The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Good News About a New Type of High School

on October 13, 2016

Maybe not everyone would agree, but I think that today’s post is good news about education. It’s the summary of an article from the Los Angeles Times that describes a new kind of school at which students who‘ve had difficulties at regular high schools can earn credits to graduate on time and prepare for further education and careers.

John R. Wooden High School is a continuation school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, devoted to students who have been enrolled at other schools but were in danger of not graduating. Instead of taking Chemistry or Biology, Wooden’s students take Environmental Studies or Plant and Soil Science, both of which include hands-on experiences along with academic classes. Also, while the ordinary high schools in the district turn to online credit recovery courses to allow more students to graduate on time, Wooden’s students take the credit courses they need on campus. The school’s philosophy is that many students who have been doing poorly at regular high schools can learn effectively with personal attentions and classes that involve hands-on activities.

In a significant move toward the future, California and several other states have adopted Next Generation Science Standards that focus on making connections between science courses and including scientific investigation as part of each course. Although the state’s primary goal for the new standards is to attract students in populations that are currently under-represented in science, technology, engineering and math careers, and to prepare them for those fields; it also serves students who have not been successful in regular high schools.

Many of the classes at Wooden are held outside part of the time, with students taking care of animals at a farm or attending to plants in an organic garden. As students work, teachers move among them to supervise their activities. They also hold conversations with students, providing technical information to go along with the practical experiences underway.

One concern that educational leaders have expressed about such schools as Wooden is whether they are rigorous enough to prepare students for college. The school offers  courses in Animal Behavior, Plant and Soil Science, and Environmental Studies. All of them meet the requirements for admission to California State University, but only the Plant and Soil Science course is acceptable at the University of California. Students who need additional courses for admission to that university or other more demanding schools, can take them at a community college after graduating from Wooden.

Although academic qualifications are important for students, there are certainly other benefits from schools such as this one. In meeting with students, reporters have observed their positive attitudes toward the work they are doing in and out of classrooms, their good attendance records, and their positive plans for the future.

My reaction to the information in this article is that schools such as Wooden are a significant step toward the changes that are needed in all high schools; first in providing the kinds of learning experiences that serve currently un-motivated students, and second in introducing courses that are more up-to-date than the traditional ones. For some time I have been thinking that the existing high school curriculum needs to change to meet the needs of our world today and tomorrow. When I get my suggestions for that change as complete and realistic as possible, I plan to share them here before enlightening the rest of the world.


2 responses to “Good News About a New Type of High School

  1. lmcnabb2016 says:

    Great post, Joanne. Thank you for sharing.


  2. […] post is a response by Don Bellairs, an experienced and talented teacher, to my piece posted six days ago. Both of us were intrigued by the description of a new type of high school that […]


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