The recently released data from the 2012 NAEP Long-Term Trend Assessments show no progress among America's 17-year-olds over four decades, in spite of substantial increases in our rate of public investment in our schools and of improvements in the testing data of our 9- and 13-year-olds. This implies that progress in high school has actually decreased, compared to that made during the 1970s, in spite of our spending over twice as much, in real terms, per student!
The traditional American comprehensive high school model is outdated and needs replacing, wherever possible (most rural communities may be too stretched to afford to build more than a single high school and so will have to limit themselves to providing choices for students within their comprehensive settings).
I have been advocating, and am trying to open, an alternative institution, which I call a lyceum, an anglicization of the French lycee, the model nearest what I am trying to introduce to the United States; although more precisely that model might be termed, or envisioned as, in succession, a general lycee (lycee general), a private lycee (lycee prive), a lycee international school, a French-German lycee, a French-German Matura school, or a French-German Matura school in the Netherlands, which also uses the term lyceum in a similar way. I use it to denote "an upper secondary school offering a general education preparatory only for tertiary education, for students inclined towards and likely to succeed in such studies." By "upper secondary" I designate the last three years of secondary school, for students roughly between the ages of 15 and 18, in keeping with the world's most common grade configuration for students of this age, according to UN data.
Now we come to the important issue of justification of the model, referred to in the title to this post. The American high school lacks focus: it tries to be all things for all young people, and succeeds at many things badly. It has also developed a trickle-down college culture inappropriate for youth of this age, one that distracts them with features like proms, marching bands, drill teams, and football homecoming, features meant, according to the principles of the original high school movement, to increase the popularity of staying in school, but now wholly out of date, since the work alternatives to staying in school are presently almost non-existent: like their counterparts in our overpopulated third world, American youth today have to stay in some kind of school, like it or not.
But what kind of school? Why a lyceum? I'll tackle that issue tomorrow, in my next post.