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Addenda To Florida’s Idea For H.S. Majors

December 15, 2006

A prestigious panel recommends that, instead of a four-year program, U.S. high schools could drop to two years and send students to either community colleges or vocational schools. A story on the panel’s work ran in today’s Chicago Tribune: it was authored by Lori Olszewski and Diane Rado, and titled “Panel: Revamp U.S. high schools.” Other stories on the panel’s report appeared in today’s Washington Post, New York Times, and Boston Globe. All quotations and bullet points below come from the Tribune article.

– The panel is called the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. They are “a private, nonprofit group resurrected at the invitation of the National Center on Education and the Economy. The original group issued the 1990 report “America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages” that helped spur the national education standards movement.”
– The panel’s “26 members are influential educators, academics and businessmen. The roster includes Thomas Payzant, former superintendent of the Boston public schools; Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City public schools; John Engler, the former governor of Michigan and president of the National Association of Manufacturers; and Morton Bahr, the former president of the Communications Workers of America.”
– “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.”
– “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.”
– “‘It may seem radical to some Americans, but many countries do it,’ said commissioner and former Secretary of Labor William Brock of the goal of making sure most 16-year-olds are ready to leave high school for higher education. ‘Who would say our young people are less capable?’ Unlike in Europe, though, doors would not permanently close to students who fail the American 10th-grade exams. Teens would be encouraged to retake the exam to be developed by each state until they pass it.”

There’s more in the article. Do check it out.

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This sounds like a great idea to me. It certainly seems more efficient than Florida’s idea, discussed here a few days ago. This panel’s proposals at least seem to fit better within the existing system. I’m not sure I like the idea, however, of each state developing – completely on its own – a certifying exam. – TL

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