Saturday, September 23, 2006


Studies have shown that many of our high schools, even those that boast
of high graduation and college-attendance rates, rarely demand that
students use information, skills, and technologies to construct new
knowledge and to solve complex problems, integrate concepts and ideas
across disciplines, communicate effectively orally and in writing, and
work in diverse groups. Yet this is precisely the kind of learning
students need for a Conceptual Age. Students themselves tell us that
they want to be held to high standards but that they find their high
schools boring, unchallenging, and disconnected from their lives.
Closing the achievement gap between white and minority students -- and
making sure all students are prepared to function successfully in a
changing world -- will require a dispassionate examination of a high
school system that all too often is failing students on two levels. Two
serious gaps hold back most of our students and risk the prosperous
future of the entire country. The gap we hear least about is the one
between a rigorous, intellectually challenging curriculum and the rote
instructional program that is commonplace in far too many classrooms.
The gap we hear much more about is the one in student achievement that
is exposed when data is disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and family
income. Are we supplying the conditions in our schools to create a new
crop of original thinkers? Are we making sure our curricula and
instructional programs are not relegated to repetitive practice,
gathering and organizing information, remediation, and test prep? Are we
requiring all students to use their minds well to construct knowledge,
to inquire, to invent, to make meaning and relevance out of their
learning? Hardly, writes Gerry House in the most recent issue of America
School Board Journal.

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