This week in a department meeting, after we had finished the official agenda we began talking about what is important for students to know how to do. Teachers, coming from an academic background, always believe that academic skills are paramount in what we try to get our students to do. We talked about whether it is important for students to know how to write a formal research paper. We asked questions as to whether it was important for students to know how to correctly reference sources, to interpret classical literary works, and solve for unknowns in complex equations. We talked about how hard it is to get high school students to understand the importance of such academic pursuits. When we consider the breadth and depth of the Illinois Learning Standards (click the link to get a look at them), it is hard to grasp how big a task it is to prepare every child, leaving none behind, to be proficient on all of those standards. A comment was made about how even our brightest, who do well on the state exam, are not prepared for the “real world” because high school has not changed appreciably in the past 50 years and the “real world” has. It was at this point that I was able to interject that the outside world…i.e. business and industry want workers that will show up on time, complete a project that is done on time and with attention to detail and quality, work together well with others, think critically, continue to grow in their knowledge about their work, and be willing to do what is asked. I feel that it is important to stress the processes that students have to complete in high school as much as they need to know the hard facts. The biggest change in the past 15 years is that schools are no longer the repository of information. A student in the back of class with an Internet capable phone can answer any factual based question you ask, but can they take that information, combine it with a multi-media presentation and persuade us to believe something that we might not have believed before? We must define what our students need to be able to do, not what they need to know. We must ask for input from people other than ourselves (teachers). We have such an academic slant! Parents, students, business leaders, industry managers and the community at large need to help us define what students need to be able to do when they leave us to be successful. The product of this effort just might make high school more relevant and engaging for our students….What do you think?