02.11.09

Burr Introduces Bill to Improve High School Graduation Rate

Bill would increase graduation rates, better prepare students for college and workforce

Today U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) introduced the Graduate for a Better Future Act to help public high schools across the country improve their graduation rates. The bill would establish a competitive grant program targeted at high schools and school districts with the lowest high school graduation rates. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) is the lead co-sponsor of the bill.
"Providing our students with a quality education is the key to their future success and to the continued competitiveness of our nation in the global economy," Burr said. "A graduation rate of only 70% is simply unacceptable, and represents a crisis we must address. That's why I have introduced this bill to give our schools the tools and resources they need to combat the graduation rate crisis."
Nationally, nearly 1.2 million, or one in three, high school students drop out before graduating each year. In North Carolina, only 70 percent of our students graduate from high school on time. Only 63 percent of the state's African American students graduate on time, and the number drops to 59 percent for low-income students and 56 percent for Hispanic students.
According to a 2002 study by the U.S. Census Bureau, an individual without a high school diploma will earn approximately $1.1 million less than an individual with a bachelor's degree, $1.5 million less than an individual with a master's degree, and $2.4 million less than an individual with a doctoral degree over the course of their career. Additionally, a recent survey of high school dropouts conducted for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, shows that 88 percent of students who dropped out had passing grades and 58 percent dropped out with two or fewer years to complete high school.
"The graduation crisis is not simply one of students under-achieving and dropping out," Burr said. "We need to reach these kids more effectively to encourage them to stay in school and we can accomplish this by focusing on the three R's--rigor, relevance, and relationships. If we excel in these areas, we can increase the number of young people who choose to stay in school and reap the lifelong benefits of a diploma."
The Graduate for a Better Future Act would create a competitive grant program to:
  • Create models of excellence for academically challenging public high schools to prepare all students for college and the workforce;
  • Offer academic catch-up programs for those students who enter high school and do not meet proficient levels in mathematics, reading, language arts, or science. These programs would enable such students to meet proficient levels and remain on track to graduate from high school with a regular high school diploma;
  • Implement an early warning system to quickly identify students at risk of dropping out of high school. The system would track student absenteeism, one of the greatest predictors of students who may drop out of school;
  • Include a comprehensive college guidance program that ensures all students and their parents are regularly notified of high school graduation requirements and college entrance requirements. The program would provide guidance and assistance to students applying to postsecondary education and who are seeking federal, state, local, and private financial aid assistance and scholarships;
  • Implement a program that offers all students opportunities for work-based and experiential learning such as job-shadowing, internships, and community service, so students make the connection between what they are learning in school and how it applies to the workplace;
  • Implement a student advisement program in which all students are assigned to and have regular meetings with an academic teacher advisor.
Senator Burr is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP).
For more information, please visit Senator Burr's website at burr.senate.gov.