Magazine article Techniques

The "New" American High School

Magazine article Techniques

The "New" American High School

Article excerpt

Educators met in the nation's capital this summer to find ways to improve on secondary education in this country.

With education models from the 1950s still in use across the country, schools are losing students as they become bored in classes where they see little relevance between what is taught and what their future career holds.

More than 1,400 educators from across the country recently met and discussed this problem and what to do about it at the "Reinventing High School: Taking Action" conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).

The consensus? Students need educators to create the kind of high school environment that will fit their needs. To that end, the DOE is trying to figure out what the new high school should look like, says Patricia McNeil, assistant secretary for DOE's Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE).

"Too many high schools are falling short and the fact of the matter is, kids have changed and schools must change." She notes that sometimes it is hard to break the inertia, "but we must have a vision for that change."

In that vision for change, the DOE announced development of three programs: a federal version of career clusters; Building Linkages, designed to help schools implement career clusters; and the creation of a senior year commission.

Federally designed career clusters

OVAE is hoping to change the face of education with 16 new career clusters, which categorize jobs into groups related to specific curricula. According to DOE officials, career clusters will be play a major role in education reform.

While career clusters are not a new concept to many schools, this is the first time the DOE has adopted its own version of career clusters, explains Scott Hess, education program specialist at OVAE. "In the past, states and schools have seen the need for career clusters and have developed different sets. It would have been nice if the DOE developed them years ago so that there were not so many variations," he says.

The significance of the 16 career clusters is that the standards are being set at the federal level, but states decide if they want to use the DOE clusters. "States may decide to adopt all 16 clusters or to develop crosswalks and use their own clusters. They may currently have five clusters and decide to break them into 16," says Hess.

The national career clusters plan will give students the flexibility to move within clusters and investigate a wide range of career choices.

Expectations for the clusters remain academically-based and cluster curriculum standards must be equal to or higher than those of the traditional graduation standards. …

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