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Virginia Journal of Education


Reducing Dropout Problem
‘Best Economic Stimulus’

WASHINGTON, D.C.—If the U.S. had wiped out the problem of high school students dropping out in 2009, the country could have benefited from nearly $335 billion in extra money that those students would have earned over the course of their lifetimes, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, a policy and advocacy group.

Furthermore, not only will young people who drop out of high school earn less than their peers who graduate, they are also more likely to be out of work. In July 2009, the unemployment rate for high school dropouts was 15.4 percent, compared to 9.4 percent for people with a high school diploma, 7.9 percent for individuals with some college credits or an associate’s degree, and 4.7 percent for college graduates.

“As these findings show, the best economic stimulus is a high school degree,” says Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and the former governor of West Virginia. “Given the tremendous financial drag dropouts have on the economy, it is imperative that the nation focus attention on students most at risk of dropping out if it is to achieve long-term economic stability.”

In the U.S. currently, some 7,000 students drop out every day, adding up to almost 1.3 million students each year who won’t graduate with their class.

Virginia Outscores Nation
On All Facets of SAT

RICHMOND—Students in Virginia public schools increased achievement in reading and math on the SAT in 2009, and also did better than their peers nationwide on all three subsections of the test.

Some highlights of the results:

• Virginia’s public school average score of 509 in reading is 13 points higher than the nationwide public school average.
• Public school students in the commonwealth scored an average of 511 on the math SAT, one point higher than the national public school average.
• In writing, Virginia’s public school students scored 495, eight points higher than the national public school average.
• Black and Hispanic students in Virginia again achieved at higher levels on all three SAT subsections than their peers across the country.
• In the last decade, Virginia students have increased their average SAT scores by 3 points in reading and 14 points in math, compared with a decline nationwide of 6 points in reading and a gain of two points in math.

“Virginia students continue to demonstrate that they are among the best prepared in the nation for the challenges of postsecondary education,” says Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Average scores may fluctuate from year to year but our students are consistently among the highest-performing in the nation.”

Stimulus Funds Used
Primarily to Fill Gaps

ARLINGTON—While school divisions across the country are grateful for the federal stimulus dollars coming their way, much of those funds are going to make up for financial gaps created by state and local budget shortfalls, says a new report from the American Association of School Administrators. AASA surveyed school officials in 37 states about American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds in July and August. Here are some of the highlights of the survey:

• When asked about how their school divisions are using ARRA funds to create innovation and reform, over two-thirds of respondents said that stimulus money is being used to fill funding gaps, or represents only a small growth in funding levels.

• School divisions are using one-time funds to save teaching and staff positions; however, less than half of respondents say they’ve been able to save core teaching positions using ARRA funds, and a majority of districts also were unable to save positions such as librarians, foreign language teachers, teacher aides, support professionals and art/music/physical education teachers.

• When asked how they intend to spend ARRA Title I funds, the top five responses by school officials were professional development (63 percent); saving existing personnel positions (58 percent); classroom technology (53 percent); classroom equipment and supplies (38 percent); and software (35 percent).

“The survey results echo a frustration my colleagues and I have long articulated,” says AASA President Mark Bielang, a Michigan superintendent. “Limited flexibility for the existing federal education funds cuts down on our ability to innovate, and the stimulus dollars come with limitations. In light of the tight economic situation at the federal, state and local levels, a little flexibility goes a long way toward supporting educator efforts to innovate and reform America’s public schools.”



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