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RESULTS THAT MATTER: High School Reform Must Focus on More Than Attendance, Graduation, and College Matriculation Rates

"High schools must be designed, organized, and managed with a relentless focus on the results that matter in the 21st century-in addition to the traditional metrics of attendance, graduation and college matriculation rates-or they risk missing the mark," said John Wilson

Imagine a world in which every high school in the United States managed to keep more students in school and enroll them in more challenging courses. High school graduation rates would rise, and more students would enter and stay in college. A perfect world, right? Not according to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a coalition of businesses and education organizations that advocates for the infusion of 21st-century skills into education. According to their new report, Results That Matter: 21st Century Skills and High School Reform, “even if every student in the country satisfied traditional metrics, they still would remain woefully under-prepared for 21st century success beyond high school.”

“High schools must be designed, organized, and managed with a relentless focus on the results that matter in the 21st century-in addition to the traditional metrics of attendance, graduation and college matriculation rates-or they risk missing the mark,” said John Wilson, chair of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and executive director of the National Education Association. “Traditional metrics are important, but they are no longer sufficient indicators of student preparedness.”

The report argues that improving high schools must include redefining “rigor” to encompass not just mastery of core academic subjects such as math and science, but also mastery of 21st-century skills and content. It stresses that, in addition to learning academics, students need to know how to continue learning and apply what they learn in effective and innovative ways. Skills, including critical thinking and problem solving, communications, and information and media literacy, will be vital to these efforts.

The report also focuses on emerging content areas that students will need to succeed in the workforce, such as global awareness, financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy, and health and wellness awareness. It calls for a greater incorporation of life skills, such as leadership, ethics, and accountability. Finally, the report stresses that assessments must measure each of these five elements (core subjects, 21st-century content, learning and thinking skills, information and communications technology, and life skills).

The report acknowledges that today’s high schools fail to serve far too many students-a failure seen in low graduation rates, poor performance on national assessments and international comparisons, and high college remediation rates. It applauds current efforts to reform high schools, but argues that simply raising low numbers and percentages will not adequately prepare today’s students to compete on an international level, where Americans’ creativity and innovation no longer set them apart. Instead, it says that “creating high schools that truly will improve learning, achievement, and competencies demands a clear understanding of the knowledge, skills and attributes that are increasingly important for every high school student today.”

The complete report is available at

Americans Prefer Community-Wide High School Reform Over Ad Hoc Approach


A majority of Americans believe that the best way to fix the nation’s urban high schools is to improve the entire system of high schools within a community or district, rather than one at a time, according to a new survey commissioned by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

While most reform efforts have adopted a one-school-at-a-time approach over the past several years, the findings of the national survey, conducted by Widmeyer Research & Polling as part of Carnegie’s Schools for a New Society initiative, revealed that more than two in three adults (68%) want district officials to concentrate on the district as a whole and improve the entire system of high schools in a community, compared to only 26% of survey respondents who favor the individual school revamping approach.

In findings similar to those from a poll released by the Alliance for Excellent Education last year, the Carnegie Corporation survey found that Americans see an urgent need to improve high schools. Survey participants also realize that not all high schools are serving students well, with nearly three in four Americans (73%) saying that at least “some” of the public high schools in their city are failing to educate students properly. According to the poll, Americans want all schools to be as good as the best ones in a community. To reach that goal, 82% of Americans believe that every school within a district should receive the resources and support it needs to offer students a quality education. More than four in five Americans (85%) believe that political, education, and community leaders must work together to eliminate resource inequality among neighboring high schools.

“That really does signal a change in attitude and awareness,” said Connie Warren, senior program director for Carnegie. “People are starting to understand that education is a community institution that requires multiple partners in the business and civic communities and from grass-roots parents groups.”

According to the survey, Americans overwhelmingly want high schools to better prepare students for life after graduation. They want instructional reforms that teach students problem solving, collaborative work skills, and other real-world skills that they need to succeed as adults in the 21st century. The poll also found that 93% of Americans believe that a commitment to vastly improved reading instruction in all high schools should be one of the most important priorities for school districts.

More information on the poll is available at


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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.