The National Education Association is recommending that Iowa and the nation’s other 49 states adopt laws which require all students to graduate from high school. Iowa currently requires students to attend school until they reach the age of 17. N-E-A president Reg Weaver says those sorts of “compulsory attendance” laws aren’t enough.
“We are interested in talking with all of America to help them recognize that there is a dropout problem. Thirty percent of our young people are not being able to take advantage of a great public school,” Weaver says. “We would like the public to recognize this and begin to do something about it.” That 30 percent figure Weaver cites is the national high school dropout rate. In Iowa, just over 90 percent of the students who were freshman in 2001 graduated four years later.
The teachers union is asking the federal government set aside a billion dollars in each of the next 10 years to help states set up programs for students who may be prime candidates for an early exit from high school.
“Working to make sure that kids, their reasons for dropping out of school, are identified early to help them stay in school,” Weaver says. Some of Iowa’s schools, especially those in urban areas, have already have dropout prevention programs in place. The National Education Association president says schools can’t do this alone — it will take parents, policymakers, the business community and others to join in the effort to make it a success.
“What has occurred in the past is that the responsibility has been given to one group or another…but if, in fact, we have everybody working together, it’s going to work much better,” Weaver says. “That’s the reason why 3.2 million members of the National Education Association would like to think that they are serving as a catalyst to cause people to come together to see that it is no longer acceptable for kids to think that it is O.K. to drop out of school.”