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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce Early Intervention for Graduation Success Authorization Act. This legislation would, if enacted, amend the current School Dropout Prevention provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It would focus attention on identifying and helping students who are at risk to not graduate from high school as early as pre-kindergarten and through elementary and middle school.

Some may ask, ``Why are you concentrating on toddlers and elementary school children when you are trying to solve the high school dropout crisis facing our Nation? Why not focus attention and our Nation's scarce resources on high school students, or even middle school students?''

The reason is simple. Early on is when children's troubles in school begin, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. High school and middle school students do not just wake up one day and say, ``I think I'll drop out of school today.'' Twenty-five years of research tells us that dropping out is a long process of frustration, alienation, and even boredom, it is not a sudden decision. We know that students with disabilities, minority and poor children, and students whose home lives are, in all sorts of ways, difficult have lower graduation rates than their peers. The challenges children face today are all too prevalent, and we know the factors that make it harder for them to succeed in school. We know this.

It only makes sense that we re-work the program that is intended to help schools increase their graduation rates so that it actually helps schools help children when we can make the most difference. We need to act before these children have fought for years just to stay afloat, and before they are too tired, frustrated, alienated, and angry to fight anymore.

Factors that have been shown to present a significant risk factor even in elementary school include: low achievement, grade retention, poor attendance, misbehavior and aggression, and low socioeconomic status. Family background characteristics play a role as well, such as family disruption, not living with parents, and parents' low educational attainment. Even low birth weight has been shown by numerous studies to be linked with poor educational outcomes.

My ``Early Intervention for Graduation Success'' bill would focus Federal funds on states that have the lowest graduation rates. State education agencies would be required to develop or update their plans to increase graduation rates. They would also be required to work with health, social services, juvenile justice, and other relevant state agencies to help school districts and early childhood education providers better identify which of their students have research-based risk factors. In turn, schools and early learning providers would be required to develop and update individual learning plans for these students and ensure that the next school of enrollment has the child's plan.

My bill also gives States and partnerships a menu of research-based activities from which to choose to improve services to students, including professional development, program quality improvement, curriculum alignment, community integration and support services, and setting high expectations for academic achievement.

In short, my bill helps States and schools to give students the support they need to achieve their dreams, and inspires them to dream big, right from the very start.

We can continue to spend millions of dollars every year on intensive services for teenagers who are far behind in school, who are frustrated beyond all measure, and who gave up on success long ago. We may even have some limited success helping some young people get back on track and graduate from high school. Or, we can start at the beginning, making sure that the children who already have challenges get the help they need to succeed.

I look forward to passage of this bill or incorporating it into the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.


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