NEW YORK, Feb. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- If high schools are to succeed in preparing students for college and/or careers in the 21st century, they will need to be more responsive to student needs, make better use of new technology, provide teachers with greater professional development opportunities, and re-evaluate their very structure.
These observations come from a policy paper released today from the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation, "A High School for the 21st Century," written by leading educational experts Jordan Goldman, founder and CEO, Unigo.com; Gerry House, president and CEO, Institute for Student Achievement; and Jeff Livingston, senior vice president, Career and College Readiness, McGraw-Hill Education.
With increased attention on America's international educational standing (the U.S. ranks 18th in high school graduation rates) and the economic importance that education plays in society, many institutions, including the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation and the Harvard Graduate School of Education through its recent Pathways to Prosperity study, are questioning how the U.S. educational system is failing its students, particularly at the high school level.
"High school is a valuable and critical time in the life of young adults," Goldman said. "Currently, high school is inadequately serving nearly 30 percent of students who drop out every year and millions more who enter the workforce or college unprepared." Adds Livingston, "High school should be the time when students acquire the skills and knowledge they'll need to succeed at whatever they choose to do – it shouldn't be just four years of proms and football games."
In the policy paper, the authors question not only the purpose of high school but also offer a consensus to its practical importance:
To prepare all high school students for whatever comes next in their lives -- regardless of whether that involves study at a four-year or community college, attendance in an occupational training program, finding a job or volunteering for service in the military -- by teaching them to apply critical thinking and knowledge to solve problems and work collaboratively with others.
According to the authors, high schools need to deliver on this purpose to be successful in the 21st century and implement four major changes:
- Develop a new high school curriculum that is more flexible, responsive and relevant to student needs and that focuses on critical thinking, teamwork and problem-solving skills as opposed to just "knowing the answer." The authors say we need to do a better job of relating academic concepts to real-world problems and their solutions and connecting schoolwork to the larger society through hands-on experiences such as apprenticeships, which the U.S. currently underutilizes compared to other countries.
- Better use of new technology tools, for both teaching and assessing individual student strengths and weaknesses, as well as for encouraging more creative, critical thinking and problem-solving. "We must reach students where they live," the authors write, "and students today live in a high-tech, mobile and inter-connected social media world" until they reach school, where that experience comes to a screeching halt. The authors call for more online courses (the "great equalizer" in education, they say), as well as social media combined with e-books. "School used to be the place where students learned about new technologies," Goldman said. "Now kids learn about cool new stuff outside of school. It makes school look behind-the-curve and irrelevant."
- Better and more professional development for teachers to support them in using technology to engage students, to engage students' understanding and to help make learning more meaningful.
- Taking a fresh look at the very structure of high school; ceasing to think of it as a physical building; and questioning all of our assumptions about how it should work in pursuit of a new paradigm in which high school students are approached as young adults on the precipice of entering the real world.
Analyzing why today's high school structure isn't working, the authors reveal that high school has not advanced to fulfill the demands of today's interconnected global society. For example, they discuss how high school was originally designed to meet the needs of a 19th century industrial economy – organized along the lines of a factory, a system that largely persists today – and that it evolved into a system in the 20th century that focused on preparing high school students for the eventuality of obtaining a college degree, which was seen as the key for developing a career.
The authors call for a new structure that gives students more options and control, enabling them to take greater responsibility for their own future lives and careers as adults, and that encourages formal, measurable experimentation of new programs and ideas. To make that happen, they say, America needs the political will to support educational reform and the courage to admit that the current system is broken.
To download "A High School for the 21st Century," click here.
About the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation
The Foundation was established with the support of The McGraw-Hill Companies. It was incorporated on July 16, 2010, as a Delaware non-profit and is in the process of applying to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) organization.
SOURCE McGraw-Hill Research Foundation