This podcast is a response to Alan Bersin’s April 5, 2006 lecture at Stanford University titled “Reinventing the American High School: Back to the Future?” Alan Bersin was a former Secretary of Education for the state of California, and a former superintendent of San Diego Schools in California. This presentation is available from Stanford on iTunes in the Education – Education Policy channel. While I appreciate the informative history lesson Alan Bersin provides in this presentation, I vehemently disagree with his wholesale support of standards-based reform in the United States. His support of small schools reform and his focus on teacher quality is laudable, but the prescriptions he suggests for reforming US schools are misguided and erroneous. We do need smaller high schools in many U.S. communities, but we also need to address other issues including curriculum, instructional time, digital access, learning tasks, and student engagement. We need to address the elephant in the room of these discussions (which was not mentioned at all by Alan Bersin) of competitive athletics in high schools, especially football. We need to fundamentally re-examine many of our assumptions about our high school curriculum in the United States, and craft educational policies which emphasize both what students KNOW and what students can DO. We need to better align the skills employers tell us they want new employees to possess when they start work, and the actual skills our high school graduates have when they leave our schools. Graduation rates in the United States are dismal, and we DO need to take action to improve our high schools and K-12 educational system. The standards-based movement is NOT the path to educational nirvana, however, as Alan Birson apparently believed in 2006. The educational policy path focused on standards-based reforms and high-stakes accountability which US political and educational leaders have pursued since the mid-1980s is the WRONG path. We need educational reform in our US high schools, but we need reforms and a vision for reform which extends far beyond that of the small schools movement and that of Alan Birsen. (I apologize for the relatively poor quality of this audio recording. I recorded this in the car this evening on my iPhone using Gabcast.)
- WikiPedia article on Alan Birsen
- California Secretary of Education Alan Bersin Speaks on High School Reform
- Stanford on iTunes U
- Stanford School Redesign Network
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