President Obama, in last night’s State of the Union address, announced a new competitive grant program to award schools that “better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.” A key way to do so is by developing partnerships with local community colleges and employers. Obama heralded P-Tech in Brooklyn, the result of a collaboration between public high schools, CUNY and IBM, that gives students the opportunity to graduate with both a diploma and an associate’s degree in computers or engineering.
But what else can shake up a traditional high school?
- Blended learning. This model employs computers to teach students concepts, freeing teachers to work one-on-one with those who need additional help. At Alliance Tennenbaum Family Technology High School in Los Angeles, classes of 48 students are split into three groups and rotate between working with the teacher, collaboratively in groups and individually on their computers. Its first graduating class this June will include all but six students, a feat, considering four years ago, only half were on track to graduate.
- Competency-based education. This approach requires students to demonstrate proficiency in a subject or concept before moving on to the next; it measures learning based on mastery, not on seat time. Most of the chatter surrounding this model exists in the higher education sphere, but states like New Hampshire are beginning to see better student engagement and reduced discipline problems in its high schools, thanks to this model.
- Pathways. Undoubtedly, this is not a “new” model, but it’s one that calls for revamping. Pathways continue to carry a negative stigma, reserved for students deemed unlikely to go to college. But as Obama’s earlier example pointed out, pathways are not limited to the manufacturing jobs of the 1980s; they are now crucial for fields like engineering and technology—and the thousands of “middle jobs” that don’t require a four-year degree, but do require more than a high school diploma.
What are your thoughts for a redesigned high school? If you have any examples or anecdotes, comment below.