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New Hampshire Summit Continues Work on High School Graduation

The New Hampshire Department of Education planned and conducted a statewide Governor's Summit on High School Graduation on Friday, April 10 for a large audience of superintendents, principals, business leaders, community agencies, and policy makers. In welcoming the participants, Governor John Lynch praised the work of Paul Leather, Director of the Division of Adult Learning of the New Hampshire Department of Education, and his colleagues Susan Randall and Bonnie St. Jean of the New Hampshire Department of Education.

The summit was sponsored by the America's Promise Alliance, a national organization founded by former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell and his wife, Alma Powell, which aims to engage communities in improving high school graduation rates. The New Hampshire Summit featured keynote speaker John Bridgeland, author of The Silent Epidemic and co-author of Grad Nation, the America's Promise Alliance guidance document for community dialogue on and commitment to promoting graduation. Breakout sessions at the summit included presentations on the IES Practice Guide for Dropout Prevention, the National High School Center's Early Warning Indicators Tool, and sessions featuring descriptions of promising practices in high schools around the state. New England Comprehensive Center staff facilitated regional meetings at the end of the day to elicit ideas for strategies to reach the conference goal of ZERO dropouts by 2012. Paul Leather praised NECC's assistance, commending in particular the structure and clarity provided by NECC staff members for discussions at the regional breakout sessions and for the Center's ongoing support.

Initiatives targeting factors contributing to dropout behavior being piloted in New Hampshire schools include extended learning opportunities, dual enrollment arrangements with higher education institutions, and internships with businesses and community agencies. The New Hampshire Department of Education recently reported that since the 2001–02 school year, the state's cumulative dropout rate has fallen from 15.1% to 11.3%. When students who have earned GEDs (general education diplomas) or are enrolled in college (now known as "early exit non-graduates") are taken into account, the rate falls to 9.7%. The aim of the Governor's Summit was to encourage continued efforts to accelerate this promising decline in dropouts. To learn more about New Hampshire's High School Redesign initiative, visit the New Hampshire Department of Education's website.

NECC Deputy Director Karen Laba described the daylong event as "very uplifting" and one that shows "what can be achieved when all hands are working toward the same rewards for students—a rigorous, engaging secondary experience that prepares them for college and career." She called the Summit's zero dropouts goal "ambitious, but do-able."

April 2009