High school reform will be a top topic among the roughly 30 governors who are expected in Des Moines Friday for the National Governors Association annual convention. Virginia Governor Mark Warner is the group’s chairman. “As I put my chairman’s initiative together, I thought, well, what part of education reform hasn’t received enough attention,” Warner says. “We have, I think appropriately, focused on recruitment and retention of good, quality teachers. We’ve focused on how we raise standards. We’ve focused on preschool education but high school reform had kind of been the odd man out.” Warner says the statistics are troubling.Warner says up to 50 percent of high school students who go on to college aren’t prepared for college-level courses. And the U.S. high school graduation rate is 17th in the world. Warner intends to push the governors to agree upon a common definition of what a drop-out is, and how schools and states calculate their drop-out rates. “You can’t compare states to states,” he says. “We at least ought to be using similar data.” For the past year, Iowa’s Governor has been talking about making high school “more relevant and rigorous.” To that end, Governor Tom Vilsack is touting a new Iowa law that took effect July 1st which puts pressure on schools to drive students into harder classes. Vilsack says the hope is that 80 percent of high school students in Iowa will take the harder courses. The new law also calls on schools to devise a “core curriculum” plan for every junior high student in the state. Vilsack says he and Warner agree that high school reform needs to be at the top of the agenda for the nation’s governors. “Our kids in Iowa aren’t competing against the kids in Virginia, they’re competing against the kids all over the world and that’s the reason why there’s a focus on education,” Vilsack says.
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