“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
It’s that time of year again when we send our graduates off into the world and celebrate their accomplishments. Whether students are embarking on careers or heading off to college in the fall, we applaud the effort and dedication of these students and the teachers who guided them along the way.
But how do we ensure our graduating seniors are ready for the next step after high school? To answer this question, we must begin by defining the skills most essential in preparing today’s students for the future. We need to ensure students are able to obtain these skills through rigorous content that mirrors the tasks they will face following graduation. Rigorous curriculum should require students to demonstrate their knowledge and apply what they have learned so they are prepared for the next step in their education and beyond.
Graduating with Essential Skills
Recent research from the Hewlett Foundation found that students need multiple skills to succeed in life after high school. Their analysis of work conducted by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, and early research on productive mindsets, concluded that students should leave high school armed with the following skills:
- The ability to think critically and solve novel and complex problems;
- Capable of having strong communication skills with diverse groups and across varied teams;
- Take initiative in their own learning;
- Confidence that they can meet their goals through hard work and persistence;
- And well-balanced with strong social and emotional skills.
Student success in middle and high school, college, work, and life depends on students having meaningful learning experiences targeted towards attaining these skills. In short, students need experiences and opportunities with deeper learning that helps build student capacity and confidence to successfully navigate the transitions and challenges in their future.
Defining Rigor that Works
Rigorous digital curriculum designed to engage and motivate students can have a significant impact on ensuring students are truly prepared for what comes next after high school. Often, when we evaluate rigor, we consider the “use of demanding standards.” Standards define the level of depth and complexity that students should be able to achieve.
For example, a standard for English 11 asks students to: “Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.”
Standards-driven curriculum takes the spirit and intent of the standard and builds the instructional sequence to support students as they step to the level of rigor required by the standard. Rigorous content takes into account what the standard is asking students to know and do, and it ensures students are able to demonstrate what they’ve learned.
In Apex Learning English 11, students are required to complete a series of deep analysis activities that demonstrate their learning. This means students are asked to explain how specific elements of the text contribute to its meaning, articulate the impact of the author’s choices on structure and meaning, and evaluate two recorded interpretations of the text to demonstrate their understanding of the author’s intentions.
Efficacy data from districts across the country prove that using effective, rigorous digital curriculum produces results—graduation rates rise, dropout rates decrease and students are prepared for the next step. Students not only earn credits required on their path toward graduation, but they are better prepared to pass end-of-course and other high stakes exams. Rigorous curriculum prepares students for the next step, the next course, the next high-stakes test and the next stage in their education or life. Learn more about how we can help prepare your students for the future: https://www.apexlearning.com/about-us.