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School & Health: Our Nation's Investment
tary national standards in core academic subjects. The relationship between academic achievement and student health status has been acknowledged by the National Education Goals, a bipartisan effort that began at a national governors' summit convened by President Bush in 1989. Among its directives, the National Education Goals call for (National Education Goals Panel, 1994) the following:
students to start school with the healthy minds, bodies, and mental alertness necessary for learning,
safe and disciplined school environments that are free of drugs and alcohol,
access for all students to physical education and health education to ensure that students are healthy and fit, and
increased parental partnerships with schools in order to promote the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.
The future of our country depends on an educated, productive workforce. The unskilled blue collar jobs of previous generations are disappearing, and schools are expected to prepare all students, not just a select few, for the demanding workplace of the future (Marshall and Tucker, 1992; Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991). The Hudson Institute's Workforce 2000 report notes that unless workforce basic skills are improved substantially, there will be more joblessness among the least skilled, accompanied by a chronic shortage of workers with advanced skills (Johnston and Packer, 1987). However, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) has suggested that the education—and thus the future—of a significant segment of our nation's children and adolescents is being threatened by a broad range of health and behavioral problems, increasing poverty, and deteriorating family and community conditions (GAO, 1993, 1994a, 1994b).
One of these GAO reports estimates that about one-third of the school-age population, or approximately 15 million children in 1992, is at risk of dropping out of school. This report cites a 1989 study that predicted male high school dropouts can expect to earn $260,000 less and pay $78,000 less in taxes during their lifetimes than male high school graduates; comparable estimates for female dropouts are $200,000 and $60,000, respectively. The report also notes that studies have shown that dropouts are more likely to be poor, have costly medical problems as a result of their economic status, and require job training. Currently, many dropouts populate U.S. prisons (GAO, 1993).
Concern about the effect of school dropouts on the nation's budget, workforce, and ability to compete globally in the future is reflected in the National Education Goal to increase the high school graduation rate to at