High School Reform: Less Talk, More Action


For decades, educators and policymakers have talked about high school reform, but now, says ASCD Executive Director Gene R. Carter, it’s time to turn the talk into action. In his latest Is It Good for the Kids? column, Carter points out that nearly one-third of high school students drop out before graduating–that’s one every 26 seconds; between 6,000 and 7,000 every school day; and 1.2 million every year. And for those who do graduate, Carter questions whether they will leave school with the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly global market.

The column highlights an article in the May 2008 Educational Leadership by Linda Darling-Hammond and Diane Friedlaender, which describes five urban California high schools that have significantly raised student graduation and college attendance rates above the state average. The authors cite personalization, rigorous and relevant instruction, and professional collaboration as common elements in each of the five schools; however, the authors concede that these schools are the exception, not the norm.

In response to their call for policy change to address the challenges facing U.S. high schools, Carter writes,

ASCD agrees that a policy change is needed to reverse the startlingly high dropout rates, lack of student engagement, and inadequate flexibility that stifle rather than promote innovation in our nation’s high schools. The Association has made high school redesign a top legislative priority and, with the help of its Educator Advocates, is working to build support in the U.S. Congress for the Getting Retention and Diplomas Up Among Today’s Enrolled Students (GRADUATES) Act.

ASCD believes that the approaches outlined in the GRADUATES Act have the potential to create evidence-based, systemic, and replicable models for high school redesign that improve student achievement and prepare students to succeed in postsecondary education and the 21st century workforce.

We’d like to know what’s happening in your schools and communities. What actions are being taken to promote innovative high school redesign? Please share your stories with us here.

Are you ready to take action to improve U.S. high schools? You can start by making your voice heard at the federal level. Join other ASCD Educator Advocates in asking your members of the U.S. House and Senate to cosponsor the GRADUATES Act.