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Obama hopes to give high schools a facelift

TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2013 09:50 AM

While many teenagers graduate from high school with good grades and go on to achieve great success in college, not every student is as fortunate. Too many high schoolers transition to college or the workforce without adequate skills, while others never even receive a diploma. In 2010, 7.4 percent of students dropped out of high school, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

While the Common Core State Standards, which are designed to prepare K-12 students for the collegiate and career challenges that await them, may help improve high schools, President Barack Obama believes educators need to go one step further. For this reason, Obama has launched the High School Redesign initiative.

Defining the modern high school experience
According to a U.S. Department of Education press release, Obama wants the U.S. to become the world's leader in college degree attainment. To achieve this goal, there is much work to be done, which the initiative will help with.

For example, to ensure students are better prepared for college and their careers, the initiative calls for high schools to offer more opportunities for teenagers to develop skills that will help them in the years to come, such as internships and mentorships. Also essential is an early introduction to the type of rigorous instruction students will be exposed to in college. This can be achieved if high schools provide more chances to earn postsecondary credit, such as through Advanced Placement courses.

A high school with a fresh approach to learning
Several institutions have already revamped their take on the high school experience and are receiving attention for it. Manor New Tech High School in Texas is among them. This past May, Obama visited Manor New Tech, which he views as an example of what other high schools should strive to be like.

Manor New Tech, which is part of the 100-school New Tech Network, places a focus on STEM education and project-based learning in an effort to improve student achievement.

"At Manor, a history teacher might get together with a math teacher and develop a project about the impact of castles on world history and the engineering behind building castles," said Obama during his visit to the High School. "Or a group of students might be in charge of putting together a multimedia presentation about the moral dilemmas in literature as applied to World War II. Internships help students get even more hands-on experience. And while most high school students in America give a handful of speeches by the time they graduate, a student at this school might give as many as 200."