- A new report released this week by the Center for American Progress (CAP) details four key elements for successful high school redesigns: student engagement, career and college ready coursework, student supports and a tracking system for student success.
- More specifically, the report recommends career and technology classes, dual-enrollment college programs, project-based learning, social-emotional learning and grading systems that accurately gauge student success.
- To accomplish these goals, the CAP report says state and local leaders should make redesigned schools a priority by providing funding for them with publicly funded grants, philanthropic donations and other financial incentives. In addition, the report calls on state and local leaders to make sure investments in redesigned schools are distributed equitably and implementation efforts include a broad range of community feedback.
Less than half of all U.S. students who took the 2017 ACT failed to show enough mastery in English or math to do well in college. Furthermore, 40% to 60% of first-year college students require remediation in English, math or both, according to a separate CAP report on remediation. These are alarming numbers that coupled with other statistics – everything from high school and college graduation rates to U.S. competitiveness on a global scale – serve as the driving force behind myriad efforts to reform public schools.
Reform efforts, like the numbers, run the gamut. Since the early '80s, they’ve included the adoption of curricular standards, the implementation of high-stakes standardized tests, the proliferation of charter schools and the privatization of public schools favored by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Many of these wholesale changes, however, fail to recognize successful redesign efforts already underway in public schools throughout the U.S.
The CAP report spotlights schools and districts in Maine, Virginia, Washington and Maryland that have implemented successful redesign strategies The International High School at Langley Park, for example, is made up of English language learners. Located in Bladensburg, Maryland, it infuses coursework – including Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment college classes – with competency-based and project-based learning. Another example is Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine. It provides students with small school settings, access to career and college-ready courses and multiple ways of assessing academic mastery.
Redesign schools use what science and research say about how students learn. In doing so, they provide students with prompt feedback, additional time to practice what they’ve learned and real-world learning opportunities. They also administer low-stakes testing and incorporate programs that allow students to learn at their own pace. In addition, like the schools mentioned in the CAP report, they often create small school settings and work closely with community partners to provide additional supports, services and learning opportunities.