Sunday, February 15, 2009

Campaign for High School Equity Statement on the Role of Education Reform in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE) acknowledges the necessity of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and commends President Obama and Congress for moving quickly to address the nation's economic challenges. The civil rights coalition is pleased that the Act provides much-needed relief for states to help all students, including students of color and youth from low-income neighborhoods, stay on the path to high school graduation.

Notably, the House-passed and Senate committee-passed bills contain requirements that move toward holding schools, school districts and states accountable for student achievement. The provisions that require states to develop and use longitudinal data systems and improve assessments for English language learners (ELLs) and children with disabilities are important steps. We are pleased to see that the Senate bill included a provision to encourage states to align their state standards with college- and work-ready expectations. We are also pleased that both bills recognize the importance of ensuring that low-income and minority students are taught by effective teachers at the same rate as high-income students. However, the House-passed bill takes a stronger approach to solving this problem.

On their own these policies do not fully address America's education crisis. Of incoming ninth graders, only one-third will graduate with the skills they need to be successful in college and work.(i) Among high school graduates, students of color and low-income students are underrepresented, with some subgroups achieving a lower than 50 percent graduation rate. And as students of color and ELLs continue to grow as a proportion of the total student population, improving their educational outcomes must be a national priority.

CHSE is concerned that states will not target sufficient stimulus funds to the communities where help is needed most. The group is also "disappointed by the omission of funding for high schools, Title III, Title VII, TRIO, GEAR UP, and other programs that directly support students of color and ELLs," according to Michael Wotorson, CHSE's executive director. "To improve student outcomes," Wotorson continued, "we need long-term funding and policy solutions to ensure that all students have the support they need to succeed."

Even more dramatic improvements in federal support for education are needed to restore long-term economic viability. Too many American high schools fail to engage, educate and develop the young adults who should soon assume roles as business and community leaders. If we set ambitious goals for education and raise the graduation rates of students of color to the levels of white students by the year 2020, and if these new graduates go on to postsecondary education at similar rates, the potential increase in personal income would add more than $319 billion to the American economy.(ii)

Our nation's long-term economic health requires structural reforms to public education. U.S. education policy must change now, and a prime opportunity exists through the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. A full NCLB reauthorization process during the 111th Congress is necessary to guarantee students of color and youth from low-income neighborhoods access to a high-quality high school education that prepares them for college and the workplace. It is critical that we maintain our focus on improving educational opportunities for all students, or we risk long-term economic decline and the creation of a permanent underclass.

CHSE is a coalition of leading civil rights organizations representing communities of color that is focused on high school education reform. Members include the National Urban League, National Council of La Raza, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, Alliance for Excellent Education, National Indian Education Association, and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.

CHSE is a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

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