November 10, 2015

Oregon Lawmakers Urge Congress to Target High School Graduation Rates

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici today urged Congressional leaders to target high school graduation rates in Oregon and across the country as part of a larger K-12 education bill.

The Senate passed its version of the education bill in July, which contains a Wyden-authored provision to help schools raise their graduation rates by making more low-income and low-performing middle and high schools eligible for federal funding that can be used to help schools improve student achievement.

The Senate bill, the Every Child Achieves Act, would reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act covering K-12 education, to give states more flexibility in setting standards for schools and monitor how federal dollars are allocated to school districts.

Specifically, the graduation rate provision expands eligibility for federal School Improvement Grants to middle and high schools where 40 percent or more of the student population comes from low-income households.

“We hope you will agree that improving graduation rates is a worthy investment that ought to be prioritized in any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” the Oregon lawmakers wrote in the letter.

High schools can use school improvement grants to improve graduation rates with efforts such as intensive drop-out prevention and re-entry programs and extended learning time programs. However, the majority of high schools, including more than 100 high-poverty high schools in Oregon, are ineligible for the kinds of federal support that can help schools improve. Nationally, there are more than 2,000 such schools. Last year, Oregon received more than $5 million in school improvement grants to help schools raise graduation rates and boost their overall performance.

Higher graduation rates have been linked to lower unemployment and better earnings.

Read the letter here and find one-page summary of the graduation rate provision in the Every Child Achieves Act here.

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