Thursday, November 18, 2004

Governor Mark Warner's High School Initiative

Gov. Mark Warner would have been considered for Secretary of Education had Kerry won. At it is, Margaret Spellings was announced yesterday and Warner is term limited. His tenure as Governor will end next year. He will probably run for Senate in 2006 and/or the Presidency in 2008. In the meantime, he is the chairman of the National Governor's Association (NGA) and he has put much of his considerable energy into "redesigning" American high schools.

This is an initiative I will be watching closely. Gov. Warner has teamed with three other governors -- Huckabee (R-AR), Taft (R-OH), and Baldacci (D-ME) -- to make high schools more "rigorous and relevant." The commentary he (or a staffer?) penned for yesterday's Education Week was abysmal. It didn't even mention one of the points that I think would really attract many of the readers of EdWeek: making schools smaller. I wrote a scathing critique of Governor Warner's plan but I never posted it because I came across this communique from the people at the NGA. They did a far better job to convince me that this initiative to redesign high schools is worthwhile:

Gov. Warner's initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was driven, in part, by studies that show three in 10 high school students today fail to graduate. Even worse, barely half of African-American and Hispanic ninth graders finish high school in four years. Of those students who do graduate high school, only 30 percent graduate college-ready--32 percent of entering college freshmen must enroll in a remedial course, and nearly half fail to earn a degree in six years, according to recent studies. Gov. Warner claims the high cost of dropouts has very real consequences for our nation's economy and especially for the low-income and minority students who suffer most.

"Too many of today's young people fail to see the relevance of a high school diploma. And for those college-bound students, too few see the relevance of senior year, opting instead to skate through nine months, only to be left unprepared for the challenge of college," said Gov. Warner. "High school curricula should reflect the realities and the expectations of higher education and today's global marketplace."

Of course, he's properly diagnosed the problem, but whether his prescription will work remains to be seen.


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