ESEA Reauthorization Presents Opportunity to Address Drop Out Crisis

Apr 01, 2010


By Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt

Across our nation's urban centers and in many rural areas, there is hard evidence that we are failing far too many of our nation's youth.  More than one million young people drop out of high school every year.

But we should not simply view these youth as statistics. They are lost potential and lost human capital, which doesn't bode well for the communities in which they live or for the economic future of our nation.  We simply must do better.

Eight years ago, Congress authorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more widely known as No Child Left Behind. In 2008, the Department of Education amended ESEA regulations to include provisions that require uniform calculation of graduation rates. The new calculation method reveals a dropout crisis far worse than many imagined and startling graduation gaps between whites and students of color. Only 55 percent of African Americans and 58 percent of Hispanics graduate from high school in four years compared with 78 percent of white students.  The percent of students who graduate high school on time is astonishingly low, but it is particularly abysmal for youth of color.

Policymakers should use ESEA reauthorization as an opportunity to retool the law and to put in place measures to ensure that more of our nation's young people earn a high school diploma.  ESEA has made significant progress by revealing the magnitude of the dropout crisis. But what the law hasn't done is provide sound solutions for re-engaging youth who have already dropped out. We not only need measures that help prevent young people from dropping out in the first place, we also need aggressive policies that focus on how to connect with youth who aren't engaged in school or work. Read More.

Download ESEA Reauthorization: Considerations for Dropout Prevention and Recovery. 


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