How we educate high school students in the U.S. needs to change. Our high schools are no longer relevant to the needs of 21st century learners and the system must be restructured.

This restructuring will allow students to choose from a variety of new study options. The days of “one size fits all” for secondary education services are coming to a close – it is now about providing students with a “customized” course of study in their pursuit of a high school diploma. Students should have a choice among the traditional high school model, a community high-school model (a hybrid between traditional and online instruction), and an early-college model that will allow students to graduate with both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree by taking a fifth year of high school.

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Central to all three high school study options, or combination of options, is an intensive focus on making each learner’s secondary school experience a successful one (particularly at the freshman level), and offering ubiquitous student access to the Internet both in school and at home (using a variety of mobile computing devices). A synopsis of each program option required in a restructured high school include:

Freshman Academy

Research has shown that the transition between middle and high school is one of the most difficult developmental challenges a person faces in life. Students who are not successful in 9th grade are six times more likely to drop out before completing high school compared to their peers.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Technology plays a large role in our students’ lives today. Personal devices can enhance and enrich learning opportunities both at home and at school. High schools today must be committed to allowing responsible, learning-centered use of personal devices at school so as to provide as many pathways to understanding and learning as possible for students.

Hybrid Community High School

The creation of a hybrid community high school, in addition to traditional high, merges traditional and online learning into one customizable secondary education program. This hybrid is particularly attractive to students who do not do well in the traditional high school setting, such students at-risk of academic failure, gifted students, or students who are just plain bored and need something different. This merger results in one, united flexible-program high school for “non-traditional” high school students who, for one reason or another, would prefer to complete many of their required credits online instead of in the classroom.

Early College Program

It is widely accepted that a majority of today’s jobs, eight or nine of every 10, require education beyond a high-school diploma. It is also known from U.S. Census data that most adults in the U.S. have not yet completed a two or four year degree. Although nearly 70% of high-school graduates start some college classes, only about 20% actually complete a degree. One significant problem today is that many students find that completing a college degree is difficult because of the many conflicting financial and time commitment priorities they face in today’s economy. A successful pathway to a college degree now requires a coordinated collaboration among high school, college, family, and community partners.

Summary

By rethinking how high school instruction is delivered, American secondary education can begin offering a truly customizable to its students. In so doing, we can produce high school and Associate’s degree graduates with a comprehensive set of critical thinking and tech-savvy skills that will serve our country well as these students compete for the new jobs in our global economy.