Secondary School Reform

My two eldest daughters have recently finished their secondary schooling – and I have a third currently entering her first year of NCEA. The eldest two went through the system making the most of the cultural and social opportunities school offered, and were inspired by some of their teachers in certain areas. However, both struggled to come to grips with a system that was simply irrelevant to them in so may areas of their interests and lives – and both exited school with only mediocre success in terms of academic achievement.

Why am I writing this? Because today, in an article titled Gates, Governors: Upgrade High Schools, some reinforcemnet from my view from an unlikely ally – Bill Gates.

During the National Education Summit on High Schools, 2005 , Gates implored governors and policy to redesign America’s high schools to meet the challenges of the new century. The article contains lots of interesting reading, that has many parallels with what we’re doing here in NZ in response to similar concerns. Gates identifies three key action areas as a focus:

  1. raising our expectation of ‘success’ – moving from a ‘lowest common demoninator’ approach where we feel we’ve succeeded if we give kids the skills they need to survive, to raising expectations for success in a tertiary context, in work and in citizenship.
  2. giving attention to the gathering and publication of data relating to student progress and achievement – allowing for informed decision making. Gates, predictably, sees technology as a key factor in this. I’d agree, and endorse the NZ initatives that include a single data return (SDR), SMS data exchange pilot , SMS accreditation project and the National Student Number initiative, a necessary move in order to establish a process of permissions and authorisation to access and contribute information online.
  3. A new approach to secondary schooling and curriculum – which is being spearheaded in NZ with the Secondary Futures project, and work arising from the PPTA’s conference on Charting the Future

In thinking about these initiatives it is evident that we in NZ are certainly thinking along the lines that Gates and others are promoting to their US counterparts – my only concern is time. I have three more children coming up through the school system, and would prefer that their experience at secondary school lives up to these ideals, and that we’re not still talking about it.

NB – for another link to the Gates story:
And for an action plan to organise their efforts:

One thought on “Secondary School Reform

  1. >raising our expectation of ‘success’ – moving
    >from a ‘lowest common demoninator’ approach
    >where we feel we’ve succeeded if we give kids
    >the skills they need to survive.

    This is certainly true (IMHO) – the current “everyone’s a winner” approach is pushing us towards mediocrity.

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