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RETHINKING HIGH SCHOOL. CHANGING HIGH SCHOOLS CHANGING HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. WHAT’S WRONG WITH HIGH SCHOOLS?. Same ol’ same ol’ Industrial model/agrarian calendar pigeonhole schedule Too much emphasis on tests 14year-olds taught the same as 18 year-olds Requirements completed by grade 11

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rethinking high school



what s wrong with high schools
  • Same ol’ same ol’
    • Industrial model/agrarian calendar pigeonhole schedule
  • Too much emphasis on tests
  • 14year-olds taught the same as 18 year-olds
  • Requirements completed by grade 11
  • Dependence culture
what s wrong with students
What’s Wrong with Students?
  • Outside jobs, interests
  • Lack of parental involvement
  • Typical of Generation Y
    • Too much, too soon;
    • Wary of structures;
    • Distrustful of learning per se;
    • Often have better/more information;
    • Are trying to complete adolescent tasks

Self-development Tasks ofAdolescents

1. Achieving mature relations with age-mates of both sexes;

2. Achieving a masculine or feminine identity;

3. Accepting one’s body;

4. Achieving emotional independence

5. Selecting & preparing for career;

6. Achieving financial independence;

7. Preparing for marriage & family life

8. Socially responsible behavior

9. Ethics & set of values.

what s on their minds
What’s on their minds?

56% school performance 22% my parents might divorce

53% looks 21% I may die soon

48% others like me 19% sexual abuse

47% one parent might die 18% trouble from friends

45% how I’m treated by friends

38% societal ills 15% parent’s drinking

36% violence at school 12% getting beat up at school

35% I might lose a friend 11% I might kill myself

35% drugs/alcohol

30% might not get a good job

26% body normality

25% US nuked

the learning experience for adolescents
The Learning Experience for Adolescents
  • Much of it is experiential
  • Much of it is experimental
  • It needs to be in a context; e.g.: why do I need to know this?
  • It needs to be in the context of a community
making learning experiential experimental
Making Learning Experiential & Experimental
  • Academic rigor should relate to real life;
  • At least in junior and senior years, students should apply learning to various situations in the “world”.
  • Students should be allowed to have controlled opportunities to venture beyond the high school walls
  • Students need to have the opportunity to master certain skills that may be beyond the periphery of the core curriculum.
traditionally we have emphasized
Traditionally, we have emphasized:
  • Punctuality
  • Test scores
  • Going along to get along
  • Mastering trivia
  • Learning in a controlled, intensely monitored environment
  • College attendance vs. college completion
students should master
Students should master:
  • Content knowledge
  • Problem solving
  • Critical analysis
  • Independent research skills
  • Inquisitiveness
  • Organization
  • Perseverance
  • Ability to be a contributing member of the community: learning, civic, religious.
community elements


Fulfillment of needs

Shared emotional connection

A classroom learning community exists when students and teachers experience a sense of belonging or personal relatedness:

The group is important

Students can be cared for socially and academically

Community Elements
the lost opportunity of senior year finding a better way jan 2001
1. H.S. diploma, w/o college education, leads to low-paying jobs;

2. The tyranny of low expectations leads to lost chances;

3. Each part of the ed. system seems to operate independently of others;

4. Senior year is a lost opportunityto link students with college or work;

5. Students receive little guidance about opportunities and requirements for work/college;

6. Assessments are ill-timed;

7. Teachers are ill-prepared to do these tasks.

The Lost Opportunity of Senior Year:Finding a Better Way (Jan. 2001)
what s working
Allowing students to proceed at their own pace;

Mentoring by a responsible adult

Giving students various experiences in and outside the school

Relating work to study

Providing “real world” experiences

Providing college courses beyond IB and AP

Nurturing the community

What’s working?
how will we re think high school
How will we re-think high school?
  • What is your situation?
  • Does your school need an overhaul?
  • Remember the 7 last words of a dying organization: “But we’ve always done it this way!”
  • Is the content of our curriculum still relevant, or will we have prepared students for a world that will never again exist?
  • Employers and colleges do not look for proficiency in a traditional curriculum(e.g.The Apprentice)
some solutions
Some Solutions...
  • Use what we know about adolescent development, paying particular attention to their development tasks
  • Start early on; develop goals and objectives well before the senior year
    • Have them talk about their plans
    • Help them with short-term goals
  • Use what we know about motivational techniques
    • Make the work meaningful
    • Make the work practical and relevant
  • Prepare them for the senior year
    • Let them know what is expected senior year
    • Help them to practice making decisions
    • Involve key persons in their lives
  • Mentor them
    • Make many connections with them
    • Let them try things out
    • Let them have a taste of “what’s out there”.
  • Think outside the four walls:
    • What does the community have to offer?
    • How can they make a contribution/ difference?
    • How can we help them to separate?
  • Re-connect the K-12 with college
  • Teach students to make choices earlier.
  • Consider alternate systems of assessment
some more solutions
Some more solutions:
  • Prepare them for work as well as for college.
  • Prepare them for life as well as for work and college.
  • Prepare them for senior year.
  • Motivate them: give them meaningful work
  • Do we need a complete overhaul of high school?
  • Do we need four years?
  • Does it have to be in school?
  • What about bright kids?
  • What about those who need more time?
  • Is senior year a wasted year?
  • What about those not attending college?
some final thoughts
Have we contributed to the prolongation of adolescence?

Have we prepared them well to confront life situations?

Have we helped them to consider all their options?

Have we maximized the senior year as our last “crack” at them?

Do we have any idea what we are producing?

Some Final Thoughts..
ask yourself
What do we guarantee students?

What do we guarantee parents?

What happens to our seniors?

How well have we prepared them for college/life??

Have we missed a golden opportunity?

What do we need to do with teachers?





Ask Yourself:
want to dazzle your colleagues

Want to dazzle your colleagues?

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