6 million kids at risk
of failing in school
Advocacy group wants more literacy programs for
By Fredreka Schouten / Gannett News Service
/ Detroit News / September 24, 2002
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Nearly 6 million middle and high school students perform so
poorly in school that they are likely to drop out or become
trapped in dead-end jobs -- a circumstance that puts the
nation's productivity at risk, according to a report out
One in four high school students read at "below basic" levels,
and more than one in four eighth-graders fail to graduate on
time from high school, said the report from the
Excellent Education, an advocacy and research group that
focuses on improving secondary education.
To address what it calls a "growing academic crisis," the
alliance wants Congress to expand literacy programs to teens
and give a $4,000 annual income-tax credit to teachers and
principals who work in schools that serve poor kids.
The report comes as the nation's schools focus on putting in
place President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, which
requires annual testing in reading and math in grades three
through eight and once in high school.
Districts focus on younger children, the alliance said, and
only 15 percent of federal money to help poor children goes to
low-performing secondary students.
"Students who drop out or fail to advance to college have
significantly lower annual and lifetime incomes than those who
stay in school and earn higher degrees," said Richard Riley,
an advisory board member and education secretary during the
The group said college grad jobs will grow by about 25 percent
by 2008, but high school graduate jobs will grow by just 9
Substandard math and science skills among high school
graduates have long troubled education policy experts and
business executives. Increasingly, U.S. companies have turned
to talent from abroad.
The alliance also recommends:
* Creating a literacy program to train teachers in all
subjects to improve reading and writing skills of middle and
high school students at high-poverty schools.
* Supplying up to $20,000 in grants to college juniors with a
3.4 grade-point average in their major and who agree to teach
in schools with serious staffing problems.
* Forgive up to $17,500 in college loans for highly qualified
teachers who agree to teach for four years in understaffed