Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Let's Make It Better: High-school Head Start

At the last curriculum meeting I introduced an idea I had that I had spent quite awhile thinking about. Generally speaking I would like to see all Connecticut schools (at least Region 19) to promote eighth graders to high school during their second semester.

What I think this accomplishes is a number of very positive outcomes.

First, it ends senior-itis both in the high school and Jr High school level. At the eighth grade level, the students will suddenly have to navigate a new school, take some mandatory classes and tests (to better evaluate their talents), and hopefully acclimate them to what will be expected in the coming years. For years we've read about the early arrival of maturity in this young teen group. It's time to acknowledge this and put these kids in an environment that they belong.

For seniors, they'll be expected to serve in their second semester not as students but as tutors in the elementary grades in math, science, english and wherever they can be used in community settings. Their final semester will be outside the high school box and immersed in mature relationships with the society they're entering. This can be a time to earn money for college, try volunteer work, or directed study. This kind of experience has long been advocated by educators like Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner.

In educational regions like ours, this frees up some local funds for a better k-8 experience and it reinvigorates the high school by eliminating the excruciating second senior semester.

For the students it keeps the experience vital, vibrant, and exciting. The seniors get a head start on college plans, spring to summer jobs, and so on. Eighth graders will know over the summer what to prepare for educationally and culturally.

I think this is a cornerstone of reinvigorating high school education in the region and in Connecticut.

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