Welcome to the Alliance for Excellent Education’s first annual conference on American High School Policy. Over the next day and a half, we will be discussing some of the most difficult challenges facing our nation’s secondary schools: literacy, adequacy, and equity. Our conversation will be greatly enhanced by your expertise and thoughtful participation.
Far too many of our nation’s middle and high school students are in trouble. A quarter of them read considerably below grade level. Thirty percent drop out of school before graduation. More get a diploma, but are unprepared for college or a career. Their teachers, particularly in high-needs schools, are often not trained in the subjects they teach; others enter the schools unprepared for the reality of teaching and leave the profession after only a few years. Few students get the personalized attention that is so critical to planning effectively for the future, and achieving success in the present.
Local, state, and federal fiscal difficulties are adding to the problem. In an era of shrinking public revenues and increasing needs, funding for schools is contracting or holding level, and educational intervention programs designed to help at-risk young people—particularly at the high school level—are being drastically cut back or eliminated.
The good news is that we know a great deal about how to help all of America’s high school students to achieve at higher levels. Research and effective programs in communities across the nation point the way. State courts and legislation introduced by policymakers at the state and federal levels are moving the public toward a better understanding of the basic rights of all students to receive an education that prepares them to become productive workers and good citizens. But much needs to be done.
Our nation was founded on the belief that individuals could rise to greatness as the result not of wealth or social status, but of hard work and a drive to succeed. This conference brings together leaders in the fields of education and public policy to think about ways to assure that every American child has the opportunity to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for a successful transition into college or a rewarding job. At its conclusion, it is our hope that all of us will commit to move forward with a national agenda to achieve that objective.