Pundits and policy wonks can and should debate Paul Peterson’s perspective on the educational progress of students of color and low-income students. One thing that Peterson notes, however, cannot be questioned: despite gains across races and age groups, low achievement among high school students remains a force to be reckoned with.
High schools are the forgotten stepchild of federal education policy. As a result, there are 2,000 high schools with estimated graduation rates at or below 65 percent.
President Obama requested $300 million in the federal budget to redesign America’s high schools, which is an important start to a lagging national problem. Fewer students would drop out of high school if they had the chance to apply what they are learning in school to what they can do in the workplace. The president’s proposal would support partnerships among school districts, colleges, and employers to bring the high school experience into the twenty-first century. Considering that by 2018, two-thirds of all jobs will require a postsecondary education degree, this is not just an investment in our schools, it’s also an investment in our economy.
There is no shortage of issues for policymakers to disagree on. I’m hopeful this is one area where common sense can prevail over politics. Perhaps Dr. Peterson would agree.
Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.