Sunday, May 19, 2013
Murkowski Unveils High School Graduation Bill
While Anchorage graduates about 70 percent of its students, there are some districts in Alaska that graduate less than half of their students.
Senator Lisa Murkowski has introduced a new bill she hopes will raise high school graduation rates. Several states have very low rates, and Alaska is one of them.
While Anchorage graduates about 70 percent of its students, there are some districts in Alaska that graduate less than half of their students. Murkowski believes the push to keep kids in school comes much too late.
“If we take the approach or have the mind set that we are really going to focus on high school, that we are really going to work them hard in high school, some of our kids are going to make it that far and others are not,” Murkowski said.
Murkowski says the answer isn’t spending more money, it’s taking federal dollars that are already allocated for drop-out prevention programs and spending them in different ways. She says the key is catching kids who are at risk when they first enter the school system, and in some cases, even before.
Diane Teekell Opitz is a first grade teacher who says she can spot students who are likely to struggle later on as young as kindergarten. For them, she said, early intervention is critical.
“I imagine there are many students that don’t even make it to middle school because they give up at sixth grade” said Teekell Optiz. “Their academic deficits are so great, the gap is so wide, that it's just too much of a mountain to catch up.”
Murkowski’s plan would allow states to apply for five year grants, identify young children who need help and work with parents and community organizations to get it.
Anchorage Superintendent Carol Comeau said that makes sense to her.
“The other approach has been tried and it isn’t working,” said Comeau. “Let’s try something new and really address the research that says that from zero to five is the most important time for brain development and family involvement.”
"If we can do that, I think we can keep moving forward."