Welcome to the Alliance’s New Blog
May 25, 2010 04:42 pm
Welcome to the Alliance for Excellent Education’s new blog, High School Soup! The creation of this blog is the first step in a major effort to expand the Alliance’s ability to interact with larger audiences so we can work together to improve education.
First, some history about the Alliance.
In April, the Alliance celebrated its ninth anniversary. The organization has come a long way since 2001, but since day one the founders, Gerard and Lilo Leeds and their children, have focused on improving the education system for children most at risk of dropping out of high school.
In the beginning, the Leeds family saw the need to put funding for the nation’s middle and high schools on the radar screen at the federal level and founded the Alliance to do the job. Today, the continuing commitment and efforts of the Leeds family have been joined by numerous foundations, corporate philanthropies, and twenty-one staff members committed to helping all students graduate from high school ready for college and careers, and prepared to take their place in society. Chaired by Dan Leeds of Washington, DC, the Alliance’s thirteen-member Governing Board is composed of national leaders in education, civil rights, business, and philanthropy.
In its early work, the Alliance realized that Title I money—the largest source of federal funding for low-income school districts—had largely been directed to the earlier grades while little reached high school students and their needs. While Title I, as well as other federal funds, have helped spur gains in early grade student achievement, there has been little corresponding improvement in grades 9–12.
This was an all too common oversight. In my years serving as governor and in Congress, education was always a priority of
mine. However, I invested time and energy on early childhood initiatives as well as efforts to encourage students to attend college. When I arrived at the Alliance, I soon realized I had overlooked a crucial part of the education continuum: the “missing middle.” The chart at right shows the stark imbalance in federal education funding between different grade levels.
As an organization, we also quickly identified the lack of awareness about the high school dropout rate. Few people recognized the severity of the crisis and so the Alliance strived to turn a spotlight on the hard-hitting numbers; nationally, almost 7,000 students drop out of high school every day. Fueling this national crisis are the 6 million secondary school students most at risk of leaving high school without a diploma or graduating unprepared to function in modern society. Constantly publicizing these startling statistics helped us build relationships with key stakeholders who made transforming high schools a national priority.
A few years into the Alliance’s work, we learned that these numbers could be even more powerful when we tied them to state-by-state economic losses or gains. We wanted to show people—regardless of whether they had a child in the public school system—why and how the quality of their region’s high schools makes an economic difference in their lives.
Equity should be the main reason for all to be involved; as New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein says, “If there is a school in your district that you won’t send your child to, then you need to be involved.” But now the Alliance is showing the inextricable link between the equity and the economic imperatives for improving public education. For example, we can tell you today that Massachusetts’ economy would see a combination of crime-related savings and additional revenue of about $115 million each year if the male high school graduation rate increased by just five percent.
Now we have advanced from the state level to being able to show the impact on individual metropolitan regions. For instance, not only does the Alliance website contain important economic information for each state, but our latest research can even tell you that if Boston—or pick from one of the other 44 metropolitan areas—were to cut its dropout rate in half for just one high school class, over the course of an average year the city and its surrounding areas could gain an additional $78 million in earnings, $52 million in spending, and another $21 million in investments.
Whether you hail from Philadelphia or Phoenix, we can tell you by so many measures—car sales, tax revenue, or human capital—the economic benefits of cutting your dropout rate in half. To read more about this work, click here.