#60 America's Failing High Schools: Ideas That Work - Liz Willen

Improving America's high schools is an exceptionally complex and difficult task. But all across the country the most enlightened educators are working to narrow the gap between student achievement and the needs of an evolving workplace.

Our guest, Liz Willen, is editor-in-chief of the groundbreaking  Hechinger Report. Using solutions journalism, data, stories and research from classrooms and campuses, Hechinger looks at how education can be improved and why it matters.

"The best high schools, whether they're charter or public, to me have a sense of purpose: A central idea and a team working together," Liz tells us in this episode of "How Do We Fix It?"

 But there are scores of barriers to providing children with the education they need to succeed in later life.  This learning gap between where we are and where the country needs to be is one reason why so many Americans feel disillusioned about the future. 

 "Kids are coming out of the high schools not ready for the jobs that are going to be available and often not ready for college level work."

Solutions:

  • How can we improve our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) instruction? Half of all U.S. high schools do not offer calculus. Only 63% have courses in physics. These are 2 concrete solutions:

 1. The Woodrow Wilson Foundation offers a teaching fellowship for people who have a background in STEM and would like to teach in “high-need” secondary schools.

 2. P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) is a partnership between IBM and the City University of New York. Students are taught core subjects as well as computer science. Graduates complete 2 years of college work. After graduation, alumni have the opportunity to get a job with IBM. P-TECH will be opening another 25 high schools over the next 3 years, stay tuned

  • Why project-based learning can boost achievement and lead to greater engagement among high school students.
  • The need for more guidance counselors to help kids with psychological, social and academic issues.
  • The importance of role models in schools that struggle with violence and high drop out rates. 

We also learn a fundamental lesson: Why one-size-fits-all solutions usually don't work.