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Stage Three: Middle School to High School and Beyond
What You Should Know
The middle and high school years are important crossroads. Some students find themselves on track for a meaningful diploma and a bright future. But far too many simply mark time or drop out. The dropout rate for Hispanic students is nearly four times higher than the rate for white students. Students who drop out face a lifetime of lowered earnings and diminished employment as adults.
Even for students on track to graduate, unfortunately, not all high school diplomas are created equal. One recent independent study found that two-thirds of students leave high school unprepared to apply to a four-year university.
President Bush wants every high school diploma to become a ticket to success in the workforce or higher education. The key is challenging coursework, strong accountability, and safe, disciplined classrooms. The U.S. Department of Education is working to make this happen. But we cannot do it alone; parents and educators must play a vital role.
What You Can Do
About 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs of the future will require some college or technical education after high school. So parents who want to prepare their children for this future should encourage them to take the right classes in middle and high school.
It is important that schools offer challenging pre-college coursework and Advanced Placement (AP) classes to their students. Ask your school's principal if it does. The following is a list of courses that your child may wish to consider taking each year to become prepared for college:
- Math (Algebra I, Algebra II, trigonometry, pre-calculus)
- Foreign languages
- Natural sciences
- History / social studies
As soon as your child enrolls in high school, talk with a school guidance counselor about what he or she needs to do to get ready for and be admitted to college. When your child is a junior, talk with a guidance counselor again about the steps you and your child need to take to apply for admission to a college or university. Get information about how much it costs to attend college and what financial aid is available. With grants and loans, college can become much more affordable.
To learn more about how to be prepared both academically and financially for college, please go to http://studentaid.ed.gov/. At the top right-hand side you can select information in English or Spanish. Or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
How No Child Left Behind Can Help You
No Child Left Behind asks that states measure high school students at least once before graduation. Testing is important because it allows teachers to identify which students are falling behind academically so they can be helped before it's too late.
The U.S. Department of Education's proposed 2006 budget would institute testing in two additional high school grades. It's part of a proposed $1.5 billion High School Initiative that would also provide academic intervention for incoming ninth-graders struggling with reading or math.
We know a great deal about what instruction works best for high school students. President Bush's Striving Readers program and proposed new Secondary Education Mathematics Initiative are strongly focused on their development.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, some federal aid is provided for middle school Advanced Placement preparation classes and to cover the cost of AP tests at the high school level. The Department has proposed increased federal funding for AP courses so that more disadvantaged students will have access to the rigorous coursework that colleges and universities value.
Finally, to help more families afford college, the Department has proposed raising the maximum Pell Grant from $4,050 to $4,550 per year. Millions of students could benefit.