WASHINGTON – January 25, 2005 – Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will deliver the keynote address at the 2005 National Education Summit on High Schools, hosted by Achieve, Inc. and the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C. on February 26-27.
The Summit will bring together governors from the 55 U.S. states and territories along with top business executives and prominent K-12 and higher education leaders to address the urgent need to improve America's high schools so students can meet the demands of today's challenging economy.
"Too many high school students drop out before earning a diploma, and too many of those who graduate are unprepared for the realities of the 21st century economy," said Gates. "This failure of our high school system has dire consequences for our economy, but even more important, it is simply wrong."
Nearly one of three eighth graders in America does not graduate from high school, and half of African- American and Hispanic students do not make it to graduation day. Colleges and employers report that many of those who do graduate lack basic skills. Only a small fraction of those who go on to postsecondary education succeed in earning a degree. Half of those who enter two-year institutions, for example, never return for their second year.
"For most students, high school graduation now marks not the terminus of their education but a way station on the road to college or a job," said Washington Mutual Chairman and CEO Kerry Killinger, the Summit's co-chair and vice-chair of Achieve, Inc. "The Summit will present an ambitious agenda to ensure that states are requiring that students complete more challenging course work to earn a meaningful high school diploma that signals to colleges and employers that American graduates are not just proficient but prepared."
The global economy has placed a higher premium on workers' ability to formulate new ideas and solve problems, rather than produce tangible goods. A solid education is increasingly important for young people and the nation to maintain competitive in the job market. The summit comes at a time when momentum is building nationwide to redesign America's high schools so all young people can receive the education they need to be successful.
"During the last decade, efforts to improve public education have focused on earlier grades, to set standards and define end-of-course and graduation requirements. This year, states will begin to implement changes in high schools themselves and to rethink expectations for postsecondary education and workforce success," said NGA Chairman Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, the Summit co-chair.
Other architects of the Summit agenda include Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Arthur R. Ryan, CEO of Prudential Financial, co-chairs of Achieve, and NGA Vice Chairman Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci, members of the NGA Redesigning the American High School Task Force. Gov. Taft is also a task force member.
Previous Summits – held in 1989, 1996, 1999 and 2001 – were instrumental in creating political momentum and public support for raising academic standards and performance in the nation's schools.
This year, participants will address such core issues as strengthening requirements for rigorous coursework, bringing colleges and universities together with K-12 education to set common expectations, improving teaching and principal leadership, and expanding options and support for students to achieve high standards.
The 2005 National Education Summit on High Schools is sponsored by NGA and Achieve, Inc. in partnership with the Business Roundtable, the James B. Hunt Institute and the Education Commission of the States. It will be held February 26-27 at the JW Marriott Hotel, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.
For more information on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, please log on to www.gatesfoundation.org.