Meeting the Challenge of Urban High School

Meeting the Challenge of Urban High School

Parents Involvement and Support

Parent’s involvement and support is a crucial element for students’ success in school setting. In order to engage parents in educational progress and development of their children, schools should organize frequent educational programs and volunteering activities that should aim to raise parents’ awareness level on their roles and responsibilities as extended educators. Pasadena High School has taken a pro-active approach to achieve parent’s integration in student’s development program by reaching out to parents through telephone calls, e-mails and letters, providing information about the school program of students, along with names of their advisor and head teachers, providing a direct route to parents for following up performance of their children.

Shopping Mall Approach to Education

Education structure always reflects the social and economic events of the day. Therefore it is not surprising the today’s educational model carry distinct imprints of the theories of market freedom, customization, and users’ choice. In what is described as ‘Shopping Mall’ approach to education by Baldwin, schools are allowing students to take only those subjects that they prefer. Although the ‘Shopping Mall’ approach to education helps students considerably in achieving good grades, taking only those subjects that are within their interest and compatibility zone and therefore achieve better utilization of their time and efforts, there are certain drawbacks of this approach which merit attention and discussion here.

In the ‘Shopping Mall’ approach, students are essentially allowed to customize their field of study at an age when they have not developed a very accurate understanding of world of work. The situation is not improved by the soporific attitude adopted by schools as well in creating an information database that can apprise students of the skills, knowledge base, and educational background they should develop to pursue the career of their interest. Further, this approach does actually allow students to face any challenging course or demanding schedule in their formative years, leaving them unprepared and at a certain disadvantage when compared with students who have to mandatorily go through a more extensive course schedule. In the Shopping Mall model, the students opting for rigorous courses are in very small minority; the number of students pursuing science, mathematics or even grammar and arts is extremely low, raising concerns in academic circles on viability and goals of this approach.

Reconnecting Students with Schools

The problem, as stated by Baldwin, is the loss of individuality and feeling of disconnect experienced by students in the urban school system. The vastness and size of the urban school structure can make the students feel a sense of personal diminutiveness and loss of identity. They become merely a part of a large crowd, unable to etch out a self identity of their own among the hundreds of other students. The disconnect is further pronounced for the students due to the absence of any caring adult in their educational environment, who can advise them personally and play a significant part in their educational and academic development.

Therefore it is important for schools to plan and implement programs which can connect students on social and civic scales, with each other and with the general community, through guided approach or volunteer programs, which can help students to create their individuality as well as come in closer contact with teachers and guide. Several of urban schools have also re-designed their education structure to bring students closer. An important step undertaken in this direction is creation of smaller school learning communities where students are known as individuals to each other. The learning communities help students to help each other, form friendship and identity within the school structure. This creates a new level of attachment, connection and relationship between students and the schools, where school environment become a part of students’ home and personal zone, ensuring their greater participation and resultant satisfaction.

Role of History of Education in today’s situation

The history of American high school system started in 1821 with opening of first such school in Boston. From 1880 many vocational schools opened across USA which aimed at imparting work specific trainings to students on apprenticeship in many fields. This system continued for many years, until the educational pattern followed by Soviet System led US government to include many scientific and mathematical courses for all levels in the school system. However, the vocational course based educational model had already done the damage of creating a culture that preferred selective and specialized courses.

Reforms in Bel Air High and Urban Academy

The challenge and difficulties faced by many urban schools, as evident in case of Bel Air High and Urban Academy, is generally lack of interest, at teaching and learning levels, demonstrated by both students and teachers, which in turn arises due to lack of focus and unclear vision on part of educators. These difficulties were subsequently overcome by both of the schools mentioned above, as they realigned their vision, values, and principles with the role and responsibility they had serve as institutions for educating the future generation of USA.

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