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WELL, THE NUMBERS ARE STAGGERING AND THE CONSEQUENCES ARE SOBERING. WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUTS, NOW I WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO THIS STATISTIC: EVERY YEAR ONE MILLION, ONE MILLION HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS FAIL TO FINISH THEIR SECONDARY EDUCATION, OPTING TO WALK AWAY FROM HIGH SCHOOL ALTOGETHER AND IN A LOT OF CASES, OPTING TO WALK AWAY FROM A BETTER LIFE AND A BETTER LIFESTYLE. I WANT YOU TO SAY HELLO TO MEMPHIS’ EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR “STAND FOR CHILDREN”, LET’S GIVE IT UP, NASHVILLE, FOR MISS KENYA BRADSHAW (APPLAUSE).

I WANT TO START OFF WITH WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY CHILDREN OPT OUT, DECIDE NOT TO GET THAT HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA? I THINK ONE OF THE REASONS WHY OUR CHILDREN ARE OPTING OUT OF SCHOOL IS BECAUSE WE AREN’T ENGAGING THEM IN AN ENGAGING, RIGOROUS ENVIRONMENT, AND WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION REALLY STARTING FROM EARLY CHILDHOOD, SO WHAT’S HAPPENING IN EDUCATION REFORM IS THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS, AND SO, WHAT WE’RE DOING IN STATES, MOST 46 STATES ACROSS THE COUNTRY HAVE ADOPTED COMMON CORE, AND IT’S GOING TO MAKE SURE THAT REGARDLESS OF IF YOU GO TO SCHOOL IN MISSISSIPPI OR TENNESSEE OR MASSACHUSETTS, WHEN YOU GRADUATE AND YOU GET A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA, THEN ALL OF OUR CHILDREN ARE GOING TO BE ON THE SAME LEVEL, AND THAT’S GOING TO BE A CHANGE FOR US, AND SO WE NEED TO BE PREPARED AS A COUNTRY TO MAKE SURE THAT WE’RE SUPPORTING OUR CHILDREN AND NOT ONLY WORKING WITH THEM IN SCHOOL, BUT ALSO KEEPING TO MAKE SURE THAT WE KEEP OUR FOOT ON THE PEDAL AND ADVOCATE FOR RIGOROUS POLICY. SO, WHAT CAN OUR VIEWERS AT HOME DO TO KIND OF ENSURE THAT OUR KIDS DO FINISH HIGH SCHOOL? AS PARENTS, YOU’RE YOUR CHILD’S FIRST TEACHER, BUT AS A COMMUNITY IT’S GOING TO TAKE ALL OF US TO STEP IN AND SUPPORT OUR CHILDREN AND MAKE SURE THAT WE’RE ADVOCATING FOR POLICIES THAT SUPPORT THEM AND MAKE SURE THAT THEY’RE GETTING AN EFFECTIVE TEACHER, THAT WE’RE PUTTING EVALUATIONS INTO OUR CLASSROOMS THAT ARE MAKING SURE THAT WE’RE KEEPING THE BEST IN THE CLASSROOM EVERYDAY, AND THAT ALSO THAT THEY’RE ENGAGING, SO EVEN CHILDREN WHO DON’T HAVE ACTIVE PARENTS, IF YOU CAN VOLUNTEER AND SERVE AS A MENTOR AND ADVOCATE, THEN YOU’RE MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF CHILDREN. WHAT MAKES YOUR ORGANIZATION “STAND FOR CHILDREN” DIFFERENT THAN OTHER ADVOCACY GROUPS THAT ARE OUT THERE TODAY DOING SIMILAR WORK? SO “STAND FOR CHILDREN” IS A NATIONAL GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION, WE’RE IN 12 STATES ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND WE’RE DOING BOTH THE GRASSROOTS AND THE GRASSTOPS WORK, SO WE’RE ENGAGING PARENTS WHERE THEY ARE, AND SO WE THINK ABOUT IT AS WE’RE CHANGING THE SCHOOLHOUSE, THE DISTRICT AND THEN ALSO AT THE STATE LEVEL.

WELL, LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT, WHAT KIND OF LEGISLATIVE VICTORIES HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO ACHEIVE? OUR WORK IN WASHINGTON STATE IS ACTUALLY RESULTING IN GETTING MORE CHARTER SCHOOLS IN WASHINGTON, AND THEN ALSO OUR WORK IN MASSACHUSETTS AND IN TENNESSEE AND COLORADO HAS RESULTED IN US GETTING HIGH QUALITY EVALUATIONS TO MAKE SURE THAT WE’RE GETTING BRIGHT TEACHERS IN FRONT OF OUR STUDENTS EVERY DAY. AND I WANT TO TELL YOU, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING BY… THANK YOU.