Obama proposes $90 million to address nation’s dropout rate


President Barack Obama has proposed $900 million to address the nation’s dropout rate.

This money would go to districts that agree to reform or close down 5,000 of the nation’s lowest-performing schools over the next five years.

Obama has drawn a lot of anger for supporting a Rhode Island school that recently fired all its teachers. He cited the case as an example of how a district is holding schools accountable. 

The Emergency Financial Manager in Detroit has recently said that he would also consider firing all Detroit Public School teachers.

Currently, about 70 percent of high school freshmen end up with a diploma. School districts like Detroit graduate only 27% of their students. Recently the Michigan legislature adopted a new law raising the dropout age to 18.

This $900 million for the dropout prevention program was added to Obama’s 2011 budget proposal, and is in addition to $3.5 billion of education funds included in last year’s economic stimulus bill. 

Dropout strategies would cost $50 million, including personalized instruction, using data to identify at-risk students, and helping them transition to college. 

How would districts qualify for the stimulus money to help dropouts?

In order to obtain the stimulus money, school districts must adopt one of the following approaches: 

1) The Turnaround Model is when a school district must replace the principal and at least half of the school staff. In addition, they must adopt new leadership and new instructional programs. 

2) Restart Model: The school district must close and reopen the school as a charter school. 

3) School Closure: The school district must close the failing school and enroll the students in other schools in the district.

4) Transformational Model: The school must address teacher effectiveness, instruction, learning and teacher planning time, and operational flexibility. 

Obama announced the proposal at a Chamber of Commerce education event sponsored by the America’s Promise Alliance, the youth organization founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma.

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