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November 20th, 2009
Grijalva Announces Bill To Help Struggling Schools Prevent Dropouts, Encourage Pursuit of Higher Education

Washington, DC – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today announced the release of H.R. 4122, the Graduation for All Act, which seeks to decrease dropout rates and provide assistance to struggling middle schools and high schools around the country.

The bill, co-sponsored by Grijalva, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller and several other lawmakers, authorizes $2 billion in competitive grants for low-performing high schools and their feeder middle schools, increases financial aid awareness and career planning, and supports strategic partnerships between high schools, middle schools and local communities to turn around struggling institutions, among other features.

“If we want to help our education system effectively, we must lend a hand to the schools that show the greatest need,” Grijalva said. “This country is having a conversation right now about what our economy and our work force will look like in the twenty-first century, and extending opportunities to struggling schools should be a major part of that conversation. This investment in education is an investment in our economy no less than a jobs bill or a health care bill.”

The bill is necessary, Grijalva said, because 7,000 students drop out of high school every day, and because more than half are from the 2,000 high schools nationwide with dropout rates above 40 percent. “Targeting these schools is the best way to give the most at-risk students the help they need to stay in school and go to college,” Grijalva said. He said the bill’s mix of additional funding and new programmatic approaches is the right way to creatively address local needs in a variety of situations.

According to the bill, a school district receiving a grant must:

•Identify which middle and/or high schools will be served by the grant.
•Conduct a needs analysis of a range of factors including graduation rate, capacity, and at-risk students.
•Choose a Model of Success, as defined in the bill, to help make the most effective and appropriate changes in the school. These models range from transformation to restarting the school as a charter.
•Build a Graduation Improvement Team, including school leaders, teachers, experts and other staff from the school and the community to help carry out the Model of Success.
•Implement Early Warning Data Systems to identify students at risk of dropping out, determine which interventions are appropriate, and to monitor the effectiveness of the interventions so that changes can be made as necessary.
•Ensure teacher talent is distributed in a fair and equitable manner among schools.

The aim of the legislation is not only to promote student retention, Grijalva said, but to encourage students who stay in school to pursue higher education that may otherwise be out of reach. “Making education available and attractive to all students, regardless of their backgrounds and circumstances, is the only way to promote a well-educated work force,” he said. “Government policy cannot and should not pick winners and losers. Schools most in need of assistance should be the ones who get it soonest, and that’s what this bill is about.”

As part of the announcement of the bill, Grijalva said he has requested an Education and Labor Committee hearing on middle school dropout rates, similar to one held earlier this year on high school dropout rates. “Middle schools that feed into struggling high schools are themselves often in need of assistance, and I hope to identify how we can continue to address school quality at that level,” he said. “This is an important moment in our nation’s educational and economic development, and it would be a shame for schools to be left out of our broader discussion about investing in the future.”

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