Laura Bush To Announce 2nd Education Initiative

DALLAS (AP) – The George W. Bush Institute is planning to introduce its second big education initiative Wednesday, a program that seeks to improve graduation rates by focusing on middle schools.

Former first lady Laura Bush, set to announce the initiative, “Middle School Matters,” in Houston at Stovall Middle School in the Aldine school district, said research has shown that middle school — 6th through 8th grade — is a crucial time in determining future success.

“We know now from research that a lot of kids that drop out in high school really drop out in middle school. They just leave in high school,” she said.

“One of the goals will be making sure they are prepared for high school,” she said.

For the program, the institute has compiled research done by various institutions on what determines success in middle schools and plans to take that information and work with middle schools to implement new practices.

The program focuses on 11 elements for success, including school leadership, reading interventions, effective teachers, dropout prevention and school, student, family and community support. The Bush Institute’s research team has come up with specific measures that can be taken in the classroom to improve performance in all of these elements.

“Within each area, researchers are coming up with principles and practices to implement,” said Kerri Briggs, the Bush Institute’s director of education reform.

For example, the institute said, dropout preventions could include assigning adult advocates to meet regularly with students at risk of dropping out. Those advocates could also greet students as they arrive, meet with students to review grades and assignments and regularly talk with the student’s parents.

The research team is working to make sure all the components of the program are in place. They plan by the 2012-2013 school year to implement the program in 10-15 schools. And then, making adjustments in the program from what they’ve learned, will add more schools in the 2014-2015 school year.

“We’ve got a lot of good feedback so far,” she said. “We think there’s an appetite for this.”

“It’s an integrated, holistic approach,” said Briggs, adding that many schools are facing a budget crunch and are mindful of costs.

“Middle school is such a time of transition,” Briggs said. “Lots of things are going on with them. It’s those middle school years that we think are foundational to success in high school.”

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a policy institute, says one-third of students — about 1.3 million each year — leave high school without a diploma.

Wanda Bamberg, superintendent of the Aldine school district who helped develop the program, said she would like at least one of her middle schools to participate in the program. She said it will be a good opportunity for teachers and school officials to get guidance from researchers from around the country.

“They will actually have people come into the schools and work with staff, and that’s an opportunity,” she said. “When people are trying to improve, they really do value those opportunities.”

Andrea Prejean, deputy director of education policy and practice for the National Education Association, a teachers’ union with 3 million members, notes that there are many “outside fixer” groups focusing on education that incorporate research. She said there is a lot of good research out there and that the key to interventions is making sure educators are part of the process.

“Certainly we welcome any group that wants to join us in making sure that every student has a great public school,” she said.

Noting that there are no “quick fixes,” she said it takes at least five years to determine whether an intervention has been effective.

The Bush Institute is part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which will also include a presidential library and is set to be completed in 2013 on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

The institute, which is already up and running, focuses on education reform, global health, human freedom and economic growth. Last year, the institute unveiled its first big education initiative, which focuses on improving the performance of school principals. The institute’s Alliance to Reform Education Leadership, or AREL, will consist of school districts, universities and foundations offering educational programs to current and future school leaders.

Initial funding for the Bush Institute’s middle school project comes from a $500,000 donation from the Meadows Foundation.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments

One Comment

  1. Nancy Stephens says:

    You absolutely must be joking. The Republican state government is cutting the education fund by a few billion. School districts will be laying off administrators and teachers. Get real, Laura.

  2. Rick McDaniel says:

    You will achieve greater success by encouraging people to take their kids from public schools, and put them into private schools, or home schooling.

    All public schools do, is provide an arena for peer pressure, and bad behavior, and then when a child in disciplined, parents complain, destroying all effectiveness of the discipline.

  3. JO says:

    i WON’T BE AROUND TO SEE THE RESULTS, BUT LAURA BUSH HAS THE RIGHT IDEA AND I WISH THEM WELL.

  4. Barbara Fairbanks says:

    The Bushes cared about kids and their education when they were in office and they’re continuing on in their private life. You can say what you will about “No Child Left Behind” but it sure did expose the deficiencies in our public education. I hope they and their program succeeds in graduating many of those who would be walking out the doors in high school. What we have now isn’t working. Last I heard we’re not even in the top 25 nations when it comes to education. More money and more of the same old, same old isn’t going to change anything. Lets appreciate those who come up with a better way. Time will tell.

  5. Lyn C. Cromwell says:

    WOW, a whole $500, 000 to fund this initiative, when UT Austin is getting $200 million from television royalties for football broadcasts and Allen ISD is building a $60 Million football stadium which garnered an article in the NY Times. Maybe they can share some of their money.

    If this is the second big initiative, what was the first big initiative of the George W. Bush Institute?

    Where are you going to find and how will you train the adult advocates? Isn’t this part of what the parents are supposed to do?

    I copy from the article above “The program focuses on 11 elements for success, including school leadership, reading interventions, effective teachers, dropout prevention and school, student, family and community support. The Bush Institute’s research team has come up with specific measures that can be taken in the classroom to improve performance in all of these elements.

    “Within each area, researchers are coming up with principles and practices to implement,” said Kerri Briggs, the Bush Institute’s director of education reform.”

    I bring up two points here. The first is, will these measures be like the TAKS Tests and we will have the teachers teaching to the tests? The second is an Institute cannot possess. Therefore, Institute’s is not proper grammar. And these people are going to tell teachers how to improve education!

    I end with another quote from the article, “The institute’s Alliance to Reform Education Leadership, or AREL, will consist of school districts, universities and foundations offering educational programs to current and future school leaders.”
    How will the current and future school leaders be discovered and nominated? Will they come from students only? What foundations besides The Meadows is on board with education programs? What really is in place at this time so we can truly believe there is a prayer of success for this program?

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