What Can Be Done To Improve Struggling High Schools?

That’s the title of a new paper from a team of economists that includes Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame. Education reform discussions tend to obsess over the lower grades, so I always like to see people consider the upper grades.

Their general diagnosis is that we set high schools up for failure by insisting that all students receive the same college-oriented academic curriculum. They are in general not optimistic about the prospects for improvement. Their two main suggestions:

  • Expand access to smaller vocational high school programs by adding career-oriented small schools or academies to large neighborhood high schools.
  • Expand access to the “no excuses” model of schooling, both by improving access to “no excuses” charter schools and by incorporating similar methods in traditional schools.

There are numerous caveats involved, and the authors also explain why they are (even) more pessimistic about many other potential reforms like blanket funding increases or staff value-added.

h/t Tyler Cowen

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