Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senators Patty Murray and Mark Pryor this week introduced the Secondary School Innovation Fund, a bill that will reform America’s middle and high schools to better prepare our students to compete in the 21st-Century global economy.
“We need innovative approaches to help improve student achievement and graduation rates – otherwise our secondary schools will continue to struggle to produce students ready for higher education and the workforce,” Reid said. “Realigning secondary schools to meet new, demanding requirements and competition requires innovation and effective, systemic reform. That’s what this bill sets out to accomplish.”
Said Murray: “Competing in the 21st Century economy will require giving our students the skills they need to succeed. Right now, there is a gap between the skills our students are entering the workforce with and the skills that employers demand. This bill recognizes that to make progress we have to make partnerships – between middle and high schools, higher education, businesses and local communities. It also embraces the most innovative education practices to give students the best chance to succeed.”
“A high school diploma is a prerequisite for a good job, but schools need to help students exceed this benchmark and reach their full potential,” Pryor said. “This bill provides schools with the flexibility, accountability and resources necessary to retain students’ interest in learning and prepare them for success in today’s global economy.”
The Secondary School Innovation Fund would:
- Provide grants to partnerships between state education agencies or school districts with institutes of higher education, community-based organizations, non-profits, businesses, or school development organizations to create innovative models of reform in our nation’s secondary schools.
- Create evidence-based, systemic and replicable models of reform in secondary schools that improve student achievement and prepare students to succeed in post-secondary education and the 21st-Century workforce.
- Support a variety of strategies for innovation in secondary schools such as multiple pathways, personalization and smaller learning communities, early college and dual enrollment, career academies, improved transitions and alignment, expanded learning time, post-secondary and work-based learning opportunities, increased autonomy and flexibility at the school level, improved learning opportunities in rural schools, enhanced parental and community involvement, and increasing rigor at all levels of secondary education, including middle grades, aligned with post-secondary education and the workforce.
- Provide for research, evaluation and accountability to ensure that federal funding would only be sustained for programs with demonstrated improvement in student achievement. The Secretary of Education would distribute “best practices” based on the research and evaluation.
- Authorize $500 million in competitive grants for six years.
Only one-third of the students who begin ninth grade this fall will graduate prepared for college or the workforce. The remaining two-thirds will either leave school without the skills they need to succeed, or they will not graduate at all.
This bill will transform our nation’s middle- and high schools and give millions of young Americans – particularly poor and minority students – their best chances to succeed.