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Aug. 8, 2012

Education Week’s Spotlight ran an article today by Jerry Y. Diakiw entitled, “It’s Time for a New Kind of High School.” Diakiw called today’s high schools “relics of the past.” He writes: “Based on an antiquated economic formula designed for the Industrial Revolution, high schools in the United States and Canada are ill-suited for the emotional and intellectual well-being of our young people and profoundly out-of-step with the needs of our contemporary economy.”

 He points out that high schools not only fail to prepare students for college success, they are institutions that fail at engaging their students in meaningful learning. We’ve all read about high dropout rates, failing schools, and student unprepared to succeed in college. In the article, students explain that they dropped out because they could not see the value in the work they were asked to do and they didn’t like school in general.

 Diakiw made some big-change suggestions: “We need to tear apart the school day, the high school timetable, the school year, the four-year diploma. We need to rethink credit- and diploma-awarding authority, which need not be the sole purview of the high school.

 “We need to explode the boundary between the school and the workplace. Just for starters, we need to create 24-hour, year-round high schools; a grade 7-14, or six-year, diploma; a grade 7/8 half-day school/work internship; dual-diploma programs with high schools/community colleges; and a North American retooling of the German apprenticeship system.”

 He goes on to discuss programs that put high school kids in working/learning environments with local businesses. He applauds “New Tech” schools that “focus on three principles: a project-based curriculum in which students work in teams; use of technology primarily, instead of focusing on textbooks and teachers; and a positive culture that promotes respect and responsibility.” He writes about new social-learning environments that allow students to work on teams with the goal of being successful in college.

I like Diakiw’s ideas. The art of learning has been greatly affected by our modern technology. Kids are whizzes at that technology and they often do not respond well to traditional ways of teaching. They demand to understand the relevance of what they are expected to learn; schools, businesses, and community all can help answer that demand. Creating new school options will spark teenagers’ interests and offer them new paths toward success.

 To read Diakiw’s article:

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