Burr Introduces “Graduate for a Better Future Act”

Bipartisan legislation to help increase high school graduation rates; better prepare students for college and work

Washington, D.C. - Today U.S. Senator Richard Burr introduced the Graduate for a Better Future Act. Burr's legislation aims to help public high schools improve graduation rates by focusing on the 3 R's of high school reform: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. The bill establishes a competitive grant program targeted at school districts and high schools with the lowest graduation rates. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is the lead co-sponsor of the legislation.

"I believe investing in education is one of the best ways to secure a bright future for North Carolina," Burr said. "It is simply unacceptable that over 30% of North Carolina's public high school students do not go on to graduate. Students should stay in school so they are better prepared for today's jobs and for America to retain its competitive edge in the world economy."

The high school graduation rate for the class of 2003 was only 70% nationwide. North Carolina's graduation rate was slightly less at 69%. Almost one-third of American students who enter high school in ninth grade never receive a high school diploma. Nationally, the high school graduation rate for white students in 2003 was 78%, the rate for African American students was 55%, and the rate for Hispanic students was 53%.

"While these statistics are alarming, I know students, schools, and communities can do better. We must. My legislation would give schools the tools they need to help keep more young people in school," Burr said.

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.

Specifically, the legislation would create a competitive grant program to:

Create models of excellence for academically challenging public high schools to prepare all students for college and work;

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 experiences 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.

In a report for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Civic Enterprises recently conducted a survey of high school dropouts and found 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; 66% said they would have worked harder in school if expectations had been higher; 81% realized a high school diploma was vital to their success in life; and 74% said they would have stayed in school if they had the opportunity to do it all over again.

Senator Burr is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP).

For more information go to https://www.burr.senate.gov

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