Thursday, June 01, 2006

Future High Schools to be like Colleges?

Article here declares that future high schools will look like colleges. One person quoted in the article says "students have got to get more focused." No disagreement there.

Three specifics are mentioned:

1. Small specialized schools
2. High school career tracks built around majors
3. Technology as king

I would agree for the most part. Might not be a bad thing to shoot for.

One little problem, students choose to go to college, logic tells you they might be more focused if its a choice.


At Saturday, June 03, 2006, Blogger Strausser said...

Actually my 8th graders feed into one such high school (Boulder Creek High here in Phoenix) that is focused on "majors".

In the sophomore year students must choose a "track" that they have the most interest in: math/science, the arts, public service, business, etc. They are then placed in that "family" with like minded students and the cool thing is that all of the core areas, while still covering the state standards, try to gear their discussions and examples around that interest. The idea being that if the student has an interest in that area, they might actually have a greater interest.

Now this school just opened up 2 years ago and so it is still just getting off the ground but from what I hear, a lot of the students really like it.

Hey, it may turn out to be a bomb but at least it is trying something new and even if it only keeps a few students better focused, I think it succeeds.

[I think it is funny that the linked article was from our city's "newspaper of record" and yet they had no idea this was going on right in their backyard]


At Monday, June 05, 2006, Blogger Indiana Public School Superintendent said...

What is the size of your enrollment in the high school?

I would assume there is a certain "economy of scale" necessary to have enough staff.

At Thursday, June 08, 2006, Anonymous Stephanie Sandifer said...

I work at a high school like the one you describe above (the Boulder Creek HS) -- and I have been directly involved in the development of our Smaller Learning Communities which we refer to as "Career Academies".

Next Fall we will be entering our 5th year with these Career Academies in place. The students self-select based on their interests in 8th grade. We do allow students to request transfers to a different academy -- but stress that it affects their ability to take advanced electives in their career area (because of prerequisite classes) in their senior year. Each year we have no more than 30 or 40 students total who request a transfer.

The results?

The focus of each academy does engage the kids and does create a much more personalized environment. Our first positive results showed up in discipline and attendance. Our students, in climate surveys and in interviews with focus groups, have indicated a feeling of ownership within their academies and they identify strongly with their academies.

BUT --

The structure alone WILL NOT improve student achievement. You have to improve what is happening inside the classroom. It took us a year to figure that out and we are still working on improving what is going on in our classrooms.

By the way --
Our enrollment is about 2200 students. I am starting to blog the story of our implementation (including the challenges we faced and the lessons we have learned along the way) -- the blog is in the VERY early stages, but you can see it here.

As for the question of "choice" (as in college) vs. "compulsory" (as in high school) -- it hasn't been a big issue in the time that we have been doing this. The few times that parents (or other educators) have questioned us -- we discuss how each academy follows a "college-prep" curriculum so that all students have the same opportunities for learning regardless of what career electives they are taking.

The other key point is the issue of integration -- incorporating themes and concepts from the career areas into the core content areas. Students are more engaged when their science classes incorporate medical or human services concepts or their math classes make connections between the math concepts and art concepts (this varies across the academies based on their career themes).

None of this is easy work on the part of the educators -- but it is rewarding when you start to see the results.

Best wishes to anyone out there who is just starting this kind of implementation!


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