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High schools of the future: small, focused and wired.

A national movement is afoot to remake high schools from teenage holding pens into rigorous, focused and tech-savvy institutions.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

The high school of the future may look a lot more like the college of today. There is a national movement afoot to reshape high schools into smaller, specialized schools where technology and online learning play a much larger role in classrooms, reports the Arizona Republic.

The smaller, specialized campus model is being touted by business leaders and government who feel that high schools have become complacent and are not closing the opportunity gap between rich and poor students.

"The business community sees this as a matter of crisis," said Susan Carlson of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition. "There is a growing awareness, and we're having to come to the political will that kids have got to be more focused."

The model focuses on small, specialized high schools, bringing back high school career tracks by having students declare majors as early as eight grade, giving students laptops and requiring online courses.

A few recent stories show the cutting edge of the trend: The Gates Foundation's grant of $10.4 million to North Carolina to develop small, rigorous high schools. Florida's new requirement that students declare majors in Grade 8. And Mississippi's proposal that ninth graders take at least one online course.

The proposed changes would drastically change the face of high school, including giving up nostalgic ties to senior-class camaraderie and mass graduation ceremonies, plus retraining teachers and revamping university teacher colleges.

The emphasis would push the brightest students toward more rigorous college level work, and bridge the gap between rich and poor students. Over the last 10 years, too many students leave high school unprepared for the challenges of college and work, which doesn't bode well for the future economy.

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