The Year That Saved High School


You may not see it come the CNN 2015 year-end reviews. A working example might be a hike from where you live. Still, it will have begun. The new American high school is under design and under way.

It’s a pretty exciting place to be.

Gone first is a 20 year obsession with college. That needed and well-met focus served it’s time. Yet skilled machinists make over $50k a year, even food service demands increasingly complex skills. The academy has yet to uniquely guarantee good citizenship.  Our cars, homes and bodies need increasingly complex repairs. Computers and robots run the shops of the land even as the ‘Internet of things’ has barely begun. More college is not the answer.

Gone, too, is the idea that HS can be completed inside a HS building.

Much is added to create the new high school.

Firstly including pedagogy often known as ‘deeper learning‘. Deeper learning in itself, as Carri Schneider recently highlighted, may certainly have other ‘____-learning’ components such as blended and mastery. And it evokes old approaches long practiced in Montessori and similar schools.

Yet rote and muscle learning will find new succor. People like being good at skills. IF they’re ready to learn and are not forced into mastering them.

What will be fundamentally different are two things:

  1. The degree to which HS students choose their own source, method, subject, means, and pace of learning.
  2. The degree to which the larger world contributes to that learning.

That is, the driver and the road of learning both change.

Connected learning is key to resourcing the new American high school. It just cant be done with the same set of funds, teaching positions, tech budgets, and physical spaces that high schools have to work with. Ohio alone has 830 high schools. Each is a $40-60 million physical investment, many in rural areas. Even a 10% physical expansion would cost $4 billion dollars–4x the state’s annual budget.

The new high school says we don’t just turn to community colleges to ‘fix’ learning for half our population. We look to all our neighbors and community institutions to pitch in on the coaching, mentorship, and sometimes assessment aspects. We use the Internet to powerfully match human connections.

The new high school uses advances in credentialing, aka Openbadges, to package learning into bite-sized chunks. We have to make big advances in implementing this in our high schools this year. [Let’s start with teacher PD. Let’s start with every @edcamp and edu-conference attendee in 2015 getting an @openbadge.] Obviously, at BadgeOH|BadgeHS, we’ve pledged our part to work the problem of badges for student learning.

The new high school envisions students working in long-lasting teams. For a half- or full semester or longer. On topics, even entire classes, of the team’s choice and direction.

The new high school is where students drive each day’s learning, yet where mastery steadily and purposefully increases.

The turning point is here. We can tell by who has already changed direction. 2014 saw big names in education policy shift from their obsession with college.

2015 will change how we look at high school.

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