Rethinking Our Schools

How should we rethink high schools in America? Dr. Laurence Steinberg, author of the leading college textbook on adolescent development, recently suggested that it starts with seeing where our real challenges lie.

The illiterate of the 21st centuryThe U.S. has one of the highest rates of college entry in the industrialized world. Yet it is tied for last in the rate of college completion. More than one-third of U.S. students who enter a full-time, two-year college program drop out just after one year, as do about one fifth of students who enter a four-year college. In other words, getting our adolescents to go to college isn’t the issue. It’s getting them to graduate. If this is what we hope to accomplish, we need to rethink high school in America….

Research on the determinants of success in adolescence and beyond has come to a similar conclusion: If we want our teenagers to thrive, we need to help them develop the non-cognitive traits it takes to complete a college degree—traits like determination, self-control, and grit….The good news is that advances in neuroscience are revealing adolescence to be a second period of heightened brain plasticity, not unlike the first few years of life. Even better, brain regions that are important for the development of essential non-cognitive skills are among the most malleable. And one of the most important contributors to their maturation is pushing individuals beyond their intellectual comfort zones.

If you could start from scratch designing a new public school system for the United States, how would you rethink our schools?


One Response to “Rethinking Our Schools

  • I think that this does not give a true picture. One can look at a single statistic and draw a conclusion without digging deeper. For instance, does the statistic look at students that start at one college and graduate at another? People that take more than 4 years to complete a degree? People that drop back in after leaving for a few years? (As an example, my nephew started college, decided to go into the military, served a few years, came back and completed his degree. Would he have been considered a “drop out?” By this measure in this article, yes.) Does this count people taking on lie or non-traditional courses? Is graduation the single measure of college success? We have all heard the stories of Silicon Valley greats that dropped out of school like Jobs and Gates. I suppose they would have been in that statistic as well. Granted, they are outliers, but they would fall into the “college dropout” statistic.

    Beware drawing conclusions based on a single data point.

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