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Seeking Change in High Schools

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"Breaking Ranks: Changing an American Institution'' includes six main themes that its authors sought to use throughout the report. The themes and brief descriptions follow:


High schools must break into units of no more than 600 students so that teachers and students can get to know one another better. Then, teachers should use a variety of instructional strategies that accommodate individual learning styles and engage students. This will be helped by every student's having a "personal adult advocate" and a "personal plan for progress."


High schools should be clear about the essentials that students must learn to graduate. Disciplinary departments should be reorganized so that subjects are more closely linked, and schools should align what they teach with what they test. In the end, learning must make sense to students in terms of the real world and the application of what they know.


Teaching and learning need room for flexibility. High schools must abandon or revise the Carnegie unit so that they no longer equate seat time with learning. Furthermore, schools should operate 12 months a year, and full-time teachers should not be responsible for more than 90 students a term so that they can give more attention to individual students.


High schools must develop a long-term plan for using computers, cd-roms, videodiscs, and other technologies in all aspects of teaching and learning. Toward this end, each high school must have a technology-resource person to consult with and assist the staff. The curriculum should be conveyed through technology, and teaching strategies should employ technology wherever appropriate.

Professional Development

Educators cannot improve high schools without the proper preparation to take on new roles and responsibilities. Their education in teacher colleges should equip them for changing demands in teaching and learning, and continuing in-service education must have a valued place in their day-to-day professional lives once they are on the job. Each educator in the school, including the principal, should have a "personal learning plan."


Good intentions will come to naught unless people step forward to lead high schools into the future that is envisioned on these pages. Leadership in each high school must begin with the principal, but must include teachers, students, parents, school board members, the superintendent, and community residents who contribute to making schools better.

Copies of the report are available for $19.50 each, plus $3 shipping and handling, from NASSP Sales, 1904 Association Drive, Reston, Va. 22091-1537; order number 2109601. Orders can also be faxed to (703) 476-5432. Call the NASSP sales office at (800) 253-7746 for more information.

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