Carnegie Launches School Redesign Research, Grants

By Caralee J. Adams — March 21, 2013 2 min read
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Noting that “nowhere is the need for redesign greater or more urgent that in American high schools,” the Carnegie Corporation released a report today that outlined 10 principles for high-performing secondary schools. It contends these practices need to be embraced in high schools if students are going to be successful under the demands of Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

The report, “Opportunity by Design: New High School Models for Student Success,” suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to learning is outdated and schools should look at new ways to manage teaching, time, technology, and money.

“In the context of the Common Core, high schools will be charged with educating all students to achieve much higher levels of skill and knowledge, a monumental challenge. At the same time, high schools will continue to be responsible for meeting the learning needs of large numbers of students who enter ninth grade significantly below grade level,” the report said. “To meet that dual demand, schools will need to do two things simultaneously: accelerate all students’ learning to reach higher levels and use recuperative strategies to help under-prepared students catch up.”

The principles promoted in the Carnegie report focus on personalization, rigor, curriculum alignment, student voice, and other issues that motivate and connect students. To adopt these principles will require a shift in thinking, practice, policy, and, in some instances, a big shift in the way resources are allocated, said Leah Hamilton, co-author of the report, in a telephone interview today.

As expectations for student performance are elevated with the Common Core, high schools need to be redesigned to meet the needs of all students, said Hamilton. “Raising standards puts an increase on the demands for powerful instruction, and personalization is the way to get there,” she said.

To arrive at its top principles, researchers reviewed school models that have improved graduation rates, such as Early College High Schools in North Carolina and New York City’s small schools of choice initiative. Other administrators, school developers, and stakeholders were also interviewed and their perspectives woven into the final set of guidelines, said Hamilton.

While researchers acknowledge redesign will need to be customized to be relevant to the local context of a school, Hamilton said the 10 principles need to be integrated and implemented together. When schools have only chosen one or two areas, such as professional development or student empowerment, real transformation often fails, she said.

To encourage districts to design new high schools that align with these principles and serve as models, Carnegie Corporation is funding SpringPoint Partners in School Design. Carnegie expects to announce the first grant recipients in the fall.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.