How to improve high school? Ask college freshmen

Phil Luciano:

Last month, the state announced that Peoria Public Schools and Williamsfield Community Unit School District are among 10 school districts picked for a new project designed to transform how students prepare for college and careers after high school. The title is a mouthful — Illinois’ Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program — but the idea is simple: get away from the old model of youths sitting at desks and taking tests.

Instead, the program hopes to brainstorm new ways to equip kids for their future. As Tim Farquer, Williamsfield’s superintendent, put it, “The goal is to make high school less about chasing credits and more about building knowledge and skill.”

As the program’s educators and school boards begin to revamp high school curricula, they should listen to some recent customers — those who wore a mortar board not too long ago.

I teach freshman-level composition courses at Bradley University and Illinois Central College. Of my spring-semester students, the majority had graduated from high school within the last year or so, though a few are non-traditional (older) students. As the term wound down, I asked if they’d like to offer anonymous input regarding a simple question: looking back, how could high school have prepared them better — for college, the workplace or otherwise? Their responses had nothing to do with their grade: those who participated did so only with the aim of offering suggestions to help high schools and students.

Edited only for flow and space, these are their ideas:

Madison’s administrative adults have tried: English 10 and “high school redesign“.