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The High School Question

It’s unclear just how Congress will address the question of how—and whether—to expand parts of the No Child Left Behind Act to high schools. There’s no shortage of proposals out there, though, many of which are endorsed by the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based advocacy organization headed up by former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, a Democrat.

The group held a briefing on Capitol Hill this morning for congressional staff member, education advocates, and the press. Bethany Little, the group's vice president for policy and federal advocacy, highlighted some of the high school overhaul measures that have been released so far this year.

Some of the proposals are backed by key members of the House and Senate education committees, and could find their way into the broader reauthorization measure, either as amendments, or language in the initial bills of Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., or Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairmen of the education panels.

Here’s a round-up of some of the measures Ms. Little mentioned:

--The Graduation Promise Act, (S. 1185, H.R. 2928), introduced by Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Richard M. Burr, R-N.C, and Kennedy in the Senate, and Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, in the House. It would authorize $2.5 billion in new funding to improve struggling high schools, which generally don’t receive as much Title I funding as elementary and middle schools.

--Every Student Counts Act, (H.R. 2955) introduced by Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Va., in the House. The bill would revamp the process for calculating graduation rates and hold schools accountable for increasing graduation rates, including for subgroups, such as racial minorities.

--Striving Readers Act, (S. 958 and H.R. 2289) introduced by Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., in the Senate, Reps. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., and Todd Platts, R-Pa., in the House. It would provide funding to support statewide literacy initiatives for fourth through twelfth graders.

--GRADUATES Act, (S. 1920) introduced by Sens.Harry Reid, D-Nev., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Murray. It would create a $500 million incentive fund to help support partnerships between states or school districts and colleges, businesses, nonprofits, or other organizations.

One major question is whether Congress will be willing and able to provide the resources for these proposals. In Ms. Little’s view, the price tags aren’t too steep, considering the needs of schools with high dropout rates. We’ll see if Democratic leaders, who’ve promised to reign in spending, agree. …

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