As one might expect from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and its president, a former US Commissioner...


HIGH SCHOOL: A Report on Secondary Education in America

As one might expect from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and its president, a former US Commissioner of Education: a moderate, comprehensive report on the state of the nation's public highs and how--with the author's emphases--they might provide a quality education for every student. There is no breastbeating here: Boyer notes that standards have slipped--but he also notes that our comprehensive educational system can't be compared with its selective foreign counterparts; that we've been buffeted by national turmoil and changing family patterns; that we expect our high schools not only to teach but to guide and comfort--""to do it all."" On that ground, they're ""surviving but not thriving."" From a 1982 Carnegie survey of 15 schools, he presents middling ""Ridgefield High"" as a norm--""where pockets of excellence can be found but where there is little intellectual challenge."" His first, apple-pie recommendation is for ""a sense of purpose,"" ""a shared vision""--as stated, in terms of four broad goals, little more than a consolidation of the disparate aims he decries. But once Boyer moves on to What Every Student Should Learn, the goals are backed by concrete directives, and ""good"" and ""bad"" examples. The first priority is language: ""we recommend that a formal assessment of English-language proficiency be made for individual students the year before they go to high school""; ""we recommend that those who teach basic English have no more than twenty students in each class. . .""; ""we recommend that high schools give priority to oral communication, requiring all students to complete a course in speaking and listening."" The second, visionary priority is for a core curriculum--composed of required courses in literature, the arts, foreign language, history, civics, science, mathematics, technology, health--with an interdisciplinary outlook. The third focus, on the transition to work or higher education, brings a call for ""elective clusters"" during the last two, ""transitional"" years; and a new Student Achievement and Advisory Test (SAAT) for all students. There are predictable calls, too, for less talking-by-teacher (à la John Goodlad), and more Socratic questioning; for improving teachers' working conditions, salary, recruitment, and training (à la everybody). There are brief sections on the uses of technology and on credit for extra-curricular activities; there are brief discussions of leadership and flexibility; there is brief advocacy of college, business, and community connections. In the final chapter, however, all the recommendations are summarized: a checklist for communities that aspire to improvement--along worthy, if not earth-shattering, Carnegie lines.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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