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High School for the 21st Century


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If high schools are to succeed in preparing students for college and/or careers in the 21st century, they will need to be more responsive to student needs, make better use of new technology, provide teachers with greater professional development opportunities, and re-evaluate their very structure.

These observations come from a policy paper released by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation, “A High School for the 21st Century,” written by leading educational experts Jordan Goldman, founder and CEO,; Gerry House, president and CEO, Institute for Student Achievement; and Jeff Livingston, senior vice president, Career and College Readiness, McGraw-Hill Education.

In this paper, the authors say that most U.S. high schools are stuck in a 19th-century educational model designed to fail, and they offers practical solutions to create college and career-focused high schools.

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High School for the 21st Century

  1. 1. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper    A HIGH SCHOOL FOR THE 21ST CENTURY By Jordan Goldman, Founder and CEO, Gerry House, President and CEO, Institute for Student Achievement Jeff Livingston, Senior Vice President, Career and College Readiness, McGraw-Hill Education“High school is a valuable time in the life of young adults. It should be the time when theyacquire the skills and knowledge they’ll need to succeed at whatever they choose to do. Itshouldn’t be just four years of proms and football games.” -- Jeff Livingston“We don’t know what the future is going to bring, so the best way to prepare our students is tohelp them become independent thinkers and learners.” -- Gerry House “Imagine if no one went to college at all -- that everyone had to leave high school and goright out into the world? What would people need to know to survive and do well? That’s howwe should be preparing our high school students.” -- Jordan GoldmanIntroductionOn September 29, 2010, the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation hosted its first day-longInnovation in Education summit at McGraw-Hill headquarters in New York City. TheFoundation, a non-profit organization founded with support from The McGraw-Hill Companies,brought together education experts and entrepreneurs from different areas to discuss the criticalchallenges facing U.S. education today and offer innovative approaches.The three of us were invited to participate in a panel titled “What is the Purpose of HighSchool?” -- a question that is being asked often lately by educators, parents, teachers and highschool students. The question itself is an indictment of sorts; it suggests that we, as educationprofessionals, may not have a satisfactory answer. At the very least, it implies that differentpeople will have different answers. It’s very clear, however, that answers are desperately needed.Consider these comments in the February 2011 Harvard Graduate School of Education report,Pathways to Prosperity: “The American system for preparing young people to lead productive 1   
  2. 2. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   and prosperous lives as adults is clearly badly broken. Millions of young adults now arrive attheir mid-20’s without a college degree and/or a route to a viable job.”We were surprised to discover that, despite coming from three very different sectors of theeducation community, we shared a broad, basic consensus about the primary purpose of highschool. The purpose of a high school education, we decided, is: To prepare all high school students for whatever comes next in their lives -- regardless of whether that involves study at a four-year or community college, attendance in an occupational training program, finding a job or volunteering for service in the military -- by teaching them to apply critical thinking and knowledge to solve problems and work collaboratively with others.The real question, we agreed, is not “what is the purpose of high school,” but “are high schoolsdelivering on that purpose?” Based on both statistical data and overwhelming anecdotalevidence, the answer, sadly, is “no.” Consider that:  An unacceptably high number of U.S. high school students drop out before graduation, about one in every three based on most recent data;i  The United States now ranks as low as 18th among developed nations in high school graduation ratesii;  A Pentagon report released in 2009 found that as many as 75 percent of young people age 17 to 24 are not fit for military service, with 25 percent of those not fit because they lack a high school or general equivalency diploma (GED);iii and  The most recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test results, released in December 2010, had U.S. students ranking 17th in Reading, 23rd in Science, and tied with Ireland for 32nd place in Math.ivEven many of those who do manage to graduate from U.S. high schools today are nevertheless illprepared for either college-level study or the job market. Statistics show that: 2   
  3. 3. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper     Twenty-five percent of college freshman in the U.S. drop out before the end of their first semester;v  One out of every three college freshman in four-year institutions needs remedial classes (nearly one out of every two -- 45% -- in two-year colleges)vi; and  Many U.S. employers report they cannot find enough employees who possess the basic skills necessary for the jobs they want to fill.viiObviously, high schools in the U.S. could be doing a better job of making students ready forwhatever they choose to do with their lives. But what, exactly, should be done to help make highschool in the U.S. more relevant and effective?During our panel discussion, and in a series of informal talks held afterward, we established fourcore areas where we believe U.S. high schools could and should begin to take strong steps tochange their approach. We did not agree completely on the relative importance of each of thesteps described below, but we did concur that each was, by itself, an important componenttoward creating the kind of U.S. high school system that would better prepare our students forsuccess in the 21st century.We believe U.S. high schools need to: 1. Develop a New High School Curriculum that is More Flexible, Responsive and Relevant to Student Needs -- With U.S. students falling behind those from other nations in academic achievement, everyone agrees the nation needs more rigorous education standards (no one suggests lowering them). But a truly effective curriculum would also focus on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Schools need to be more responsive in providing students with the specific knowledge, training and life skills they will need for success in a 21st century workforce, and students should have more autonomy and flexibility in designing their own courses of study based on their future career interests. 2. Make Better Use of New Technology -- high schools must do a better job of incorporating the latest digital and online educational tools when it comes to both 3   
  4. 4. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper    teaching their students and assessing what they’ve learned. This includes: Taking advantage of the potential in online courses; adopting new Internet-based instructional and assessment platforms; and recognizing the power of social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Educators have so far viewed social networking as more of a distraction than an aid to education. But we must reach students where they live, and students today live in a high-tech, mobile and inter-connected social media world -- at least, they do until they walk into their high school buildings. 3. More Professional Development for Teachers in How to Use Education Technology - - Teachers are currently not adequately trained in their college education programs in the latest digital teaching technologies and adaptive learning tools, nor are they provided with the level of ongoing professional development on the job that would enable them to generate, collect and use ongoing formative assessment data to focus their instruction and respond more quickly to individual student needs.Finally, we all agreed strongly that the most important thing we could do to make high schoolmore effective in preparing our young people would be to: 4. Completely Re-imagine High School from the Ground Up to Meet the Education and Training Demands of a New Century -- High school was originally designed to meet the needs of a 19th century industrial economy. And it succeeded at that beyond anyone’s expectations. Universal secondary education helped to make the U.S. an economic powerhouse in the 20th century. Today, in the 21st century, we need to look at the institution of high school with fresh eyes and embark on a course to make it relevant once again. We should re-examine our previous notions of what high school is and does -- and how it does it -- and design a new paradigm that will seek to do a much better job of providing the knowledge and skill sets our young people will actually need to navigate and succeed in an inter-connected, global economy.The undeniable fact is that if we were designing our system of high school from the ground uptoday, it would almost certainly not look the way it does now. High school, as an institution, haschanged very little since it was pioneered in the U.S. in the latter part of the 19th century. But theworld has changed a great deal.The Development of the U.S. High School -- How it Got That Way 4   
  5. 5. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   “Today’s workforce demands employees with new skills, such as the ability to workcollaboratively across cultures and adapt quickly to changing technologies. Yet the U.S. highschool persists in being run on an agrarian schedule, organized along the lines of a factory.”-- Jordan GoldmanThe U.S. was the first nation to offer every young person the opportunity to obtain a free publicsecondary education. By 1910 only nine percent of people in the U.S. had finished highschool,viii and yet the U.S. was already ahead of all other nations in terms of post-elementaryenrollment rates.ix By 1935, 40 percent of U.S. citizens had finished high school,x and less thana decade later the U.S. could boast having the best educated workforce in the world.xiUp until the end of World War II, the overriding goal of most U.S. high school students wassimply to graduate. Employment opportunities then were largely to be found in factories,offices, on sales teams or the farm. A high school education was considered adequatepreparation for performing entry-level duties in any one of those sectors.A college education was reserved for the select few who planned to pursue professional careersin medicine, science, law, public policy or education. Only about ten percent of graduating highschool students went on to post-secondary study until the mid-1940s,xii when the GI bill sentthousands of returning World War II veterans off to college, fueling yet another period ofeconomic expansion in the U.S. in the 1950s and ‘60s.Starting in the late 1960s, the millions of Baby-Boomer children of the WWII generation beganto view college as their natural next step after high school, and by the 1970s a college degree wasseen by most people in the U.S. as the key to obtaining – not just a job – but a career.The idea that getting into college was the primary purpose of a high school education took holdduring this time and continues to color our approach to high school today. Unfortunately, highschools tend to focus on making their students “college-eligible” as opposed to “college-ready.” 5   
  6. 6. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   U.S. High School Today -- Who is Being Left Behind?“We have to look at high school now with fresh eyes and ask: ‘who are we serving and whoare we leaving out?’” -- Gerry House A 2009 Deloitte LLP survey found that 48 percent of high school students believe the chief focusof their school is to prepare them for college, and 42 percent of their parents agree. Interestingly,only nine percent of teachers in the study felt the same way. And while 96 percent of low-income students questioned said they would “definitely” (70%) or “probably” (26%) attempt togo on to college, only about one in four (27%) believe they are “very prepared” to handlecollege-level course work.xiiiThe result of viewing high school as little more than a stepping stone to college is that U.S. highschool students planning to continue their education after graduation can now be divided broadlyinto three groups: 1. Those who have known almost since birth that they are destined to go to college. Many of these students are from upper-income families where one or both of the parents have college degrees. Students in this group generally do well in college because high schools have prepared them with college-level courses through advanced placement (AP) classes, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, or other college-prep curricula available to the highest performing students. 2. The second group comprises lower-income students -- often urban minorities from the inner-city “dropout factories” as well as rural young people of all ethnic groups-- who see post-secondary education and career training as their ticket out of poverty and into the middle class. To the surprise of some people, these students often do very well after high school because they are highly motivated to succeed. 3. A final, very large group includes students who are capable of earning passing grades in high school, but who do not qualify for the advanced classes. They are often from middle- or lower-middle income families -- sometimes the first in their families to attend an institution of higher learning. They go to college because, after all, that is supposedly the entire purpose of high school. They also go because all of their friends are going. 6   
  7. 7. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   The students from this last group are usually neither very prepared for college-level work nor arethey particularly motivated. They view college as “high school grade 13,” and they are thestudents most likely to drop out their freshman year, leaving them both unprepared for a 21stcentury job market and beginning their adult lives already saddled with debt from student loans.Why Stay in High School if the Focus is on College and You Know You’re Not Going?“When we talk about kids who drop out, we tend to talk about them as people who don’t knowany better -- ‘Gee, aren’t these kids making a terrible mistake?” But maybe we’re talkingdown to them. Kids drop out of high school when they stop having a reason to come. Givethem a reason to come -- give them some training that will actually put them on a path tomaking a decent living -- and they’ll be there.” -- Jeff LivingstonFocusing almost exclusively on preparing for college ignores the needs of those students whohave no plans to pursue a college education -- either because they lack the academic ability, thefinancial means or because their teachers have not sufficiently encouraged or motivated them toapply.These students -- many from inner-city and minority backgrounds -- see very little reason toremain in high school, particularly if they have already become parents themselves or need tohelp their own parents economically. High school simply does not appear relevant to eithertheir current lives or to the kind of future they can imagine for themselves. And the number ofhigh school students dropping out early is trending upwards again after a short period of decline.High school graduation rates hit a peak in 1969, when 77 percent of students earned diplomas,and have been lower ever since, falling to 65.7 percent in the 1996-97 school year. Efforts toreverse the trend caused graduation rates to climb back to 70 percent for the 2003-2004 schoolyear, before beginning to slip downward again.In 2006-2007, the last year for which official figures are available, the high school graduationrate fell to 68.7 percent, down from 69.2 percent the year before.xiv The rate is expected to 7   
  8. 8. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   continue its downward trend, with an average of 7,200 students dropping out of high schoolevery day in 2010xv.Vocational Training and Apprenticeships -- An Opportunity MissedIn some countries they do a very hard and fast division of students into those who are going tocollege and those who will be going to a craft school or into some kind of apprenticeshipprogram. In the U.S., we divide our kids into two groups, too. Except we say ‘this group goesto college, and this other group drops out, and we don’t know where they go.’” -- JeffLivingstonAnother casualty of viewing high school as nothing more than a stepping stone to college, is thathigh school vocational and technical programs have fallen by the wayside and have not evolvedto keep pace with the technology advances of the past few decades.In the 1960s and early ’70s, vocational training meant developing the skills necessary to repair acar, build a simple piece of furniture or style hair. Many of the college educated people whodetermine education policy today still believe this to be true. They are professionals, collegegrads themselves, and have little direct experience with the technical trades.But technical training in the 21st century is very different from what it was only a few decadesago. Today it is more about knowing how to install and repair advanced information andcommunications systems, how to operate a CAT scan or handle computer-driven manufacturingequipment than it is about wood or metal shop. Even truck drivers, assembly line and warehouseworkers often need to know how to operate a sophisticated computer system to do their jobsproperly nowadays.In addition, technical fields that previously required extensive training but not necessarily acollege degree -- such as IT maintenance, medical tech or nursing -- now require people with a 8   
  9. 9. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   sophisticated college-level background in subjects such as advanced algebra, applied physics,programming skills, anatomy, statistics or bio-chemistry.In Germany, Austria, France and some other countries, large numbers of students begin enteringformal apprentice programs designed to develop highly trained technicians and crafts peoplepossessing marketable skills. In the U.S., on the other hand, only about 0.3 percent of theworkforce currently acquire their skills through an apprenticeship.xviA 21st Century U.S. High School System for a 21st Century WorldThe distressing fact is that the bar has been raised for success in the 21st century, but the bar hasremained the same -- or it has actually been lowered -- at many high schools in the U.S. So largenumbers of students are leaving high school -- with or without a diploma -- having few of theskills or very little of the knowledge necessary to compete in the modern world.Can we do better? We think the answer is: “We must.” But how?As noted earlier, we believe there are four inter-related areas where high schools need to step uptheir game to make our students -- and eventually our workforce -- more competitive with thosefrom other countries:  A new curriculum that focuses on developing critical thinking, teamwork and problem- solving skills as opposed to just “knowing the answer;”  Better use of new technology tools, for both teaching and assessing individual student strengths and weaknesses, as well as for encouraging more creative, critical thinking and problem-solving;  Better and more professional development for teachers to support them in using technology to engage students, to enhance students’ understanding and to help make learning more meaningful; and 9   
  10. 10. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper     Taking a fresh look at the very structure of high school and questioning all of our assumptions about how it should work in pursuit of a new paradigm.I. A New Curriculum for a New Century“What do we want our students to demonstrate they can do when they leave high school? Ithink we should want them to be able to use their minds well -- to think, to reason -- to workcooperatively and be more self-directed.” -- Gerry House  The purpose of high school today is to learn how to learn, which means understanding how onegoes about gaining new knowledge and skills and developing the habit of lifelong learning.That used to be what a college education was all about. But in today’s world, where technologyleaps forward at such dizzying speed and occupational skills must be continually updated, highschool must now become the place where young people learn how to learn and adapt.Otherwise, by the time they get to college -- or any other kind of post-secondary education -- it’soften too late for them to acquire the skills and abilities necessary to engage in lifelong learning.Fortunately, new technologies and increasingly less expensive computing power make it easierto tailor courses of study to small groups and even to individual students. It is now both possibleand necessary to create high school curricula that are adaptable to students’ focused career plans.Components vital to any new high school curriculum should also have:1. A Greater Focus on Critical Thinking There is a great difference, writes noted educator Dr. Douglas Gerwin and his co-author David Mitchell, between simply memorizing content and developing the capacity to learn. “In the one, you receive something from without; in the other, you generate something from within.” xvii 10   
  11. 11. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper    High school students need to have their abstract thinking skills challenged, their ability to weigh the validity of different ideas exercised, and their overall participation in the world of events and ideas outside the classroom encouraged. 2. A Greater Focus on Problem Solving One of the deficiencies with today’s basic high school curriculum is that it does a very poor job of designing either course work or experiences that encourage students to approach problems that have no clear solution and work with others to solve them. Problem-solving and collaboration skills are the precise abilities many jobs require today. But if you were to ask most employers “what skills do you value most in your employees?” and then ask most recent high school graduates “what skills did you walk away from high school possessing?” you would see a major disconnect. Employers want people who can think, solve problems and work across cultural and national boundaries with others -- skills and abilities our high schools are currently not providing.3. A Greater Emphasis on Teaching Basic Life Skills “We say that the whole point of high school is to get into college, and then we do nothing to show students how they should accomplish that. My company, Unigo, was founded on that disconnect. We created because the high schools were really falling short when it came to the practical aspects of applying to college.” -- Jordan Goldman Students should have the opportunity to learn some practical life skills while they are in high school. Recent high school graduates are often overwhelmed by the sudden freedom and responsibility of managing their own lives in college because they have never learned how to budget their time or finances. They leave high school not knowing how to balance a checking account or work in teams with others to complete projects. 11   
  12. 12. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper    High school subjects attempt to be almost exclusively academic, dealing with abstract concepts such as interpretations of literature, the social impact of historical events, or mathematical and scientific principles. This kind of content is important and no one suggests eliminating it. But we need to do a better job of relating academic concepts to real-world problems and their solutions.4. More Meaningful External Educational Experiences and Apprenticeships We want our students to be able to make a connection between school and the larger society - - whether it is career, work-related, or has to do with being a better citizen. High school should provide well-defined experiences for students so that they can explore the world as it relates to the relevance of their learning. Apprenticeships are one way many European countries keep their manufacturing base and their technical trades thriving. Approximately 40 percent of teenagers in Austria enter an apprenticeship program at the end of their compulsory education (at age 15),xviii and the percentage of young people who go into apprenticeships in Germany, with 342 recognized trades, is over 50 percent.xix In the U.S., only a very small percentage of high school kids are in apprentice programs, and many of those are for Special Needs students, who may go to learn how to operate a cash register and work in retail. Most U.S. apprentice programs do not provide the kind of advanced training that could lead to a viable career for someone with an aptitude for technical study or design.           12   
  13. 13. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   II. A Better Use of Digital Tools and New TechnologiesDigital communications technologies and the Internet have become an important part of almosteveryone’s daily life today -- especially for teenagers -- except in high school.Former governors Jeb Bush of Florida and Bob Wise of West Virginia recently released a newreport on digital learning in which they write that “Technology has the power and scalability tocustomize education, so each and every student learns … at his or her own pace, … [whileoffering] teachers an effective way to overcome challenges and better educate students of alllearning needs …”xxWe agree, and offer the following ideas for bringing high school into the modern digital age:1. More On-Line Courses Almost all college students will take at least one online course and most will take more than a few, but high schools students rarely have the opportunity to do the same; that should change. Online courses are the great equalizer. They can provide high-level, individualized instruction to students across the country -- regardless of where they live or the local education resources available to them. They are cost-effective, and much of the infrastructure is already in place. Online courses could be a boon for students at all levels. They would empower higher- performing students to study subjects or levels of a subject not offered by their high school; students can access M.I.T. lectures in physics online now. They could also aid under- performing students by providing additional help. And they could prove decisive for those 13   
  14. 14. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper    students who need flexible scheduling to meet job or family obligations while trying to stay in school and graduate. With online learning, there is no longer any reason why students always have to actually come to the high school building to get an education.  2. Ongoing Formative Assessment Many bemoan the heavy reliance some schools now put on standardized testing and the “teaching to the test” style of classroom instruction that often results. But the original motivation behind standardized testing was a good one -- a desire to accrue data on student performance. Fortunately, there are more effective, less disruptive ways to compile even more meaningful and useful student performance data than locking everyone into a room twice a year and giving them a do-or-die test. Large standardized testing is “summative” by nature -- it can reveal only what students have or have not learned during the semester or year just passed. But new, web-based digital technologies allow schools -- and even individual teachers -- to compile large amounts of “formative” data, which can provide educators with detailed information on how each individual student is doing -- right now -- while still in the classroom and capable of being helped. Built-in, ongoing and formative student assessment goes on in the background while students are learning. Students are unaware they are being assessed, and so the assessment does not distort from the learning process the way a large summative test often does. But it does allow teachers to intervene -- to provide either extra help or more advanced study -- depending on the individual student’s performance and his or her demonstrated understanding of the material. 14   
  15. 15. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   3. Employing Social Media “School used to be the place where students learned about new technologies. Now kids learn about cool new stuff outside of school. It makes school look behind-the-curve and irrelevant.” -- Jordan Goldman Facebook currently has half a billion users around the world, and young people spend enormous amounts of time on the Internet interfacing with their friends, watching videos and playing computer games. These media certainly can be used frivolously, but they can also serve as important tools for learning. The U.S. education community has been resistant so far to making use of the Internet, computer gaming and social media sites for education, seeing them as distractions. But at their core these media are communications tools like any other. In fact, they are the primary communications tools used by both high school and college-age students today, and we cannot ignore that. Social media combined with e-books is one way to help make learning both more social, participatory and enjoyable for young people. Imagine an e-textbook integrated with a Facebook-like social media web page, where students could gather online to discuss their responses to the text with each other and share ideas as they read.III. Professional Development for Teachers“Teacher education programs have to play a larger role in teaching future teachers how tointegrate technology as a powerful learning tool.” -- Gerry HouseEducation programs at the nation’s teaching colleges will begin preparing their future teachersfor a 21st century classroom when schools begin demanding it. And that will happen within thenext few years, as the coming generation of new parents begins sending their young children toschool. 15   
  16. 16. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   This year’s freshman college class is among the first group to have grown up with computers andthe Internet as part of their lives since birth. The people starting families now in their early ormid-twenties do not remember a time without computers. They will not be satisfied with seeingtheir children educated in a 20th century classroom environment. The pressure to add digital-based adaptive learning tools -- and teachers qualified to use them -- will be intense. Smarteducators will begin to prepare for that day now.IV. Re-Imagining High School for the 21st Century“A 9th grade student came into one of our partner high schools with a terrible record ofperformance and attendance in middle school. His new high school teachers sat him downand asked him, ‘Why don’t you come to school? Why don’t you pay attention in class?’ Hesaid, “It’s all boring; I don’t see the relevance.’ He was very bright, and no one had botheredto ask him before. He was given more challenging work—work that required him to learn newknowledge and skills — and his attendance and performance improved But he would havebeen written off at most high schools and probably would have dropped out.” It was thecombination of high expectations and high supports that saved him. -- Gerry House“In high school today you go into a room, listen to a person standing at the front of the room,and write down everything that person says without question. There are very few other placesin the world where that happens.” -- Jeff Livingston“There may be something to be gained by deconstructing the way high school works today,piece by piece.” -- Jordan GoldmanAs we continued to discuss how high school could better prepare students for the 21st century,we agreed that the very structure of how we have organized and continue to run our high schools-- the traditions that seem to perpetuate year after year without question -- should bereconsidered.Most high school classes are the exact same length of time. Students are almost always inclasses with other students who are in the same age and grade. One teacher per class, the same 16   
  17. 17. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   teacher for an entire year, and then you often never have that teacher again. Why is it like that?Are there other ways that might be more productive?Following are three ways in which we might change how we fundamentally view U.S. highschool in the near future:1. Stop Thinking of High School as a Building A high school education need no longer be limited to the physical place. High school is about learning the things one needs to know to succeed in life. It’s not about coming to the same building every day and following the same schedule with the same people. Many businesses are flexible today in offering their employees the opportunity to tele-commute. Why shouldn’t high schools offer “tele-learning?” Allowing students who must work or who would like to combine their education with apprenticeships to take courses online and complete work at night or on weekends could lead to lower drop-out rates. And with online, long-distance learning, students need no longer be limited to learning just those subjects for which the local high school has qualified teachers. Certain rural districts may not have a qualified AP Math or Computer Science teacher in the area, but with online technology, a teacher doesn’t even have to be in the same state as the students.2. Give Students More Options and More Control Many high school students have the capacity to begin acting like young adults and taking more responsibility for their own future lives and careers as adults -- and will do so if given the opportunity. 17   
  18. 18. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper    Today’s typical high school student is treated too much like the typical middle-school student and too little like the typical college student. Give people more of a stake in their own lives and they will respond. Time, all by itself, is not a cure for immaturity.  3. Create a Structure That Allows for and Encourages Experimentation High schools should put structures in place that would allow them to experiment with new programs and ideas, measuring their success (or lack of it) often and re-evaluating them to determine whether they need to be adjusted or eliminated. This could prevent high schools simply replacing one orthodox way of doing things with another. If a system of continuous improvement through experimentation with alternative structures were put into place, schools could try new ideas in small doses just to see what works and what doesn’t. Those ideas that are shown to improve student performance could be integrated into the broader school environment. This is what businesses do, and what smart educators have always done on their own. We believe a formal system of experimentation would quickly show some impressive results and lead to real, much-needed change at the high school level.   18   
  19. 19. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper   ConclusionMany U.S. students receive an excellent education in high school, go on to college andeventually find their way to rewarding careers. But they are disproportionately from higher-income homes and are no longer the majority.At the same time, a growing number of U.S. students -- both lower income and middle-class --are falling by the wayside, either dropping out or graduating without being either college- orcareer-ready.This is happening -- not because the kids aren’t smart enough or don’t know what’s good forthem -- but because high school has become too focused on making students college eligiblewithout making them sufficiently college and career-ready. At the same time, it is notencouraging them to develop the kind of critical thinking and problem-solving skills that willenable them to function in whatever they do after high school, regardless of how technologydevelops.We agree with President Obama and his Education Secretary Duncan when they say that all highschool students should be preparing for either college, a job, or further career and technicaltraining. In each case, high school students should all be on a path to a career that will be bothfinancially and emotionally rewarding. Otherwise they are wasting their time and our resources.U.S. high schools can and should do better by providing our young people with the opportunitiesthey need to plan their futures. We have the talent and we have the resources; what’s needed isthe political will to support education reform, the courage to admit the system now in place is notworking, and the commitment to taking strong action to build a new type of high school that willfully prepare all of our students for success in the 21st century. 19   
  20. 20. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper    ###                                                            i  Diploma’s Count, 2010 ‐  ii  Education at a Glance 2009 : OECD indicators, OECD, Paris, 2009.;  iii  Ready, Willing and Unable to Serve:  75 Percent of Young Adults Cannot Join the Military; 2009 Mission: Readiness ‐  iv  New York Times, December 7, 2010 “Top Test Scores from Shanghai Stun Educators.”  v  The Governance Divide:  A Report on a Four‐State Study on Improving College Readiness and Success, a report conducted and issued by:  the Institute for Education Leadership, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, and the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, 2005  vi  National Center for Education Statistics, Profile of Undergraduate Students, 2007‐2008  vii  AMA 2010 Critical Skills Survey  viii  Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, Human Capital and Social Capital: The Rise of Secondary Schooling in America, 1910–1940, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 29 (1999): 683–723.  ix  Goldin, Claudia, The Human Capital Century and American Leadership:  Virtues of the Past, Department of Economics Harvard University and National Bureau of Economic Research, 2001, p. 4.  x  Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, Human Capital and Social Capital: The Rise of Secondary Schooling in America, 1910–1940, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 29 (1999): 683–723.  xi  Shawn Fremstad and Andy Van Kleunen, Redefining Public Education for the 21st Century: Toward a Federal Guarantee of Education and Training for America’s Workers, Clearinghouse REVIEW Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, May–June 2006.  xii  U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2003.  20   
  21. 21. McGraw-Hill Research FoundationPolicy Paper                                                                                                                                                                                                     xiii  Deloitte 2009 Education Survey Overview, Redefining High School as a Launch Pad  xiv  xv xv    Diploma’s Count, 2010 ‐  xvi  Zakaria, Fareed, How to Restore the American Dream, Time Magazine, Oct. 21, 2010.  xvii  Gerwin, Douglas, Ph.D. and Mitchell, David, What is the Purpose of School?  Lilipoh magazine, Spring 2009.  xviii  ^  xix‐10  xx  Digital Learning Now!, Jeb Bush and Bob Wise, Foundation for Excellence in Education, December 1, 2010.  21