- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner yesterday announced a plan to reform high schools nationwide and make senior year worthwhile.

As chairman of the National Governors Association, Mr. Warner said the yearlong initiative — “Redesigning the American High School” — will make it easier for seniors to earn college credit for college-level courses and improve vocational education so that those who don’t attend college can learn a profitable trade.

He said he hopes that the initiative can eliminate “senioritis” and increase graduates’ earning potential.

The Washington Times reported yesterday that Mr. Warner would announce the plan, which he estimated would save parents at least one semester’s worth of tuition. The plan aims to enhance coordination among high schools, community colleges and universities to ensure that incoming students get credit for the college-level courses.

“Senior year can sometimes be a waste of time or not fully taken advantage of,” Mr. Warner said yesterday, characterizing his plan as “the equivalent of giving the parent a $5,000 voucher.”

Under the plan, prestigious schools, such as the University of Virginia, will have to turn away fewer deserving applicants because students can use transfer credits to graduate more quickly, he said.

To kick off the program, Mr. Warner spoke with seniors at George Marshall High in Falls Church to get their thoughts on making the last year of high school more engaging.

“The voice of the students has been missing in this conversation about high-school reform that has been going on among the experts and policy-makers,” the Democratic governor said yesterday. “The class of 2005 may have the best ideas we need. If the students we are trying to help don’t see the value of redesigning high school, we are wasting our time.”

He said he also wants advice from school officials, teachers and parents.

The governors association will fund the project, in part, through foundation grants. No figures on the project’s cost were available yesterday.

The association’s Chairman’s Task Force — which includes Maine Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, and Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, both Republicans — will operate the project.

“The nation’s governors are eager to make sure high schools offer students the kinds of choices that will make a difference in their futures,” Mr. Warner said.

He also emphasized a plan to improve the value of vocational education by ensuring that teachers hold certifications in their respective fields.

The governor said his plan will motivate students to work hard throughout their senior year.

The National Governors Association will conduct a national online survey of 10,000 high-school seniors about their final year, Mr. Warner said. The results will be presented next summer at the association’s annual meeting.

The association will hold a national education summit on high school in February and develop a best-practices list of achievable policy actions. It also will hold televised town-hall meetings nationwide to discuss the initiative.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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