A new high school model for the 21st century
Former Illinois State Superintendent of Education and former Deputy Undersecretary of Education in the United States Department of Education, Dr. Michael J Bakalis, presented the philosophy, structure, and unique opportunity of a new high school model to a group of interested parents and citizens on Thursday evening at the school’s proposed location near 63rd street and Harlem Avenue in Chicago.
Harbridge College Prep Academy is an independent high school dedicated to the academic and personal preparation of students for acceptance and success in the nation’s top colleges and universities. Harbridge College Prep Academy is committed to preparing our graduates to be people of good ethical character and informed citizens, who are actively involved in maintaining the historic democratic values of our nation.
Bakalis, who also spent years on the faculty of Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, said he believed a new model for American high schools is badly needed.
”Except for computers,” Bakalis said, “the basic model of our current high school hasn’t significantly changed since around 1910. And some troubling numbers should make us rethink what we’re doing. “
Bakalis reported that academic progress of students in the United States has basically remained flat since the mid-1990s, that only 50% of students who go on to college ever graduate, and that only 25% of high school graduates are prepared to do successful in college work.
“When 70% of students surveyed say high school classes are ‘boring’ and over 60% of Illinois high school graduates who enter a community college are required to take one or more remedial classes, something in what we are doing is fundamentally flawed. This is why we need a new model.”
Bakalis stressed that the school to be opened in September of next year would be an independent, nonsectarian institution. “I am not against any current schools” he said, “ public, private, charter schools, all have their place, but I do believe parents and students need and deserve choices in the kind of school they want to attend.”
During a PowerPoint presentation, Bakalis said this school would be different in a number of ways. The school will operate on a university schedule with classes during the regular school day, in the late afternoon, in the evenings, and on Saturdays. “We do this,” he said, “to open up the day so students can participate in our unique ‘work-for tuition’ program where students can earn all or part of the tuition costs.
The school will have an international environment, offering foreign-language options for students in Spanish, Greek, Italian, Polish, Arabic, and Chinese, and students will eventually be recruited from around the world, as well as providing summer study opportunities for American students in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
The teaching strategy of the school, Bakalis said, is geared to having students solve problems, work on real-world projects, be able to do research, write clearly, and speak effectively in public. This is a school, he said, of asking questions and solving problems.
“Schools need to be instruments of inquiry,” he said, “ not vehicles for any kind of indoctrination.”
The school will also operate on a university model of having both highly qualified full-time faculty as well as “adjunct” faculty from the worlds of science, law, business, journalism, and numerous other professions.
”We already have five individuals with PhD’s in various fields who have expressed a desire to teach young people in the school. This will be a truly high quality, practical experienced faculty,” said Patricia Yadgir, Vice -President of the organization opening the school, American Quality Schools, discussed the school’s emphasis on character education, ethics and values.
“We believe” Yadgir said, “ this aspect of our curriculum is every bit as important as our academic excellence. We want to graduate students who have a good ethical core, who value the diversity of our nation, and are active participants in our democracy.”
Dr. Bakalis closed the meeting asking participants to become part of this effort to fundamentally reinvent the American high school for the 21st century. “This school, I am convinced,” he said, “can become a model for the nation, and I hope you will consider joining us to create this new opportunity for our young people.”
More information about the school can be found at harbridgecollegeprep.org.