High school is an area of education that is vital in students’ education whether they are to prepare for the next level of education or for a job. This area of education offers educational instructions to students of age ranging from 14 to 18 years. According to Degree Directory (2012), high school in America provides grades 9 to 12 with grade levels such as: freshman, sophomore, junior and senior levels as students progress in education.
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High schools offer different courses to student; some of the most common courses of study in high school are: mathematics, English, history, science, and foreign languages. There are other additional courses offered in high school and they include: homemaking, industrial arts, music and physical education (Degree directory, 2012).
High school is a mandatory stage of education in United States and all students are required to go through this level of education. In this paper, focus will be cast on historical development of high school education, the current practices in high school curriculum, the challenges that are related to high school education and the future trends that are associated with this area of education.
Historical Development of High School Education
According to Valerie (2009), at the beginning of the 19th century, public high schools were teaching student rigid curricular that was based on students’ past academic performance, future careers and educational plans; at this period, high school education was at its early developmental stage.
This changed though not greatly and in the course of the century students were provided with course choices which were varied in both academic rigor and content. Comprehensive curricula remained despite the standard movement in the 1980s. Student from low-income earners and minority were opting for college-prep course as they were finding it hard to follow the normal curricula.
In the 1990s, students who were completing advanced coursework learned more despite their social and academic backgrounds. In 1997, public high schools in Chicago begun to offer exclusive college-prep curriculum to students. According to Valerie (2009), this early studies did not consider the un-measurable characteristics of those students who were undergoing through college-prep courses. They never considered factors such as better teachers, student motivation and accessibility to academic supports.
Valerie (2009) highlights that as high school education was developing it changed from developing children to preparing students for future jobs as citizens. This brought controversies concerning what was appropriate for high school students: preparations towards their development or towards future jobs.
Valerie (2009) argues that children are to learn how to read and not to learn what they should do as employee at this level of education; this is so because it is still early for them to be prepared for future jobs. There were many other questions revolving on the nature of the education that the high school students were going through.
There was an argument as to whether students were to go through the same academic curriculum or they were to be given an opportunity to follow an academic channel that was taking care of their abilities, interests and potential adult occupations. The question as to who was to make decision on this matter was also challenging, whether it was the students themselves, parents or schools (Valerie, 2009).
Current Best Practices Related to High School Curriculum
The contemporary high school curriculum has been undergoing reforms over the past decade. Valerie (2009) traces the current curriculum through reviewing three phases that contributed to the current practices operating today. In phase one the students were required to complete many courses which were under core subject for them to earn a high school diploma.
Valerie (2009) argues that though these reforms took place in the 1980s and involved a lasting curricular change in high schools, research was focusing more on policy implementation and politics rather than the consequences of these reforms towards student performance.
In phase two there was a change from how many courses students were to take to which courses students were to complete by the end of the high school education. Phase three involved the implementation of phase two which required high schools to provide college-preparations only.
An additional feature in this reform is that those children with low performance may be demanded to take extra courses in subjects that they might not be performing well. Valerie (2009) argues that though the third phase reforms were developing in a high rate in many high schools, its effect was still scarce.
The implementation of new policy has been noted in Chicago and the other states which are following Chicago towards this direction. Valerie (2009) strongly believes that schools should provide a wider curriculum which includes wider academic areas and vocational areas: it should also be varied in rigor and in content to enable students to achieve much which will help the in the next level of their education or as they work in their future jobs.
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Challenges Encountered in Acquiring High School Education in the US
Despite the fact that high school students have opportunities of acquiring well-paying jobs available in the global economy once they are through with their studies, they also encounter serious challenges with the high school education.
According to the US Department of Education (2012), the challenges that these students face concerns acquiring the skills and education that prepares them for the next level and necessary for the getting those well-paying jobs in future. The department argues that high school student should leave school when they are fully equipped for the next level by ensuring that they have solid ground in the academic field.
According to Quint (2006), the high school reforms have hit the education policy agenda due to the increasing number of high school dropouts. The reforms, therefore, call for attention from the federal government, urban school administrators and general public towards addressing this serious issue.
Quint (2006) further argues that this is a problem that mostly affects those students who attend low-performing schools and they do not make it to the ninth grade victoriously since they drop out before they are through due to some “un-met desires”. Quint (2006) advocates for a conducive environment where students can realize both intellectual growth and educational success. Environment is a crucial factor for the learning process of high school students who in most cases are at their adolescent stage.
Quint (2006) is of the opinion that some students join high school with poor academic skills and are poorly prepared for academic success. She, therefore, advocates for an assistance to help such students in dealing with this challenge. Quint (2006) advises that such students should have a double blocked class schedule which will enable them to earn more credits than other scheduling arrangements.
Double blocked classes can cover what was intended for a year in one semester hence being to an advantage to the disadvantaged and the low-performing students. Quint (2006) further argues that more time spent in classroom might not be enough but there is a need to look for more extra time that will enable such students to catch-up with studies and mould their future during their high school education.
Quint (2006) also mentions that little is known on how to help and avoid dropout for low- performing students especially if they are required to repeat in the ninth grade and opts to drop out; she sees a need for different arrangements and instructions being put in place to assist such students.
Bridge (2006) makes a contribution on the drop out dilemma by ascertaining that the reason for dropping out are unclear but believes that improving teaching and curricula in order to make studies more relevant to students and also improving the connection between work and school might assist students to proceed with their studies.
According to Quint (2006), teachers in some schools which serve the less advantaged students are often less experienced and also lack the necessary knowledge concerning the areas they teach compared to those who are in more well off communities. Quint (2006), therefore advocates for improvement of instructional practices and content. The high school reform has also tried to address the questions as to how improvement of the content should be done.
The reform is also focused of how the delivery can be done through new curricula and professional development. In this regard, Quint (2006) argues that this is a challenge since it is not realistic to expect teachers to come-up with their own curricula that suit their small learning communities but instead they are to use curricula that have already been done by the relevant authorities.
She argues that teachers can be assisted to use well-designed curricula through ensuring that they have good advanced training which will enable them to be well equipped for the job.
According to Quint (2006), student performance can be improved through professional development activities which require teachers to work in oneness in order to support curricula with the set standards. This involves debating the ways that can make classroom more engaging and ensuring students’ full participation that is necessary for interaction and better performance.
Quint (2006) argues that it is important to prepare low-performing students towards better world beyond their high school education. They should be equipped for post-secondary education and also well-paying jobs after their studies. Future careers and earnings of the high school students depend on how well they performed.
If they are not well prepared for future life there will be a problem between them and the employers as they deliver their services in their future jobs. Therefore, it is necessary to learn how to link high school and employers through career awareness and quality high school education (Quint, 2006).
According to Computer Science Teachers Association (2005), computers have now penetrated areas of the society and there is a clear link between technology and economic survival. This is an area that high school students should be well conversant with in order to be empowered before joining the competitive world.
Unfortunately the association argues that there is a great challenge in high schools since they do not receive enough funding towards technology learning in high school, despite that high school education should be structured to be in line and also move with technology. The Computer Science Teachers Association (2005) argues that lack of effective leadership in computer science in high school has resulted to this problem and if not addressed it will affect the high school students in regards to their knowledge on technology.
The association also argues that high school students need to be exposed to computer science advanced topics which include: modeling, parallel computing and computational models. These studies will help them to be familiar with theoretical aspects of computer science hence improving their skills in this area.
Computer Science Teachers Association (2005) argues that high school students need to be taught in ways that reflect the real world otherwise they will be taught on specialized educational tools. This will create problems in future realizing that that is not the reality on the ground.
It is therefore important for students to be taught computer science using the real world applications. Through this, high school students will catch-up with technology that they are going to interact with more often after their high school studies; through this, they will be equipped to take more jobs that may require them to have skills in computer applications (Computer Science Teachers Association, 2005).
Future Trends Associated with High School Education
According to the US Department of Education (2012), American’s future high school initiative is prepared and designed in a way that it will support policy makers, educators and also leaders. These leaders must be committed towards producing students with the necessary skills and academic ground that will equip them for the next academic level or their future job.
The department of education launched the high school initiative in 2003 in Washington DC. Since then, the department has been conducting regional summits in order to come-up with both short term and long term plans to strength the youth’s performance both in high school and in the society (US Department of Education, 2012).
The US Department of Education (2012) highlights three main goals that are geared towards preparing America’s future. The department lists these goals: equipping state and also local education leaders with current knowledge concerning high schools through special forums, targeted technical assistants, print, and electronic materials. The second goal is to develop the know-how and structures within education department to ensure that it provides a coordinated support and outreach to both the state and the local education systems.
This will in return assist in improving high school outcome through more favorable learning environment. The third goal set for future improvement of high school education is to facilitate a national discussion for raising awareness concerning the high school need for significant reform in all American high schools (US Department of Education, 2012). If these goals are achieved they will bring a great change towards high school improvement.
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act that was established in 2001 brought effective changes in the federal education policy. This Act tries to bridge the achievement gap between the minority and disadvantaged students and those who are not.
It also focuses on transforming the American schools culture resulting to all students receiving the support and high school instruction that they require to meet higher expectations. NCLB also offers a significant framework and the required resources which are necessary for improving high school education and also transforming these schools with keen needs (US Department of Education, 2012).
According to Frieden (2004), America is devoted to high school education and through NCLB it has raised awareness in regards to the poor performance especially to the disadvantaged and students from low-income families. However, despite all this, Frieden (2004 argues that the number of drop outs has continued to increase.
This shows that more effort is needed in taking care of the disadvantaged high school students to enable them attain diplomas at the end of their high school education.
Frieden (2004) highlights that NCLB is assisting in making awareness on what the state and the schools are doing in regards to preparing high school students in the right way not leaving behind the disabled students. Frieden (2004) however, states that, the old attitude regarding the disadvantaged continues and he calls for a reform process that will change people’s values, mind and culture towards helping students to perform better.
The US Department of Education (2012), highlights that quality high school education and necessary reforms are realized from quality leadership and teaching. Due to this fact, the NCLB has come-up with set standard that requires quality teachers to be recruited. The department has provided the necessary support to assist teachers and high schools to realize the set standards. The US Department of Education (2012) argues that the role of leaders in the schools is important as they focus on the reforms.
Structure changes and instructional improvement are the main factors of high school reform and they need to be addressed. For better performance, it is important to also consider: interaction with one another since the way students relate with their teachers’ matters a lot, high-quality curricular in high schools, considering extending class periods and special catch-up courses for the low-performing students.
All these factors can improve the performance of high school students especially those who are considered as low-performers and also reduce drop out in high schools.
Bridge, J. (2006). The Silent Epidemic: Perspective of High School Dropouts. Ignite Learning. Web.
Computer Science Teachers Association. (2005). The new educational imperative: improving high school computer science education. Computer Science Teachers Association. Web.
Degree Directory. (2012). High School. Degree Directory. Web.
Frieden, L. (2004). Improving Educational Outcome for Students with Disabilities. Education Policy. Web.
Quint, J. (2006). Meeting Five Critical Challenges of High School Reform. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation. Web.
US Department of Education. (2012). The High School Initiative. The US Department of Education. Web.
Valerie, J. (2009). Meeting five critical changes of high school reform. Princeton University. Web.