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SOS issued for high schools
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The nation's governors yesterday offered an alarming account of the American high school, saying only drastic change will keep millions of students from falling short.
"We can't keep explaining to our nation's parents or business leaders or college faculties why these kids can't do the work," Virginia Democratic Gov. Mark Warner said as the state leaders convened for the first National Education Summit aimed at rallying governors around high-school reform.
The governors — weary of statistics showing that too many students are coasting, dropping out or failing in college — say they want to emerge today with specific plans for enacting policy.
At least one agreement is likely. Achieve, a nonprofit formed by governors and corporate leaders, plans to announce today that roughly 12 states are committing to raise high-school rigor and align their graduation requirements with skills demanded in college or work.
The high-school summit drew at least 45 governors, including Washington's Christine Gregoire, from the 50 states and five U.S. territories, along with top names in U.S. industry and education. The leaders broke into groups late in the day to debate ideas, and planned to do the same through today.
Most of the summit's first day amounted to an enormous distress call, with speakers using unflattering numbers to define the problem. Among them: Of every 100 ninth-graders, 68 graduate high school on time and 18 make it through college on time, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
Once in college, one in every four students at four-year universities must take at least one remedial course to master what they should have learned in high school, government figures show.
Summit leaders have an ambitious agenda for every state: to raise the requirements for a high-school diploma, improve information sharing between high schools and universities, and align graduation standards with the expectations of colleges and employers. Governors say they're in a position to unite the often-splintered agendas of business leaders, educators and legislatures.
Requiring tougher courses for all students, however, could face opposition from parents and school officials, particularly if more rigor leads to lower test scores and costly training.
"This is an issue that transcends all those typical things that cause people to split in different directions," Huckabee said.
The governors also planned to meet with President Bush and his Cabinet while in Washington.
Warner has made improving high schools the centerpiece of his chairmanship of the National Governors Association, which is co-sponsoring the summit with Achieve. He is considered a possible candidate for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president.
Among the more high-profile governors who did not attend yesterday were two Republicans: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Jeb Bush of Florida, the president's brother.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company