High School Redesign

To learn more, please contact Alex Carter, 720-502-47053 Big Bets

The Challenge and CEI’s Solution

The typical American high school was designed to align with the social and economic demands of the early 20th century. While demands have changed drastically, our high schools have not and, at most, layers of additional options and requirements have been added without addressing underlying structures. Research confirms students become less engaged, productive, and curious the longer they attend U.S. schools and the gap between what today’s employers want and what most high schools produce is widening. In Colorado, after steady increases in the state graduation rate and steady decrease in dropout rates, those numbers have stalled. Moreover, more than one in three Colorado high school students who does go on to college is found to need remedial coursework. It’s time our education systems respond to the current needs of our communities and businesses. It’s time to redesign Colorado high schools.

Why This is a Smart Bet

Local policy is increasingly focused on expanding options for advanced course work and the Colorado Legislature and State Board of Education have created policies (Graduation Guidelines) requiring students in all districts to demonstrate proficiency at a “college and career ready” level by 2021. In addition, state level partners are pushing for course-work to be more rigorous and relevant to students’ lives after high school. Redesigning high schools is a comprehensive approach to achieving these outcomes through strategic partnerships at the state and local levels.

Targeting high schools is also a strategic entry point for work related to district transformation. Changes in high schools cause a ripple effect in middle schools and elementary schools, laying the foundation for true systems change. These changes also demand that district leadership engage communities in robust conversations about the value and outcomes of education, empower students with meaningful agency over their learning, allocate resources differently, and prioritize learning environments that support social and emotional development. Redesigning high schools can impact all five desired student outcomes (academic, professional, personal, entrepreneurial, and civic) and increase equitable access, two of CEI’s top priorities.

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