Making the United States a “Grad Nation”

President Obama joined Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and General Colin Powell this morning to announce “Grad Nation” – a 10-year, $900 million initiative aimed at reversing the dropout crisis and helping students prepare for success in college, work and life. The goals of the campaign include ensuring that 90% of 4th graders graduate from high school on time and fulfilling the President’s goal to be the world’s leader in the college graduates by 2020.

The campaign, a partnership between the Education Department and Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance, would give money to states and school districts that agree to drastically change or even close their worst performing schools. Twelve percent of the nation’s high schools generate half of our dropouts.  By focusing on the lowest-performing schools, their feeder schools and neighborhoods, America’s Promise Alliance believes they can have a tremendous impact. The president’s plan would seek to help 5,000 of the nation’s lowest-performing schools over the next five years.

To be eligible to receive the grants, states and school districts must adopt one of four approaches to fix their lowest-performing schools:

  • “Turnaround” the school by firing the principal and at least half the staff.
  • “Restart” the school by opening it as a charter school or a school under the management of an education organization with expertise in running schools.
  • Close the school and transfer students to a higher-achieving school in the district.
  • “Transform” the school by firing the principal but retaining — and retooling — personnel to implement “comprehensive instructional reform strategies.”

The administration is also investing $50 million in dropout prevention strategies, including personalized and individual instruction and support to keep students engaged in learning, and better use of data to identify students at risk of failure and to help them with the transition to high school and college.

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