New grant to target school dropouts

School buses in Fairfax County, Va.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: President Obama today is expected to introduce a new White House plan to reduce the school dropout rate. The president will target America's lowest-performing schools. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer joins us live from Washington. Hi Nancy.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: Good morning.

Radke: We've told our listeners quite a bit about the president's education plans, the Race to the Top program. How is today's proposal new?

Marshall Genzer: Well Bill, Race to the Top is a competitive program, as its name implies, where states vie for federal money. The proposal being announced today is more of grant program. It's called the School Turnaround Grant program and its targeted at schools with graduation rates below 60 percent. And the president included $900 million for this in his 2011 budget. The plan is to reach kids early. The White House says you can tell in sixth grade which students are most likely to drop out.

Radke: OK, so this is a targeted program, and what do schools that get this money have to do?

Marshall Genzer: There are definitely strings attached. Districts have to choose one of four approaches, and they are all pretty drastic. The districts would have to replace principals or close failing schools. Those schools would be re-opened as charters in some cases, or the students would be sent to better schools in their districts. And schools would also have to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

Radke: And what about schools that don't get these grants? What's the president saying about them?

Marshall Genzer: Well, the administration might increase funding for alternative high schools, and they are specifically designed to help kids at risk of dropping out.

Radke: Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer. Thank you.

Marshall Genzer: You're welcome.

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