OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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The Secretary's High School Iniative
Student Engagement and Options

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The Issue

All students must be held to high standards, but not all students learn in the same way. For students to thrive, they need a learning environment that engages and challenges them to reach their individual potential. High schools must develop a range of creative learning options so parents and students can choose the alternative that suits them best.

The Research

Students learn best when they are engaged and active, and have a choice among learning environments.

  • Personalized Learning: Preparing High School Students to Create Their Futures (Jobs for the Future, 2003)
    "[D]raws on a growing body of evidence supporting the notion that smaller, more personalized schools are better for both students and teachers."

Noteworthy Practices

Many schools and districts have designed and implemented creative learning options for high school students, and are getting results.

  • Career Academies
    Feature rigorous academics tied to a strong career focus. Particularly effective in helping students at risk of failure stay focused on school and achievement. For additional information see:

    • Career Academy Support Network Supports the growing number of career academies nationwide, fostering their growth and improvement.

    • National Academy Foundation Provides a specific model and support for career academies in the areas of finance, travel & tourism, and information technology.

    • Talent Development High Schools Outlines a model for troubled high schools where freshman are separated in their own school and given an intensive academic course, and the upper grades are organized into career academies.

  • From Large to Small (Jobs for the Future, 2002) Profiles small schools and synthesizes key lessons learned from them.

  • Learning Outside the Lines: Six Innovative Programs That Reach Youth (W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2002) Describes six high school programs that use creativity and intellectual rigor to engage youth and spur them to achievement.

  • Metropolitan Regional Career & Technical Center (Providence) Small, public high school in Rhode Island that develops a personalized curriculum for each student based on her or his interests. The curriculum is closely connected to work and the community, and students engage in significant, challenging projects. Every Met graduate has been accepted to college.

  • The Schools We Need: Creating Small High Schools That Work for Us (What Kids Can Do, 2003) "Two dozen students in Bronx, NY talk about their experiences planning and attending small schools and breaking down large high schools."

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Last Modified: 07/24/2007