Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Newsweek asks: "What makes a high school great?"

Newsweek magazine has just released its annual "Best High Schools" issue, which ranks U.S. high schools from 1 to 1,000. It's a relevant read even here in Jakarta, not because we necessarily care which school tops the list or which don't make the grade, but because the list's creator, Jay Matthews, tries to deconstruct the elements that make a school great.

Just what those elements are is the subject of great debate, and it's hard to find two educational experts who agree on just what it takes for a high school to rise into the upper echelons of academia (Click here to read the Education Sector's David Rotherham and Sara Meade's analysis of Newsweek's list and it's shortcomings.)

But it's the debate, itself, that's interesting. Educators -- and whole communities -- are struggling to figure out what works from a dizzying array of theories and options, from subject- or gender-specific schools to small "schools-within-a-school." At the same time, the edu-world remains wary of latching on to the latest fad or buzzword.
"I think we're still flailing around," says James Anderson, a professor of educational-policy studies at the University of Illinois. "A lot of this is more theater than substance."
There's so much promise....but so little data and research. It's a a challenging -- but also exciting -- time for schools that want to go from "good to great." So where would JIS fit in on the debate?

P.S. Has "senioritis" hit at your house? Check out this article from the Washington Post, which highlights a program (spawned at my alma mater, New Trier....woo-hoo!) designed to keep seniors engaged and learning throughout their last year of high school. Slackers, be gone!


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