Student Engagement At Its Best

I recently had the opportunity to visit three high schools in High School District 214 in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Dave Schuler is the Superintendent there and he is about to finish his term as President of AASA The School Superintendents Association. During his tenure at AASA David has been a staunch advocate for redefining how we determine that students are ready for college, career, and life. He correctly postulates that a standardized test score does not always provide an accurate picture of a student’s potential nor an accurate reflection of a student’s readiness post high school. Consequently, he has developed multiple indicators that will assess a student’s readiness for college, career, and life.(www.RedefiningReady.org)

Practicing what he preaches, students in District 214 are offered a multitude of pathways, sixteen to be exact, and a focus on making high school relevant to all students. Beginning with the freshman year the students undergo a truly personalized experience as they are exposed to a multitude of opportunities and pathways and can select what interests them most, thus guaranteeing a level of student engagement in their own learning that we seldom see in schools. In a visit to Northwest Community Hospital I walked the hallways with a dozen students interested in the health sciences doing a semester internship and given access to the hospital’s facilities and permission to observe health care personnel performing  clinical and surgical procedures. All of the students in the program had garnered college acceptance in institutions where they would continue to pursue careers in nursing, research and medical practice.

At Buffalo Grove High School we were treated to a presentation on entrepreneurship by the “Hoodie Hoop” team, a group of four students that came up with an idea to more efficiently thread the cord that inevitably slips out of a hoodie, shorts or sweatpants. After researching the idea, coming up with a business plan and manufacturing the product, the Hoodie Hoop now sells for $7.99 a piece at www.hoodiehoop.weebly.com.

At Rolling Meadows High School we participated in the Educator Prep launch. Starting in their freshman year, students interested in the teaching profession are provided with an orientation to careers in education and are given opportunities to observe and teach in a variety of classroom environments and gain early college credit in courses related to education. As a matter of fact, all students in District 214 have the opportunity to earn college credits or gain certification in a number of areas.

In our visit to Wheeling High School Dr. Lazaro Lopez, Associate Superintendent, shared with us the need for high schools to be relevant and provide a career pathway informed by workplace learning experiences. The district has successfully engaged the business community and the institutions of higher education in the area and can thus provide the experiences while still in high school that most students would not have until after college graduation. Learn more about their programs at www.d214.org.