I was discussing the current state of high school education the other day with several people and we developed what I thought was a likely scenario—-high schools as we know them, are on their way to becoming extinct. They were designed in the early part of the 20th Century with an assembly line construct as their premise. Get as much information out to students in the most efficient way. They were established before TVs, computers, Ipods….etc. High school units are still based on “seat” time. Today’s high school students are pushed from class to class based on a rigid time schedule. In effect they are sent from room to room to learn fact or perform tasks that are rarely related to what they did the hour before or will be doing an hour later. Very often they are engaged by the same technology students were exposed to fifty years ago. So much has changed. Schools have changed so little. High schools are content driven. We are still divided up by departments and those departments are islands in and of themselves. Math does not work with Social Studies, English does not work with Consumer Sciences….etc. Today, content specific knowledge is rarely the only asset an individual will need to succeed. Although content knowledge is still essential, other skills are identified by employers as essential for today’s students and they include:
1) professionalism/work ethic;
3) oral communication;
4) critical thinking/problem solving.
These skills require less of a concentration on content emphasis and more concentration on processes. Problem based approaches that force students and their teachers to concentrate on process based skills as much as the content area knowledge are what we need to concentrate on. Curriculum must be redefined to reflect these needs and assessment must measure skills growth. We must move away from the one time, high stakes test that emphasizes to much content and not the skills needed for success!