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April 1, 2007
Vol. 64
No. 7

The ASCD High School Reform Proposal

      It's no secret that U.S. high schools face significant challenges. The graduation rate hovers below 70 percent, and leaders worry that even students who do complete high school are not prepared for higher education or work success.
      Recognizing the importance of this issue, ASCD has developed a High School Reform Proposal to guide the U.S. Congress in enacting the innovative reform that is needed to fully support our nation's high school students. The ASCD High School Reform Proposal is not mandatory, but participatory; it will provide options and resources for school systems or states. Rather than an add-on or alternative to No Child Left Behind, it is new legislation that goes beyond NCLB. Participating high schools would be required to incorporate transparency and accountability into their reforms and to illustrate success.
      Improving a 100-year-old, largely unchanged education system is no small task. But in concert, the elements we propose will ensure that the students of today are prepared to become the innovators and leaders of tomorrow. The proposal includes these recommendations.
      Multiple assessments. Measuring student learning is an essential undertaking. Unfortunately, No Child Left Behind places too much emphasis on single assessments that fail to help teachers improve their instruction and are inadequate for measuring the full breadth of student learning.
      It is crucial that we develop a more sophisticated assessment system that incorporates multiple assessments that produce meaningful data at the school level, such as portfolio assessments, demonstrations, oral presentations, and applied projects. Such a system will ensure not only that important accountability decisions are based on the best possible data, but also that educators can use the data to determine which students are struggling, what strategies are working, and how teachers should adjust their instruction.
      Personalized learning. Schools need to personalize learning to ensure that students assume ownership for connecting their learning with future goals. For example, schools should arrange to use education mentors and career coaches within the school building to help students not only see relevance in their schoolwork, but also grow engaged in school, become connected to adults, and be prepared for graduation and future success.
      Flexible use of time and structure. Many schools are hindered by graduation, time, and attendance requirements, such as the 100-year-old Carnegie unit, that do not reflect contemporary knowledge of best practices. Because the Carnegie unit tries to force student learning to fit inflexible instructional schedules, we must instead organize learning according to students' needs in mastering an academic subject. This may mean that some students complete high school in fewer—or more than—the traditional four years. What counts is not the time spent, but the learning that the student masters.
      Professional development. To support students in new kinds of learning, we must support teachers and leaders in gaining the knowledge, time, and resources to educate in innovative ways. The ASCD High School Reform Proposal calls for flexibility, innovation, and greater resources for professional development.
      Business and community engagement. The key to helping students succeed is focusing on the best opportunities for students to master learning objectives, whether those opportunities take place inside a classroom or in the community. Schools, in collaboration with local businesses, should be able to provide opportunities outside the classroom that connect skills students will need in the work world with an academically rigorous curriculum. For more information, visit www.ascd.org/actioncenter.

      This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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