250 Educators, Business Leaders, Parents, Students Participate in Governor Lynch ' s Summit

From the Office of Governor John Lynch

CONCORD - More than 250 educators, business and community leaders, elected officials, parents, and students gathered in Concord today to discuss strategies for keeping New Hampshire ' s young people in school at Gov. John Lynch ' s Summit on Increasing New Hampshire ' s High School Graduation Rate.

" We are here today because we share the same goal: making sure every New Hampshire child receives a high school diploma. We are here because we all recognize that it is time for us to stop discussing and commiserating about New Hampshire ' s high school dropout problem; it is time we take action to fix it, " Gov. Lynch said at the opening of today ' s Summit.

Gov. Lynch, joined by bipartisan legislative co-sponsors, has proposed legislation to increase the state ' s compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18. If approved by the legislature, the law would go into effect in the 2008-2009 school year.

" I believe that increasing the compulsory attendance age to 18 is a critical first step in an overall strategy to dramatically cut our dropout rate. It forces all of us - parents, teachers, elected officials, students, business and community leaders - to work together to make sure our schools work better for all of our students. And this legislation gives us a deadline we have to meet, " Gov. Lynch said.

" But increasing the compulsory attendance age is only the first step. We are here today to look at the next steps - to discuss how we will meet this deadline and what additional measures we need to take to make sure more students not only go to school, but also want to be in school, " Gov. Lynch said.

An estimated 2,300 New Hampshire students dropped out of high school last year.

In a statement released today, John Bridgeland, author of a recent Gates Foundation Study, The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts, said:

" Governor Lynch is showing terrific leadership in ensuring that state law is consistent with our financial and moral commitment to educate young people through the 12th grade and in bringing leaders across the state together to discuss how we can support these young people, offer them a variety of options to keep them engaged in school, and increase graduation rates. "
The survey ' s findings included that the majority of dropouts would stay in school if they had it to do over again; that most had many absences before they dropped out - absences that their parents were unaware of and that were unchallenged by their schools; that a majority had grades of C or better when they left; and that few students leave school before age 16, the compulsory attendance age in most states.

" The clear message from these survey results is that these students can be kept in school, and can succeed in school. We need to think creatively about how to better engage them in their education, " Gov. Lynch said.

Summit participants broke up into eight groups to discuss strategies for successfully increasing New Hampshire ' s high school graduation rate: alternative learning, career and technical education, internships and apprenticeships, community social service supports, law enforcement and ensuring a safe learning environment, high school redesign, the pre-high school years, and the roles and responsibilities of students and parents.

The Department of Education will compile the recommendations of the Summit participants into a report that will be submitted to the Governor and legislature.

Gov. Lynch said he will work with the Department of Education, local school districts, and the business community and to implement the Summit ' s recommendations, and work with the legislature during the next state budget process to consider any additional funding that may be necessary.