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No Educator Left Behind:
Dropouts
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No Educator Left Behind is a series providing answers from the U.S. Department of Education to questions about the federal No Child Left Behind Act and how it will affect educators. If you have a question about No Child Left Behind, send an e-mail to Ellen Delisio, and we will submit your question to the Department of Education.

QUESTION:

How is NCLB addressing the high school dropout problem?

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION:

The dropout problem is indeed a serious one. Every year approximately 1 million students drop out of high school. Only about half of black and Hispanic ninth graders graduate on time. Dropouts cost the nation more than $260 billion in lost wages, taxes, and productivity over the students' lifetimes. The damage in lost opportunities is incalculable.

So what can be done about it? First and foremost, we must address the needs of students struggling with reading and basic math. Too often, students fall behind before they drop out, many when they're young. Then they are unable to catch up in the more fast-paced middle school and high school years. The No Child Left Behind Act has brought high standards and accountability to grades 3 through 8, disaggregating test score data so that children who fall behind do not get hidden by the averages and fall through the cracks. For younger children, including preschoolers, we have the Reading First and Early Reading First programs, which are educating 1.5 million kids in proven, research-based reading methods.

It's time to apply No Child Left Behind's successful principles to our high schools. The president's $1.475 billion High School Reform Initiative would support targeted interventions for at-risk students, and provide funding to annually assess all students in grades 9 through 12. Students entering high school would benefit from individual performance plans developed in consultation with parents, teachers, and counselors. The president also has requested more than $70 million in new funding ($100 million total) for his Striving Readers program, which helps adolescent students improve their literacy skills. And his new Math Now for Middle School Students ($125 million) program would help students in these critical grades get on track to pass algebra and other advanced courses.

Such early intervention combined with annual assessments will give even struggling students the incentive they need to keep going and stay in school.

Read previous questions and answers in our No Educator Left Behind archive.

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