Christenbury & Shortening the High School Experience

“Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has called high school obsolete” (Alliance, December 12, 2005, p.1).


In Christenbury’s Retracing the Journey, chapter twelve poses some ideas for reforming the high school experience, and one of them has stood out to me as a great topic for class discussion.  Christenbury writes, “Some high school reformers have embraced a call to eliminate the last, possibly redundant year of high school, supposedly solving part of the ‘problem’ by reducing the number of years in the secondary school setting” (2007, p.110).   While Christenbury examines the cons of shortening high school from four years to three years, I also find myself examining this option in great detail.


Whether we eliminate the senior year of high school or keep this year and fill it with dual enrollment college courses, Christenbury finds fault with this kind of answer.  She tells us that shortening the number of years it would take to finish high school only puts younger kids into college and the workforce.  Similarly, if we decide to keep the senior year of high school in tact and fill it with college level coursework, we still have not addressed the major issues of secondary school curriculum.  In short, wiping out the senior year or filling it up with college level work only produces quick fixes.   Underneath, problems still exist.


At the moment, I am entertaining the idea of shortening the high school experience into three years.  This is my initial reaction, which is definitely an opinion in-progress.  Reading about this initiative seemed to have some appeal to me, and I would love to hear more from all of you about this.  What do we think?  Is it ok to shorten high school and send our 17 year-old seniors off to a college campus?  Or should we keep a senior year filled with dual enrollment college courses?   -Sofia



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One response to “Christenbury & Shortening the High School Experience

  1. sunyprof

    Sofia, shortening the h.s. experience is a “solution” to senioritis that’s been bouncing around for years.

    My response has always been–why is the teaching body unable to engage 17 year olds in authentic literacy learning in all disciplines? Are we so unimaginative that the only response we can make to critics who say the last year of high school is irrelevant or worse, redundant, is to lop it off?


    Why is the answer to the “problem” of high school — college — as in dual enrollment courses????

    Why is there a problem in the first place?

    Seniors are primed for their teachers to do incredibly exciting work with them–mature enough to handle more sophisticated expectations for them as readers/writers/thinkers, and poised to see relevance in a curriculum that helps bridge the transition they face into continuing education or the workplace.

    I loved teaching seniors–for years I reveled in their ability to tackle the big questions, to read widely and to develop as writers in ways that added maturity fueled.

    Even though I did teach AP and S.U. P.A. (Syracuse University Project Advance) classes in some years and even read the AP English exams for years for ETS, I have never understood why teachers have allowed a corporation to take over 12th grade curricula–to dictate, really, what it is high school seniors should be doing in English (as one example).

    I gave up being a reader as it began to bother me more and more that the ETS corporation was getting rich off high schools’ inability to seize their own days–that is, to engage students at high levels without #1 an insidious class (tracking) system AP sustains and #2 substitution of an AP curricula for one certified teachers should be developing in their local contexts.

    Why aren’t the teachers who teach seniors able to develop curricula that challenges and excites ALL students without the imprimatur of “AP” or TC3, or SUPA, etc. etc. on the course?

    To me it has always seemed like a comment on secondary teachers that we need the Advanced Placement execs (very highly paid by the way) or college instructors (groan!) to tell us what we should be doing with 17 year olds in our nation’s high schools.


    I’m sharing a (perhaps heretical for some of you) perspective here that blog readers may or may not have considered. I welcome your comment. KES

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