High School–A New Perspective

I’m not by any means a school administrator or teacher or school superintendent or member of a school board, though I do have a high school diploma and college and postgraduate degrees, and I have taught a few science courses in college and postgraduate education.  But as an outside observer, I’ve been watching high school through the last sixty or so years, and I’ve heard of how high school prepares students for adulthood, both good and bad.  Generally speaking, high school hasn’t changed much from when I attended, all those years ago.  It’s time for high school to enter the modern world and I would like to offer a very general plan that would bring high school into the new century.

I suggest that high school (I’m including grades 9-12 as “high school”) go on a quarter system, to be held year round.  Four quarters a year, fall, winter, spring and summer, with the school to remain open all year, and courses available all four quarters.  Each student would have to accumulate enough points for graduation, with one point given for each course completed.  Since this is on a quarter system rather than semester system or the six 6-week periods prevalent when I was in high school, the amount of education represented by each point would, of course, change.  Those points would be distributed over a variety of courses to result in a student prepared for his/her next step, whether that be college, trade school, or just getting a job.  Courses would include English (including grammar, reading for comprehension, writing) math, social studies, science, arts, physical education, participation courses such as athletics (football, baseball, etc.), or band, drama, choir and so forth.  This isn’t much different from the curriculum most high schools offer now.  But what I suggest is that each student be free—after the age of 16—to attend courses at her/his own pace.  Up to age 16, students would be required to attend high school and take a certain number of courses on a year round basis.  After 16, students would be allowed to take courses as they see fit, and obtain a diploma when they have accumulated the proper number of points.  I foresee graduation exercises at the end of every quarter.

I’m sure that the summer quarter would be lightly attended if this schedule were put into effect now, but after a while, I suspect students would appreciate the ability to take courses year round to graduate as soon as their own abilities allow.  Some students will jump at the chance to graduate earlier than they would by the current system.  Others, such as students who have an outside job, might graduate later.  But giving students a little more freedom to pursue education at their own pace might reduce the stress on students to graduate under the rigid and time-intensive system we have now.  No more closing the schools in the summer.

The practice of closing schools in the summer is a hold-over from when students had to help the family during the summer.  That’s not true so much any more, though if a student wanted to work in the summer under this system, he/she is free to do so.  Even when I was in high school, that wasn’t true.

Additionally, students would be allowed to take courses above the level necessary for graduation.  A student might take a second year of algebra to prepare for college, if she/he wanted.  A student could also come back later and pick up a course in order to be better prepared to get a job.  I would like to have taken a course in woodworking in high school, but could never fit it into my schedule.

This type of schedule is more like college, but I think students, at 16 and above, would be better served by allowing them to go at their own pace.   Granted, some students may stretch their coursework out over more than four years, but that should be up to them.  A high school diploma indicates that the student has met the requirements for graduation, and those requirements are designed to give the student a well-rounded education, regardless of how long it takes.  A high school diploma is still a high school diploma.

This isn’t a big change in high school education.  The content of courses wouldn’t change much other than to switch to a quarter system.  This system is based more on the idea that students have better control over their education, in both pace and content, which is a more realistic situation here in the Twenty-first Century.

Any other suggestions?

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