Recommendations for successful high school reform

A few more thoughts from the same articles on high school reform:

National high school reform efforts have merely “propped up an antiquated system instead of rethinking and repairing it” (Wise, 2008, p. 10).

What preliminary recommendations have emerged from those reform efforts of the high school experience that appear to be successful?

1. Align what schools expect of students with the demands of college and the workforce. Research by ACT (American College Testing) suggests that the skills needed for work readiness mirrors those needed for college readiness.  As a result, we need to set common, high expectations and a common set of standards for students to acquire the knowledge and skills that will lead to post high-school success whether they attend college or enter the workplace.

2. Offer a rigorous, option-rich curriculum in order to personalize learning. As we set high standards for learning and share our expectations that our students can attain them, we need to develop and offer a rich curricular experience that allows students to personalize their own learning in response. Such an experience should be option-rich so that students can explore and learn across disciplines.

3. Support learning. Schools, then, need to provide the necessary advising and support programs to ensure student success. This includes offering smaller learning environments, fostering long-term relationships among faculty and students, and creating advisory systems to ensure needed academic and personal support for the student, the family and other teachers that the student encounters. This will require smaller class sizes and providing teachers with more time to teach their students by tailoring instruction to their strengths, needs, background, experience and interest.

4. Improve instruction by mining data and using digital technologies. In order for teachers to better serve their students, they need to know how to inquire and reflect on their instructional effectiveness as it positively impacts student learning. Teachers need to know how to make informed pedagogical decisions based on data as they help personalize the learning experience of their students. Teachers need to know how to support classroom instruction through the use of appropriate technologies and best practices.

5. Professional and Collaborative Learning. In order for teachers to better serve their students, they need considerable time to plan, collaborate and learn from each other. This time should be allocated on an at least weekly, if not daily, basis and also include sufficient learning in-service days during the year. Teachers should meet regularly in grade-level groups and in discipline-specific groups to engage in focused inquiry on problems of practice.


Darling-Hammond, L. & Friedlaender, D. (2008). Creating excellent and equitable schools. Educational Leadership, 65(8); 14-21.

Wise, B. (2008, May). High schools at the tipping point. Educational Leadership, 65(8); 8-13.