Reform in High School Curriculum essay

The high school curriculum in our country is a hot topic that is often debated. Over the years, the high school curriculum has changed numerous times and continues to change. The public is constantly attempting to find ways to better educate the students of our nation. The schools are still going through these continuous changes and many people are still trying to decide what type of change would be successful.
Some people believe that there is no need for a curriculum reform; however, most people would agree that it would be beneficial to make some changes. The curriculum has to be formatted to suit the students of today. Education is not taught the same way it was 100 years ago. If there were no change, our country would not have progressed as much as it has. Public schools need to make new changes to help educate and meet the needs of all students, not just some. Wilson and Rossman stated that, “The vague, ambiguous, multiple, and conflicting purposes of the American high school have led to schools that increasingly serve well only a small minority of students” (190).

Creating a standard national curriculum is one of the ideas for reform being considered. This type of curriculum is already being used in other countries around the world. Author Michael W. Apple stated in the book Transforming Schools, “The assumption in many quarters in the United States is that we must follow nations such as Britain and especially Japan or we shall be left behind” (348). Many people feel that we must raise our standards for public school students and that having a national curriculum would achieve this goal. Contributors on this debate feel that we should pick up a national curriculum similar to England. The national curriculum used by the English includes, “core and foundation subjects” and a national system of testing (Apple 348).

Using a national curriculum also has a number of downfalls. The process of developing a new curriculum and testing it would be highly expensive. “A national curriculum would involve the invention of new examinations, a technically, conceptually, and politically difficult task” (Apple 348). Despite the extensive costs, teachers and students of public schools would have a very hard time adjusting to such dramatic changes in order to fit the curriculum.

Another consideration for reform is called the Brockhurst Model, which is used in a school in England. “This school did not assign students to ‘grades,’ but rather to ‘forms.’ Form assignments were based not on age, but rather on a student’s particular level of academic achievement in each separate subject” (Hardaway 58). This type of education has made students more focused on learning rather than grades. In schools where students are evaluated by grades, many feel more pressure if they are not on the same level as other students in the class. In these “forms” a student can learn at whatever level and pace they need. A student does not proceed to a high level form until they feel comfortable with the material in which they are learning. Learning the material being taught can be hard enough without having to feel intimidated by students who are progressing at a faster pace. “Forms” eliminates this problem so students can focus on their education.
A downfall with the Brockhurst model is that students many not be in class with others their age. The forms that students are placed in to not consider age; many forms have very wide age rangers. The Brockhurst Model still allows students to socialize with their peers. During sports, physical education and other activities, students are given the opportunity to be with others their own age.

“This system of forms organized by students achievement levels also had advantages for students who would be classified as remedial under American standards” (Hardaway 59). Hardaway discusses a twelve-year-old boy who in American schools would have been in a “learning disabled” class by in this school he was placed at his level. This worked very well because he was able to be in a regular class and still learn at his own level. Hardaway explains, “While he took longer to achieve threshold proficiencies, he ultimately did so with dignity and pride” (Hardaway 59).

Both teachers and parents are worried about how well this program will work. One major point of the program is that all of the children will feel equal. No student will feel left behind by classmates and will be happy with the world they have done. Many parents are not sure if this is a good thing. One parent says, “In theory it sounds great. But out in the real world we’re not all equal. Sooner or later, they’re going to have to face it” (Lampert 3). Another concerned parent says, “There are parts of it I like. Encouraging a child to feel successful no matter where they are is good. But I also feel that some type of competition is good, too” (Lampert 3).

There are many issues that need to be addressed with this new program. Another problem is that teachers are having a difficult time keeping up with the changes. Everything is all so new to them and they sometimes are forced to make decisions as they go along. Maybe after all the technical problems of the system are worked out the program will seem more promising.

There are still a couple more options for high school reform. One of the more promising ones is called the Wednesday Enrichment Block. The George Walton Comprehensive High School in Georgia was the first to test this program out. “Evaluation of three years of the Wednesday Enrichment Block has indicated a high level of success and support” (McKinney et al). The main purpose behind the Enrichment Block is to give students more time.

Everyday students attend every class. On Wednesday the classes are shorter so they are all finished in half a day rather than a full day. For the remainder of the day, students use their time as needed. Students can do their research, complete missed assignments, do lab work, group projects or meet with teachers for some additional help or tutoring (McKinney et al). Without the extra time that the Enrichment Block offers meeting with teachers and getting all work completed may be very difficult for both teachers and students. The Enrichment Block offers relief to some of the stress that students may face by giving them the extra time necessary.
The Enrichment Block has proven to be a success. The community helped to develop this program so everybody seems happy with it. “Initially, the Enrichment Block was viewed by some as ‘idle’ or ‘wasted’ time, but teachers and community support as well as student use of the block time has shown that this is quality time” (McKinney et al 3). One thing that does make this program such a success is that the school, community and students support it and are making an effort to make it work.

The last suggestion for a school reform may seem to be the most obvious but is probably the most difficult to achieve. It dose not require changing the school curriculum, the school day, or the level at which information is being taught. This requires how the student in the schools are handled, how well the teachers are prepared, and how the parents are helping. “Simply stated, until parents/guardians, politicians, community members and educators grasp a true understanding of the needs of today’s students, the education system is doomed to plod along in the sub par fashion we’ve witnessed over the past decade and a half” (High School Reform 1). A certified English teacher in New York says that the school system needs to recognize that schools are not like they were in the past. More needs to be done than simply teach Math, English, and Science. The first thing that can be done to help is to have the parents be more involved. Parents meeting the teacher once during the whole school year is not enough. Parents need to know what is going on. They need to spend more time in schools and more time talking to the teachers. Students carry around a lot of emotional baggage to school. Parents need to communicate with their children to help receive some of the stress they face.

“Greater preparation of our teachers is needed” (High School Reform 3). Many teachers are very well trained to teach academic things but are not well trained in dealing with life issues. Teachers need to know how to help students deal with emotional problems, and other social problems that may occur in the schools (High School Reform 4).

The last suggestion this teacher makes is that students are not judged only by their test scores. We need to look deeper and find out what is causing these emotional outbursts of anger and hate. Programs need to be developed to help students grow. We have to help students build their self-esteem and give them a chance to see they mean something to the world. “It is time for people to come to terms with the fact that kids cannot learn effectively when trying to handle issues that are emotionally overwhelming” (High School Reform 4). In the book Mandating Academic Excellence, Wilson and Rossman also express a similar idea. They say, “As Corbett and Blum suggest, a successful learner must also focus on the common good—that is, model the ability to discern and act in the best interest of others” (192). They agree that school is not all about academic but also about dealing with yourself and others around you. Therefore, in high school there needs to be more classes that teach social skills.

The high school curriculum is a topic that people will always discuss. It will always be an issue pending and will always be debated whether or not it needs to be changed or improved. Although, many people would agree that it is not a matter of if the curriculum needs to be changed but how it should be changed. There are many different examples of how high school curriculum might be changed. It will take a lot of time and patients to find the best program. The schools, parents, students and communities will all have to get involved to help make the best decision. Eventually a choice will be made that will be beneficial to everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *