that they can’t comprehend the material in their textbooks, America is seeing an increase in students who, if they don’t drop out, graduate unprepared for further education and to compete in a global economy.
We at the Alliance for Excellent Education urge the President and Congress to consider the initiatives highlighted today-including Striving Readers, which promotes adolescent literacy, and early intervention programs designed to individualize the learning experience – as only the beginning of increasing support for our nation’s high schools.”
The January 17th issue of Straight A’s will feature more information on the president’s speech, as well as initial reactions from Members of Congress.