Udall Initiative Would Increase Graduation Rate, Help Underperforming Schools

Sen. Tom Udall
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With graduation season underway, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced a bill today that would increase the graduation rate in New Mexico and across the nation.
Nationwide, approximately one-fifth of high school students drop out of school each year. According to the New Mexico Public Education Department, the state’s graduation rate was 70.3 percent in 2012, with a 67.7 percent rate for Hispanic students and 64.9 percent for Native Americans. In addition, New Mexico’s state’s high school dropouts face a 13 percent unemployment rate and earn an average annual income of $11,500.
“High schools across New Mexico are celebrating the hard work and accomplishments of graduating seniors,” Udall said. “Unfortunately, New Mexico has one of the lowest graduation rates across the country and too many of our young people will not walk across the stage in front of their families and peers.”
The Graduation Promise Act would offer grants to states and other entities for schools to identify and replicate best practices to help every child succeed and graduate.
The bill invests in a High School Improvement and Dropout Reduction Fund and distributes state grants, based on poverty and graduate rates, to establish or expand statewide high school improvement systems.
It would also look at successful programs already being carried out locally and provide additional funding to replicate those models in other school districts and underperforming schools.
“We must do a better job of increasing graduation rates to prepare our youth for the future and boost the state’s economic opportunities. My bill will help — not punish — underperforming schools, by providing resources to local school districts so they can develop solutions to improve graduation rates based on the needs of each community,” Udall said.
States would develop a set of school performance indicators to determine the support each school needs, and would require detailed district improvement plans and monitoring systems driven by data and best practices to ensure resources are utilized effectively.
Finally, the bill sets aside two percent of any funding specifically for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools, including 45 affiliated BIA schools in New Mexico.
School districts, colleges and non-profits would also be eligible for grant funding to develop dropout prevention programs in local schools and expand best practices to better prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce.
The Graduation Promise Act is supported by Communities In Schools of New Mexico, the National Education Association of New Mexico and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The text of the legislation can be accessed here.

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