October 23, 2005

Earn College Credit while in High School

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A new report by the Community College Research Center, Pathways to College Access and Success describes several programs that help students earn college credits while still in high school. The programs range from the well know International Baccalaureate to dual enrollment, tech prep, middle college high schools and post secondary enrollment options. Some of the programs offer considerable advantages to low income students. Amazingly, some students graduate from high school on schedule but have simultaneously completed as much as two years of college at no personal financial expense, a fairly well-kept secret.

The report is part of a longer study, Accelerating Student Success Through Credit-Based Transition Programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2005

High School Redesign

High school reform focuses on new designs, funding by foundations,High Schools graphic.jpg new schools (in contrast to changing existing schools) and the voice of students (gasp) about their schools. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform gives this topic attention in the latest issue of Voices in Urban Education (VUE) with such articles as:

*Redesigning High School: Whole Systems That Work for All Students

*Portfolios of Schools: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

*Students as Co-constructors of the Learning Experience and Environment: Youth Engagement and High School Reform

*Reinventing High School Accountability: Authenticity, Pressure, and Support

The Annenberg Institute also has a great resource in Tools for School Improvement Planning.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:57 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2005

A New Type of High School

Recommendations for middle colleges or the more recent term, early college high schools, appear with regularity nowadays. Such programs combine high school with college so that a student earns a two year degree Laboratory.jpg simultaneously with a high school diploma. An excellent 2005 report, "Early College High School: Integrating Grades 9 through 15" by Jobs for the Future describes an initiative sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. With $50 million, these organizations are funding the establishment of 100 such new schools. For example, Stark Community College is preparing to establish the program in partnership with local schools. Jobs for the Future provides numerous references to the topic. Often, the programs are directed at high need students. Bard High School Early College in a New York City serves 9th and 10th graders who then take college classes at the high school and earn an associate degree rather than high school graduation--a form of an institutional bypass! Education Week has an excellent article, "College-Based High Schools Fill a Growing Need."

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2005

Examples of Educational Alternatives

Alternatives come in many types. Here are four alternatives--unusual and extraordinary public schools with links for more information:
Jennings Experiential High School takes its urban students on two 35 day overseas trips, this year to Costa Rica and Ghana, West Africa. There they perform community service and study many aspects of the environment. They prepare for the trips with five weeks of intensive study.
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Minnesota New Country School (7-12) and River Heights Charter School (9-12) contract for staffing and other services with a cooperative of teachers. Students study topics of personal interest using the project method for learning.
Village School of Northfield (K-12) gives staff and students a vote about all aspects of the school. They follow the Sudbury model of permitting students to follow their interests at their own pace.Studio 4.jpg
High School for Recording Arts (9-12)joins a school with a commercial recording arts business, Studio 4. Their high-need students enroll because of an interest in popular music, hence the nickname, Hip Hop High. Records have been distributed nationally.

These experiential learning examples show the diversity among educational alternatives that parents, students and staff can choose from. Extending school choices for learning is the mission of IALA. This website's purpose is to promote thoughtful examination of the one-size-fits-all philosophy so much the central tenet of traditional education. We wish to assist policy makers and others who recognize the benefits of providing an array of educational choices.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2005

Toolkit for Creating New High Schools

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Jobs for the Future has a helpful guide, Building a Portfolio of High Schools: A Strategic Investment Toolkit for helping communities think through and complete a set of exercises to design new and successful high schools that serve all students. Presents a rationale for changing traditional high school so that low students do not fall through the cracks, complete school and are prepared for their next stage in life. The book establishes a framework for a study team that guides their decision making.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:05 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2005

New Schools to Bypass Traditional High Schools

Jobs for the Future will open schools that accelerate high school and college by compressing grades. Early College High Schools are small schools from which students leave with not only a high school diploma but also an Associate's degree or two years of college credit toward a Bachelor's degree. Several foundations will provide major funding for the creation or redesign of 70 Early College High Schools in the next five years for underserved and low-income young people.


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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:01 PM

February 22, 2005

Youthbuild USA, An Exciting Alternative

Youthbuild USA works with low income youth in 200 communities. Young people growing up in poor neighborhoods desire skills to help them move forward in life. However, they are often discouraged by an education system that fails to recognize their intelligence, fails to help them overcome learning difficulties, and fails to make learning a meaningful and exciting part of their lives.

YouthBuild offers a dynamic educational alternative. Its personalized, self-paced educational program is a powerful blend of experiential and academic learning that frees students' innate intellectual and creative abilities. They soon see math and reading as practical skills needed to accomplish real tasks in their daily lives. Teachers work closely with each student to ensure that no one is overlooked. At the same time, YouthBuild's philosophy of peer-assisted learning builds trust and confidence among trainees. More on the program philosophy.

YouthBuild receives Congressional funding through several agencies and is partially self-supporting by its physical community building activities. This is a powerful and effective alternative!



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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:32 PM

January 28, 2005

High School Redesign

A new report, State Strategies for Redesigning High Schools and Promoting High School to College Transitions by the Education Commission of the States is the latest in a long saga of reports from various sources calling for significant reform of high schools. This brief (6 pages) describes the problem, suggests changes and outlines the initiatives in several states. It also provides valuable links to other studies and reports. Lynn Olson in a related article, "Calls for Revamping High Schools Intensify" pours on more fuel and provides additional articles on the topic.

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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:52 AM

December 11, 2004

Changing High School

Because high schools have been so resistant to change, educational choices have expanded enormously. Why can't high schools change? A provocative essay, "The Blind Men and the High School" descibes six strategies to change school. Each states a strategy, problem definition and theory of action. Here is one of the stategies as an example:

Strategy: Devise new institutional forms for secondary education: "Early college" high schools, small high schools, schools-within-schools, charter schools, "KIPP" high schools, virtual high schools. Much has been said and done on this front, and the innovations take many shapes, as do the choice schemes whereby young people and their parents can access the version that works best for them.

Problem definition: The circa-1950s, one-size-fits-all, "comprehensive high school" is dysfunctional and off-putting for many, besides being an inefficient, out-moded vehicle for teaching them what they need to learn.

Theory of action: Create new options for delivering and receiving secondary education, using technology, modern organizational theory, out-sourcing and the like, then give young people choices.

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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:29 PM

November 02, 2004

High School: Crisis or Possibility

A new report, Crisis or Possibility Conversations about the American High School (downloadable) by James Harvey and Naomi Housman for the National High School Alliance began with the assumption that something needed to be done. Some 40 organizations participate in the Alliance for this important and well-funded study about the need to "reinvent the American high school." Read the executive summary for the key information. This is the latest item about the need for learning alternatives!

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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 08:17 AM

September 27, 2004

Advanced High School

The Providence, RI Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, or MET school for short, was created as a high school taking advantage of best practices in school reform and therefore departs significantly from the norm. A strong advisor program, small school size, and tremendous amount of community based learning are among its features. Dennis Litkey, one of the founders, writes of their hughly successful venture, one that has attracted considerable foundation support for replication. The parent organization, The Big Picture Company provides considerable detail about its programs. A new book, The Big Picture: Education is Everyone's Business provides further detail into the philosophy and operation of this advanced school.

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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 01:59 PM

May 10, 2004

Create New Schools

Community Based Organizations (CBOs)have entered the education scene by sponsoring new charter schools. The YMCA of America, YouthBuild and the National Council of LaRaza are examples. YouthBuild received a $5.4 million Gates Foundation grant to establish 10 new schools to add to the network of 23 Youthbuild schools. How National Organizations and Their Affiliates Can Support the New Schools Strategy describes the backgound of this movement and provides details.


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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:07 PM

March 17, 2004

Another Alternative: Career Academies

From an article: Established more than 30 years ago, Career Academies have become a widely used high school reform initiative that aims to keep students engaged in school and prepare them for successful transitions to post-secondary education and employment. Typically serving between 150 and 200 high school students from grade 9 or 10 through grade 12, Career Academies are organized as small learning communities, combine academic and technical curricula around a career theme, and establish partnerships with local employers to provide work-based learning opportunities. There are estimated to be more than 2,500 Career Academies across the country according to their network.


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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:36 PM

March 03, 2004

Breaking Ranks II Calls for Major Reforms

Breaking Ranks II: Strategies for Leading High School Reform published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals reaffirms and strengthens recommendations in the earlier 1996 addition. A free copy of the report is being sent to every high school principal in America with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The recommendations are bold and systemic but in my view are as unlikely to come to fruition as they were when published earlier. That unhappy outcome simply shows again the difficulty of making major reforms in well-established institutions.

Hence, the need for alternatives and the power of starting schools from scratch.


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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:41 AM

December 19, 2003

High Schools: Need for Alternatives

Indicators of serious problems in high schools continue to pop up like secrets that cannot be suppressed. Now the National Research Council of the National Academies (probably the nation's most prestigious and unbiased organization) has published, Engaging Schools: Fostering High School Students' Motivation to Learn, a report showing a grim picture of high schools unlikely to surprise teachers in even the best of schools that high school students lack any sense of purpose or real connection with what they are doing in the classroom. You can order the book or read it on line.
This is mindful of a book, Another Planet by Elinor Burkett descibing an existing successful suburban high school in which the author spent a year documenting that for students, high school is another planet.


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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 08:28 PM

November 28, 2003

Schools within Schools

A long standing practice to provide choices is the practice of creating schools within an existing school. For example, a large high school might have several subunits that serve as alternatives for students and staff. The Gates Foundation funds a large number of projects to carve large schools into smaller units, for example $55 million for Texas schools. A recent study by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education examines this movement in Cincinnati and Philadelphia for its effect on school culture, instruction and student performance.

For the most authoritative coverage of schools within schools, see Educational Alternatives for Everyone by Don Glines, specifically chapter 18. Don has been the voice for how schools can change for 40 years. Check him out!


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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:41 AM