Laura Bush Thinks "Middle School Matters" and She's Right

The Former First Lady wants to stop the nation's dropout crisis before kids even get to high school. The research backs her idea up.

Could the nation's dropout crisis be fixed before students even enter high school? Former First Lady Laura Bush believes it's possible. She's heading to Houston today to announce her new education initiative for the George W. Bush Institute, "Middle School Matters." The program will focus on increasing high school graduation rates by ensuring students get the academic foundation they need in 6th through 8th grade.

According to Bush, "Middle school is the last and best chance to prepare students for a successful high school career." Indeed, research shows that students who are going to drop out can be identified as early as 6th grade—they're the kids who are significantly below grade level in reading and math and frequently absent. If those students can be identified, and if focused interventions can be implemented, they can catch up and be on the right track by the time they hit ninth grade.

The initiative's researchers will start off by defining key programmatic recommendations around school leadership, effective teaching, reading and math interventions, and family and community supports. In the second phase, the program will partner with a select number of partner schools. Bush plans to work with at least 20 schools by 2014.

photo via George W. Bush White House Archives