About the Solutions
About the Solutions
The good news is that we know a great deal about how to educate low-performing adolescents to high standards, and many high schools across the country are doing so. Unfortunately, there are too few of these successful schools nationwide. This shortage is exacerbated by a general lack of attention to the problems in our high schools by the public and policymakers-particularly at the federal level.
In "A National Investment," you will learn that the federal government leadership is critical in advancing secondary school reform, but that current federal policy and funding do not effectively support improving achievement in the nation's middle and high schools.
For example, the federal government has made a huge commitment through the Reading First program to ensure that every child learns to read by the third grade. However, it has failed to continue that investment beyond third grade. The consequences are clear: reading levels on national tests have risen over the past few years in the early grades, but achievement for middle and high school students has stagnated.
In "Successful Readers," you will learn that intensive, high-quality instruction can help struggling adolescent readers to catch up to grade level and build the skills they need to succeed in high school and beyond. The Striving Readers initiative, launched in 2005, is a good start, but at its current funding level it supports adolescent literacy programs in only eight of the nation's school districts. If Striving Readers is to make a dent in the nation's adolescent literacy crisis, it must be greatly expanded to serve students in every state and many more districts and schools.
In "Effective Teachers and Principals," you will learn that there is growing consensus among researchers and educators that the single most important factor in determining a student's performance is the quality of his or her teacher. When they are given the right training, support, and working conditions, teachers and school leaders can and do succeed in helping high school students achieve at high levels every day, even those students who seem to have the greatest challenges.
In "Personalized High School Experience," you will learn that "personalization" is increasingly being cited as a core strategy for high school turnaround. Recent studies of high performing urban schools and evaluations of successful high school reform models have identified personalization and instructional improvement as the twin pillars of high school reform. Creating a personalized high school experience requires high expectations for all students, reliable information about school performance and students' needs and interests, the capacity to individualize instruction and support, and multiple pathways to a high school diploma.
In "College Preparation," you will learn that almost 85 percent of current jobs and 90 percent of new jobs in occupations with both high growth and high wages will require workers with at least some postsecondary education. To ensure that more students graduate from high school prepared for college, federal policy has a huge role to play-whether it's providing incentives to states to make a college preparatory curriculum the default curriculum for all students, supporting students and their families throughout the transition from high school to college, or making college more affordable.
In "Expectation for Work and College," you will learn that every student in the nation should have the benefit of a rigorous high school curriculum aligned to college and work standards. Unfortunately, today's education system is not serving that purpose, in great part due to a lack of alignment throughout the system and with college and work readiness expectations. The federal government should help states simultaneously raise their expectations for students, align the education system to those expectations, and ensure that all students reach the goals being set for them.
In "Accountability," you will learn that the current system of accountability included in the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is sorely mismatched to what is known about high school reform and does not accurately identify, prioritize, or drive improvement actions in low-performing high schools.
In "Data for Improving Education," you will learn that the nation's schools must perform at higher levels than ever before if every student is to graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary for success in postsecondary education. To meet this goal, educators, community members, and policymakers need useful information and hard facts that can help improve policy, practice, and student achievement.
Currently, Congress is working on a renewal of NCLB that could include significant high school reform provisions. Ultimately, the changes Congress makes to NCLB will determine whether our schools will produce increasing numbers of well-educated high school graduates who are prepared for college, the modern workforce, and success in life-or whether the nation will continue to suffer from a dropout crisis that claims over one million students every year.
The Alliance for Excellent Education has a number of recommendations for how the renewal of NCLB could address the crisis in the nation's high schools head-on. These recommendations, even if fully and effectively implemented, would not cover all aspects of high school reform. However, they do provide the federal cornerstones necessary to support state and local efforts to prepare all students for postsecondary education, the modern workforce, and success in life. Taken together, these recommendations can help to bring the basic No Child Left Behind principles - of closing achievement gaps and ensuring that all students succeed - into America's high schools, helping to move the nation from no child left behind to every child a graduate.