THE president of one of the largest teacher unions has called for another year to be added to the traditional 12 years of state school to help prevent at risk students from dropping out.
The extra time would be committed to remedial education under a programme similar to that used by the military to retrain recruits with reading problems, or who left school early.
"It's a choice between letting kids fall through the cracks or doing whatever it takes to bring them up to par," said American Federation of Teachers' president Sandra Feldman.
Under the proposal, a "transitional year" would be added either before or during high school which children move on to at age 14 or 15. During the year specialistswould help teenagers master basic skills.
A few school districts are already considering such an idea, and more are expected to do as most states introduce a standardised test to graduate from school. The high-stakes tests are expected to increase the high drop-out rate, of 5 per cent of students per year.
Some school districts in California, Florida, Ohio, and Illinois have created "academies" to give at-risk students an extra year to prepare for high school.
"We need to do whatever it takes to rescue these kids," said Ms Feldman, whose million-member union primarily represents teachers who work in urban districts.
"I don't have to tell you what being a high school drop-out means in today's economy."