- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

More collaboration between high schools and colleges may help revitalize the nation's high schools, which are out of step with the needs of today's youth, speakers said at a Department of Education symposium yesterday.
"Dual enrollment" in which high school students are given access to college course work is attracting a lot of enthusiasm, said Thomas R. Bailey, a professor of economics and education at Columbia University.
Traditionally, only high-achieving students were included in these "dual-credit" programs, he told the audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Now, however, some educators are arguing that middle- and even low-achieving high school students can benefit from dual-enrollment opportunities, since it bolsters their high school academic experience and directly prepares them for college, Mr. Bailey said.
A similar collaboration "Tech Prep," in which businesses, high schools and community colleges offer students career paths into high-tech fields also is making progress, he added.
These innovations were among the few hopeful signs mentioned in an otherwise sobering review of America's troubled high schools.
Several speakers mentioned how U.S. 12th-graders scored far below their peers in other nations in science and math.
U.S. high schools maintain significant dropout rates (nationally, only 74 percent of students complete high school on time) and at least a quarter of students who do graduate need remedial reading or math courses when they enter college.
About a third of employers say they have workers who are deficient in critical reading and writing skills, said Phyllis Eisen of the National Association of Manufacturers, citing a recent survey of 600 NAM members.
In many communities, high schools are enormous, crowded and unruly places "where little learning goes on," said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and a frequent author on school reform.
High schools, Mr. Finn said, haven't changed their approaches from a century ago: Classes still consist of an adult talking to a group of students for 50 minutes, as if the Internet doesn't exist. Also, counselors continue to try to steer students into college preparatory or vocational jobs, as if today's youths still have only the choices of their grandparents.
The federal government could take aim at dropout rates by requiring lagging students to get tutoring after school, or attend summer or Saturday school, and paying teachers for these services, said Cornell University professor John H. Bishop, executive director of the Educational Excellence Alliance.
The federal government also could fund courses and materials to help students go beyond the basics in reading and math, said Robert Balfanz, a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University.
Almost all high school students can read and do basic arithmetic, but many struggle with the next levels regarding those subjects vocabulary, reading comprehension, decimals, fractions and mathematical reasoning, he said, adding that high schools in the poorest communities need the most assistance in dealing with these shortcomings.
"High school years are important years," Education Secretary Rod Paige told the symposium.
"We spend a lot of time talking about the early years. The early years are important," he said. "But we're interested in education all the way up the spectrum. When we say 'no child left behind' we actually mean 'no one left behind.'"


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