Burr: We Must Do More To Keep Kids In School

Highlights high school graduation rate crisis during kickoff event

U.S. Senator Richard Burr today called for action to address the growing crisis of America's high school dropout rates. He made the remarks today at a press conference sponsored by America's Promise Alliance (APA) which announced the start of its two-year Dropout Prevention Program. The program will hold summits in various communities to help raise awareness of the growing dropout rate and strive to find community-based solutions. The program aims to reduce high school dropout rates and prepare students for college, work, and life.

"80 percent of high school dropouts are concentrated in only fifteen states, including North Carolina," Burr said. "We must do more to these kids in school. Over 30% of North Carolina's public high school students never graduate. This is unacceptable. Students who drop out have higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and incarceration, than individuals with at least a high school diploma."

Right now only 68% of North Carolina students graduate from high school. Graduation rates are lower for certain subgroups of students. Only 60% of Black students, 55% of low-income students, and 52% of Hispanic students receive a high school diploma.

To help improve graduation rates, Burr introduced the Graduate for a Better Future Act (S.765) with Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) in March of last year. Burr's legislation seeks to help public high schools keep kids in school by focusing on the 3 R's of rigor, relevance, and relationships.

"We must ensure that all students have access to a challenging curriculum that will prepare them both for college and for work. We also need students to understand the connections between what they are learning in the classroom and the working world. Finally, we need to help these students build relationships with counselors and teachers to make sure no one falls through the cracks," Burr added.
The bill would encourage public high schools to develop a challenging curriculum that prepares all students for college and work, offer academic catch-up programs, and develop a college guidance program. The legislation would also develop an early warning system and a student advisement program to identify students at risk of dropping out.

A report by Civic Enterprises indicates 88% of high school dropouts had passing grades when they dropped out, 58% dropped out with two or fewer years left to complete high school, and 66% said they would have worked harder in school if expectations had been higher.