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The Alliance for Excellent Education Joins Achieve, Inc. and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Recommending Meaningful Implementation of New Academic Competitiveness Grants

Press Release:

The Alliance for Excellent Education Joins Achieve, Inc. and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Recommending Meaningful Implementation of New Academic Competitiveness Grants

Research demonstrates that the classes a high school student takes are the strongest predictor of success in college, and have a particularly strong influence on the likely achievement of students of color and students from low-income families. Yet for many students – especially poor and minority students – a rigorous college prep curriculum is neither their default high school educational option nor one that is available to them at all.

In a letter to Assistant Secretary of Education Thomas Luce, the Alliance for Excellent Education, Achieve, Inc., and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute outline their recommendations for the new Academic Competitiveness Grant program, which are aimed at encouraging more students from low income families to take a rigorous academic curriculum in high school.

The complete letter follows. A link to the recommendations is contained in the text of the letter.


March 24, 2006

The Honorable Thomas Luce
Assistant Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20202

Dear Assistant Secretary Luce:

Thank you for facilitating the recent meeting to discuss the implementation of the new Academic Competitiveness Grants. At the meeting, we circulated a joint letter indicating our shared recommendations for implementing the new program, including for the process of recognizing at least one rigorous curriculum in each state.

Given the dynamic conversation, Achieve, Inc., The Alliance for Excellent Education and The Thomas B. Fordham Institute would like to take this opportunity to reinforce our recommendations and identify our top priorities for implementation. Please see the attached Joint Recommendations.

The Academic Competitiveness Grants are a unique opportunity for the federal government to simultaneously provide high-achieving, low-income students with additional support to attend post-secondary education, increase college access and success rates, and leverage states to increase the rigor of their curriculum and raise their expectations for all students.

We understand that in order for the new program to be implemented for the 2006-2007 school year, the Department will have to accept state’s current determinations of rigorous curriculum at face value. However, the Department should, as the program advances, require states to substantiate their decisions to recognize certain courses of study as college preparatory.

This could be done by analyzing data on students’ need for remediation and other measures of success in college; by requiring institutions of higher education to validate the states’ recognized curricula; by using state commissions representing higher education, business and K-12 education to agree on a rigorous curriculum; or by creating a peer review process run by the U.S. Department of Education to review state submissions. In addition to validating the rigor of their recognized curricula, states should also be required to report to the U.S. Department of Education on the availability of that coursework to students eligible for the ACGs.

Given the billions of dollars that the federal government spends annually on financial aid, it is clearly in the interest of the U.S. Department of Education to use this opportunity to make that investment more effective by ensuring that a rigorous curriculum does indeed prepare students for success in college.

The implementation of the Academic Competitiveness Grants presents an opportunity that should not be overlooked. We appreciate your attention to our recommendations in realizing this opportunity. Please let us know if we can be of any additional support as you work out the details of implementation.

Sincerely,

Achieve, Inc.
The Alliance for Excellent Education
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

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