Teachers a crucial part of raising graduation rates

Senate HELP Committee addresses dropouts in hearing today as part of ESEA reauthorization


WASHINGTON— The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee met today as part of its ongoing hearings on ESEA reauthorization. Today’s hearing, titled “Improving America’s Secondary Schools,” focused on increasing high school graduation rates.

According to a White House HYPERLINK “http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/president-obama-announces-steps-reduce-dropout-rate-and-prepare-students-college-an”fact sheet, about 7,000 students decide to drop out of school every day – a total of 1.2 million students each year – and only about 70% of entering high school freshman graduate every year. Without a high school diploma, young people are less likely to succeed in the workforce. Each year, our nation loses $319 billion in potential earnings associated with the dropout crisis.

“NEA members know HYPERLINK “http://www.nea.org/home/18106.htm”what it takes to keep students in school, said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Our members know that the best way to turn around the 2,000 high schools around the country that are producing many of the nation’s dropouts are through the HYPERLINK “http://neapriorityschools.org/”transformation model. The NEA Foundation and our members know that collaboration between local education associations and school districts is a must, and is the foundation for improving student performance. NEA knows that we must increase families’ engagement in their teen’s education, and that we must leverage community health, nutrition, and social services if we are to be successful,” continued Van Roekel.

“Our members are on the ground doing all they can to keep our students in school. They’re acting as advisors in order to give students the individual attention they need. They’re working with parents, reaching out to community partners, and getting creative to keep students in school through graduation. But our educators’ jobs are under attack right now as positions are slashed due to states’ economic struggles,” he said.

NEA is now projecting more than HYPERLINK “http://www.educationvotes.nea.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/State_Budgets_and_Education_50_state_chart_2010.pdf”150,000 educator layoffs in the next three months, which will affect millions of public school students. In order to raise America’s graduation rates, educators must get the training and resources they need, including professional development, up-to-date textbooks, materials and technology, and safe, modern schools. (Only concern about this sentence is it’s all about teachers and what they need – not the students – I’d suggest just leaving it out unless you feel strongly.)

“How can our teachers provide the individual attention their students need when class sizes are expected to balloon to 40 and 50 students per teacher? We must stop looking to our kids and educators to close these budget gaps. Our students are the solution to our economic success, and must not be a casualty of our economic troubles,” added Van Roekel.

In the short term, NEA is pushing Congress to pass Sen. Tom Harkin’s HYPERLINK “http://www.nea.org/home/1019.htm”Keep Our Educators Working Act (S.3206), which would provide $23 billion to keep educators in classrooms and schools over the next two fiscal years. In the long term, President Obama and Congress must reauthorize an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that focuses on policies that would help transform public schools into high-quality learning.

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that the richest country in the world can provide every student with a quality education. We must reorder our priorities (this isn’t a real word) now so we can do just that,” said Van Roekel.