“So tonight, I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.”
Words from President Obama’s State of the Union Speech on this past Tuesday evening, January 24, 2012.
It is far past when we should have made this change to require all students to remain in high school until they graduate or turn 18. In most all states, the required attendance remains at (until) each child’s 16th birthday.
When I served as superintendent of schools in Duval County, FL (Nation’s 19th largest school district located in Jacksonville) I worked hard with state legislators to try to convince them to change the law. Appalling, that the only obstacle was the funding that would have to be shifted from building prisons to adding funding to schools. And, “we can’t do that” as was repeatedly said to me, even though the change in the law otherwise resonated with every lawmaker I encountered.
No doubt the work of educating high schoolers needs to continue to improve (and most everywhere it is). We need to provide flexible learning environments, schedules, and experiences. We need to further ratchet up the rigor and the real-world relevance to help teenagers see the value proposition of the work so they want to stay in school. And as I told the FL lawmakers–require them to stay until 18 so that my high school leaders and teachers have a chance to make these improvements, before these children make irreparable choices of dropping out or disengaging. I was not successful in getting the law changed back then, even though we did make many great improvements to the high school experiences of most kids.
Now that the President has called us to action on making a law requiring students to stay in school until age 18 or actually graduating in every state, can we finally move on this? I hope so.