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AFT President Proposes Extra Year of High School

Share About 4,000 members of the American Federation of Teachers are gathering in Philadelphia this week for its 76th annual conference. Highlights of the conference include Vice President Al Gore's delivery of a key policy address, which can be seen during a live Webcast on the AFT Web site on July 5 at 2:30 p.m. Other highlights include debates and resolutions about controversial teacher testing, charter schools, and a proposal by AFT president calling for an extra year of high school to help prevent high school-dropout rates from climbing.

An extra, transitional year of high school, taught by teachers especially trained to accelerate the basic skills of teenagers and young adults, is part of a multifaceted dropout-prevention plan proposed this morning (July 3) by Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), an organization representing 1 million teachers and school-related personnel.

Feldman told members this morning during a live Webcast from the AFT's 76th annual convention in Philadelphia that she is concerned about those students who have not benefited from high standard reforms in their early school years and now lack the basic literacy and math skills they need.


"They are now dropping out or at risk of dropping out because they have little or no chance of meeting tougher high school graduation requirements," Feldman said. "I don't have to tell you what being a high school dropout means in today's economy. We need to do whatever it takes to rescue these kids."

Feldman's plan recommends that school districts offer an extra year of school for at-risk students either before a student enters high school or during high school. She suggests schools take advantage of the expertise available from adult literacy and military educators who have developed programs for older, at-risk students in public schools who reach the secondary level without basic skills.

Though the AFT credits high-standards and achievement tests for improving education for students across the country, Feldman said that a small but significant percentage of children are not benefiting from these standards and are in fact being victimized by them. However, she said, those students would be just as victimized if the standards were lowered for them.

Feldman also called for the federal government to implement the handful of model programs already existing for at-risk youths in the middle and high schools where those students are concentrated.


Another proposal is for the federal government to help create a national consortium to develop new high-standards curricula. She criticized state education leaders for not upholding their end of the standards-based reform by not developing curricula for their own teachers to use in following the new standards.

"We cannot continue to tolerate teachers' being left to fend for themselves with a list of state standards and without curriculum or any other materials that are based on those new standards," Feldman said. "There is absolutely no other profession whose practitioners are denied their most basic tools and expected to invent them and try them out, all on their own while simultaneously practicing their profession. It would be considered intolerable."


On Wednesday, July 5, Vice President Al Gore is scheduled to make a key policy address at 2:30 p.m. His speech will be aired live during a Webcast on the AFT Web site.

The estimated 4,000 members attending the conference are expected to debate and vote on a teacher testing resolution tomorrow, July 4. They are also expected to debate other education issues, including charter schools and distance education on July 5 and 6.

Diane Weaver Dunne
Education World®
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