Recently, there was a really interesting Education Week essay pointing to a model of what 21st century high schools might look like.
Here is what the Studio Schools Web site says about these new high schools for the 21st century:
“The Studio School is a new concept in education, which seeks to address the growing gap between the skills and knowledge that young people require to succeed, and those that the current education system provides. Studio Schools pioneer a bold new approach to learning which includes teaching through enterprise projects and real work. This approach ensures students' learning in is rooted in the real world and helps them to develop the skills they need to flourish in life.”
Real world skills? Knowledge that young people need to succeed? Enterprising projects and school work? Aren’t these the same things Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr is preaching and advocating for our own high schools right here in Montgomery County? They are indeed.
But now check out what the Studio Schools Web site says about what a typical Studio School looks like—design-wise:
“Studio Schools are designed for 14-19 year olds of all abilities. They are small schools for 300 students; and with year-round opening and a 9-5 working day, they feel more like a workplace than a school. Working closely with local employers, Studio Schools will offer a range of academic and vocational qualifications including GCSEs in English, Maths and Science, as well as paid work placements linked directly to employment opportunities in the local area. Students will gain a broad range of employability and life skills through the CREATE skills framework, and will have the option to go on to university, further training, and into employment.”
Now honestly, could any of us here in Montgomery County-land dream of such MCPS high schools? Year-round schools? Nine-to-five operating hours? Student enrollments in the 300 range? Paid internships for all students?
We live in a county that has failed to even change the basic high school bell schedule. And when that issue comes up, the first thing out of the mouths of community members—students, parents and school staff—is “But what about sports?”
Well, we love talking the talk—I'm convinced we simply like to hear ourselves talk—but I’m pretty convinced that we aren’t going to see any real 21st century high schools spring up in this county during the Starr years. Even if Starr hangs around longer than former Superintendent Jerry Weast (he punched 12-plus years), when he departs our high schools will look exactly the way they looked when he first arrived in Montgomery County-land. You can take that prediction to the bank.