I have just returned from several months of work with high schools in California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Missouri, and three Canadian provinces. I’ve also just become a high school parent. Based on both experiences, I’d say that one part of me is buoyant and optimistic—the other part, well, not so much. I’m alternately troubled or appalled by what I see in high schools.
I’m hopeful because the majority of teachers at the small, innovative high schools and alternative programs I generally work with have implemented a set of emerging best practices that I believe are the educational wave of the future. The mix includes project based learning, the principles of youth development, and the intentional creation of a coherent, personalized school culture that encourages and supports peak performance.