Commission proposes sweeping high school reforms

I’m surprised that this hasn’t received more attention in the blogosphere. An educational reform commission has proposed some dramatic revisions to the public high school system:

Most high school students could leave after their sophomore year and go to community college or vocational training under a proposal endorsed by a prestigious panel on Thursday.

The report from the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce touches on all aspects of education, but some of its most unusual proposals would end America’s four-year high school and replace it with a more European-style model.

The plan is one of the most expansive educational proposals to surface at a time when federal officials are encouraging experimentation in the nation’s school districts to help boost high school graduation rates and help Americans better compete with foreign workers. Unlike many education reports, this one is supported by several respected education leaders, including former U.S. Secretaries of Education Richard W. Riley and Roderick Paige. Riley served a Democrat; Paige served a Republican.

Rather than requiring students to remain in high school for four years, the report proposes a rigorous 10th-grade test that would allow those who pass to leave school two years early, which proponents say could help reduce the dropout rate, among other positive effects. They could then go on to technical or vocational training or academic work in preparation for a four-year institution.

The juniors and seniors left in high school would either be teens in remedial classes working to pass the exam or youngsters who chose to stay and pursue challenging academic work so they could attend elite institutions.

I’m highly in favor of some of the commission’s provisions, for example, universal availability of preschool. However, I don’t think this particular high school reform proposal will be acceptable.

There are more issues at stake than are likely to be tested in even the most rigorous 10th grade examination. I entered college early and I did fine but in all honesty I wasn’t emotionally ready for it. Frankly, I suspect that there are a lot more 16 year olds that will be able to pass the exam than will actually be ready for college.

I also wonder how the present college professors will feel about a big influx of 16 and 17 year olds.

Others commenting on the report:


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  • expat Link

    There are things other than pure education that should be considered, like school spirit (which carries over to alumni fundraising), ease of movement from one path to another, adequate opportunities in rural areas and small towns. Europeans organize social activities for teens completely differently. Ideas like this should be worked out on a local basis to fit local needs, and when enough experience is gained programs can be expanded. A top down plan that covers Brooklyn and rural South Dakota aint gonna work.

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