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Building a Grad Nation: Understanding the Political Environment and Ensuring That Your Voice Is Heard


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Marguerite W. Kondracke
, President and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance
Stacey D. Stewart, Executive Vice President, Community Impact Leadership & Learning, United Way Worldwide
Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education

This month begins a very critical time for education reform. Congressional negotiations over the federal budget and the funding levels for the U.S. Department of Education are ongoing. The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind, is starting to ramp up. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are out on the road campaigning for education during what the president is calling “Education Month” at the White House.

At the same time, it is vitally important for teachers, school administrators, community advocates, business leaders, local government officials and others to be plugged into these conversations. Together, America’s Promise Alliance, the Alliance for Excellent Education, and United Way Worldwide are working together to activate these individuals in a movement to turn around the lowest-performing schools and raise high school graduation rates.

On March 14, the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, and United Way Worldwide held a webinar on two upcoming education events that will ensure that more Americans are plugged into these discussions.

During the webinar, Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise set the political environment during which these important conversations are occurring, including an update on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget for the U.S. Department of Education. Marguerite W. Kondracke, president and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance, and Stacey D. Stewart, executive vice president of community impact leadership and learning, United Way Worldwide, discussed their organization’s efforts to connect teachers, school administrators, community advocates, business leaders, local government officials and others to these conversations and talked about how you can make sure your voice is heard. They also addressed questions submitted by webinar participants.

Additional background:

During a time when more than 60 percent of all jobs require some form postsecondary education, far too many students do not even graduate from high school. The good news is that, over the last few years, some states and school districts are raising their high school graduation rates with scalable solutions in their public schools and demonstrating to the nation that it is possible to end the high school dropout crisis. The challenge is that much more work needs to be done.

From March 21–23, the America’s Promise Alliance, the Alliance for Excellent Education, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University are cohosting the “Building a Grad Nation Summit,” which is designed to bring together individuals on the front lines of education reform for a conversation on dropout prevention efforts.

The following week, United Way will host a national Education Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Thursday, March 31, from 9:30 a.m. to noon (ET), at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC. The two-hour, interactive event will allow millions of Americans to participate on-air or online through a live webcast and engage national leaders from government, business, and nonprofit sectors. This national Education Town Hall is in support of United Way’s challenge to America to cut by half the number of young people who drop out of high school (by 2018).

The Education Town Hall will also feature:

· A front-and-center focus on the voices of everyday Americans, including panel discussions with parents, caregivers, teachers and other unsung heroes.
· Announcements on ways people can be part of the change, including a commitment to mobilize one million tutors and mentors to directly support more young people who need it the most.

You can participate now and join the conversation by visiting:

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. For more information about the Alliance, visit

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.