Creating a Better High School - Part 3

       This is the third in a three-part series that will look at the structures in place in our current high schools that don't make sense or are not needed anymore.  I want to think about the best way that students learn and create a high school that will serve these learners.  I also want to think about the true purpose of high schools in our time.  My goal isn't to imagine a "High School of the Future", but instead to consider what can realistically be done today.  As always, I encourage my readers to add their thoughts and ideas.  Together we can create the high school that our students want and need today.

Create a Better High School

Part 1 - Current school structures that aren't necessary anymore.
Part 2 - How students learn and how schools can react to these learners.
Part 3 - The purpose of high school


The Purpose of High School

       This could be a short post because all I really want to say is that the purpose of high school is "Learning".  That's it.

       Indeed, the purpose of schooling in general is learning.  However sometimes it seems that the purpose of high schools is "getting-a-good-grade".  This can be stated in many ways:
  • Getting a grade
  • Doing what your told
  • Compliance
  • Grade Point Average (GPA)
  • Test scores
But this is not the intention of high school.  The purpose of high school is learning.  We want students to learn.  In fact its more than that...We want students to learn how to learn.  Our current system is all about doing stuff to get a good grade.  Learning might take place; and we (as educators) certainly want learning to take place.  But many students are stuck in the rut that says, "I just have to do what I'm told to get the grade; to get the credit."  For many students, "Learning" comes in second or third place (if rated at all) in their list of priorities.

       So how do we create a better high school that emphasizes "Learning" over "getting-a-good-grade"?  We know that when students are interested and excited about what they are doing, they are more likely to try their best and more likely explore, to ask questions, and engage in the effort to complete the task.  Therefore, we need high school to include more project-based tasks.  We also need students to engage in tasks in small groups so that they have the chance to debate ideas with fellow students and allow their peers to evaluate their ideas and suggestions.

       I believe that we (also) need high school to include instructional techniques that encourage a growth mindset in our high school students.  Part of the reason that students sometimes show such a small amount of motivation is because they believe that no amount of effort will enable them to learn.  We want students to understand the value of effort.  Growth mindset teaching helps students to understand this.  But growth mindset is not well understood by our current teachers.
       Our better high school will evaluate learning in different ways.  Rubrics, peer evaluation, presentations, portfolios.  We already use a lot of these methods.  This is not futuristic; this is today.

       We have to separate the "Learning" of high school from the "Grading" of high school.

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