|Comment Period||Ends 11/5/2008|
Dear Members of the Board of Education,
I am a member of the Juvenile Law and Policy Clinic at the University of Richmond’s T.C. Williams School of Law. I am a strong advocate for education and I appreciate the Board’s efforts that have brought graduation to the forefront of education issues affecting Virginia. I would like for the Board to take a stronger stand on promoting graduation, and realize that we now live in society where graduating from high school is a key step for sculpting our youth to achieve the careers of their choosing.
As a young adult who is faced with the challenges of being from a biracial background and from a poor rural area, I would like for the Board to consider my own personal experiences while reconsidering their current proposal. Several people I knew growing up had to face the negative effects of not receiving a high school diploma. I think the most disturbing story that I can present to the Board is that of a man who is a good friend of my family. He is a Lumbee Indian from Lumberton, North Carolina and he never graduated from high school. He did attend the Indian Normal School for a period of time, but never completed his education. He has spent his adult life either working menial jobs or battling drug problems. He has also spent time incarcerated. The saddest part about this man is that when you talk to him he is actually an intelligent man that could have done much more with his life if he had been able to complete high school.
I would like for the Board to consider the national statistic that if male graduation rates were increased by only 5% that our nation would save $49 billion in crime-related costs annually. While I commend the Board of Education for helping to increase the overall graduation rate for male students, I ask that the Board disaggregate the graduation data between white males and black males. The graduation rate for white males in Virginia is 75% where as the graduation rate for black males in Virginia is 54%. According to a national study, high school graduates make over twice the amount high school dropouts make. A high school graduate on average makes approximately $36,500.00 per year where as a high school dropout makes only around $17,200.00 per year. The Virginia Government found in their study “Virginia Performs” that the main reason for a student dropping out of high school is family income. By allowing 25% of white males to not receive high school diplomas and 46% of black males to not receive a high school diploma we are ensuring that these statistics will never get any better. Accordingly, I ask the Board to give schools incentives to retain students and to help remedy the perpetuation of high dropout rates.
I realize that some students aren’t included within the graduation rates or the drop out rates because they pursued alternative credentials, such as a GED. The current proposal by the Board holds these alternative credentials to be the equivalent of a high school diploma. This proposal paints an unrealistic view of GED recipients since they generally perform at a lower level than high school graduates. In fact, when the Board considers their current proposals I would like them to consider the following facts about the GED:
o The single 7 hour test has more than 4 out of 10 test-takers failing the exam, 
o GED recipients earn on average $18,700.00 a year, 
o GED recipients earn $216,500.00 less than those who receive a high school diploma,
o GED recipients experience more than twice the rate of unemployment as do high school graduates,
o GED recipients lose job and promotion opportunities to high school diploma earners,
o 95 out of 100 GED earners who start a 4 year college program dropout, and
o 75 out of 100 GED earners who start a career or technical college program do not finish.
I also would like for the board to consider the following solutions when addressing the aforementioned problems:
o In regards to dropout prevention, I ask that you consider rewarding schools who keep students engaged. We also ask that you consider implementing retention programs to keep students in school.
o With diplomas, I ask that full credit not be given for credentials that don’t offer full opportunities. GEDs, Certificates of Program Completion, Special Diplomas, and Modified Standard Diplomas do not have the same weight in the labor market as do high school diplomas, and you should not allow students to think they do. I also would like you to consider creating incentives for early planning and high expectations. In addition, please consider only giving full credit for standard and advanced while other options are weighted according to the value to the student after high school.
o I also ask the board to help increase graduation rates for Virginia’s most vulnerable students including those who are economically disadvantaged, disabled, who have limited English proficiency, and minority students. If we disaggregate graduation data about Virginia’s most vulnerable students, then we are working towards achieving success for all.
Thank you board members for your time and consideration. I sincerely hope that you will consider the above information and the significant effects that your proposal can have upon the education of our youth.
U of R Juris Doctorate Candidate 2010
6830 Drayson Drive
Richmond, VA 23226
 Alliance for Excellent Education, Saving Futures, Saving Dollars: The Impact of Education on Crime Reduction and Earnings, 2006.
 Legal Aid Justice Center, Take Action on Graduation, 2008.
 Alliance for Excellent Education, The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools, 2007.
 J. J. Heckman and P. A. LaFontaine, The GED and the Problem of Noncognitive Skills in America, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming.
 "2007 GED Testing Program Statistical Report", GED Testing Service Research Studies, 2007
 "Economic and Noneconomic Outsome for GED Credential Recipients", GED Testing Service Research Studies, 2008
 "The Nonequivalence of High School Equivalents", Cameron, S.V. and Heckman, J. J.. 1991.
 "General Academic Achievement of Adult High School Dropouts", GED Testing Service Research Studies, 2002-1