6 Steps Necessary to Transform American High Schools

Bill Gates is at it again! This time he’s taking on the American public high schools. But Bill isn’t alone. Educational Testing Service’s survey “Ready For The Real World?”, eminent business author Dan Pink (A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation), and many others have criticized our high school system as not being up to the task.

Why am I interested? Simple! I have been involved in education for more than 50 years. I have always looked to the future and how we needed to change to meet new demands society places upon us. I feel there is tremendous interest nationally for things to change, but we are holding on to old models, trying to put new wine into old casks, and finding it just won’t work. If you want more information about my background, go to our new website [http://www.eye2theworld] and read my biographical sketch.

Actually our high schools are up to the task for which they were designed. The only problem is that we’re not living in the 1940’s. Preparing students for the world of exploding telecommunications and globalization while dealing with students as if they were re-runs from Leave It to Beaver places us on the path to disaster.

As Susan Patrick, Director of the U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, stated, what is needed is not educational reform, it’s educational transformation. Before we can expect major academic improvement the system needs an overhaul, not just tweaking around the edges. This is not a call for more testing, better teachers, more attentive students, or more money. Those concerns can be examined later. I am calling for structural change from the ground up, from how our buildings are organized, how teachers work with students and with each other, how our curricula are developed, and how we motivate those hyper-active M Generation students.

I want to suggest six steps that should be the starting point. Now I’m not naive enough to think that you’d take me at face value. I can hear the chants, “Where’s the evidence?” Well, I do have a model; one that comes from what for many years was the step-child of public education, namely vocational education, ‘shop classes’ or ‘trade schools’ as we used to call them. These were school to which the less academically able students were shunted. Theirs was not a college bound curriculum!

Elkhart, IN is blessed with a wonderful facility, the Elkhart Area Career Center (EACC) that demonstrates how excellence can be generated year after year if the facilities, courses, staffs, and community are committed and work together. About 1200 students from 12 of the region’s school districts spend half-day sessions for two years in one of 22 specialized programs. EACC’s students represent a cross section of student bodies. Many enter with straight A’s. About 55 percent go on to further education after high school graduation. See the EACC’s website