25 July 2008

A University Model For High Schools

This diagram comes from this PDF file from blogger Bruce Hall. Bruce has devised an impressive solution to many of the most pressing problems of the public high school system in the US.

Public high schools are a significant monetary drain upon communities, but are not providing a useful education to most students who attend. Growing numbers of students drop out before completion, and an increasing number of high school graduates are not qualified for either work or higher learning. Universities and employers are forced to devote ever larger budets to remedial education for high school graduates who cannot read, write, spell, punctuate, do basic arithmetic, formulate a valid argument, or recognise logical fallacies in everyday life.

Most proposals aimed at improving secondary education amount to throwing more money at the problem by doing more of the same. The educational establishment simply wants to intensify its efforts within areas proven previously not to work. Bruce's proposal is not only a bold departure from the hackneyed approaches of "professional educators", it may actually work!
Perhaps it is time for educators to realize that the present high school education may be archaic for today's world. After all, it is organizationally and content-wise [3Rs etc.] little changed over hundreds of years... even though schools have gotten larger.
Rather than recognizing the opportunities available with larger schools, the educational system forces larger schools to conform to the small school model and wonders why it doesn't work. Let's get a little creative in our thinking. Instead of thinking of a large high school as a bloated version of a small high school, why not organize it into the university model? Take advantage of the large number of teachers with a variety of interests and skills. Create small high school "colleges" within the large high school "university."

...In four-year high schools, the organization could be changed so that incoming freshmen receive the traditional compulsory courses. Then students can choose a "major" [that could be changed once at the end of their sophomore year] where more of their courses fall within the major curriculum... increasing each year until their senior year when all of the courses fall within that "major."

...It is designed to appeal to the varied interests of students while having sufficient academic challenges in the areas of reading and language skills, mathematics, and science within each "college". Certainly, this is meant as a concept for further work and refinement, but I have long felt that the traditional organization of high school was for the convenience of the educators as opposed to the education of the students. Don't construe the "colleges" as isolated; students would still have the opportunity to take courses within those other units that they felt [along with counselors] augmented their primary coursework.

....The world is changing... perhaps it is time for high schools to change. __PDF_BruceHall_UniversityModelforHighSchools
The modern methods of child-raising and education are failing badly. High school graduates should possess skills that would allow them to earn at least twice minimum wage. Vocational school graduates with one year completed after high school should be able to start a job at close to three times minimum wage. Two year college or vocational school graduates should be able to start at nearly four times minimum wage--and progress on from there.

In the real world, it is the ability to get the job done that counts. Western nations currently suffer from a perennial shortage of skilled craftsmen and tradesmen, along with an abundance of dropouts-without-useful-skills, due to the catastrophic failure of high schools to prepare students for the real world. Schools try to force all students into the same cookie-cutter program, regardless of interest or aptitude.

Bruce Hall could teach the educational system quite a lot about how to solve many if its largest problems. Unfortunately, the educational-industrial complex is in it for the money. The last thing it wants to hear is that it needs to make fundamental changes that might upset the apple cart.

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