High school students in 2017 are locked into a school model designed for the last century. That model delivers content efficiently to prepare students for Industrial Age work. While content has changed, the requirement to earn course credits or “Carnegie units” (named for the industrialist!) to graduate from high school hasn’t. And it needs to – not merely because the Carnegie unit is outdated – but because the exponential proliferation of information makes it impossible for schools to keep up.
In Frederick County we’re breaking out of that old model. Conversations with students, teachers, business leaders, and parents led to our decision to reinvent high school. The Linking Youth to New eXperiences (LYNX) concept at Frederick High School is the prototype comprehensive public high school for Frederick County and perhaps for Maryland and the nation. Click here for more details. LYNX will provide a true 21st century education for our students.
LYNX has 4 key elements: Advocacy, Innovative Instruction, Partnerships, and Flexible Schedules.
Advocacy: Every LYNX student has an individualized success plan that will customize that student’s experience. An adult advocate will help students and parents review the plan and find the best opportunities. Ultimately, adult advocates also help students advocate for themselves!
Innovative Instruction: To truly offer an individualized program, LYNX uses a competency-based model that lets students demonstrate the required skills and knowledge rather than forcing them to serve a certain amount of time in classroom seats. Personalized learning, online courses, project-based learning, internships, and apprenticeships are all strategies that teachers and students will use.
Partnerships: To really prepare students for the “real world,” LYNX students have a variety of experiences with local business and community partners. From field trips to shadowing to apprenticeships, students can apply their knowledge and skills in real world situations.
Flexible Schedules: LYNX operates from 7:15 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. This will truly facilitate “personalized” options for students! For example, students can work at an apprenticeship during the day and work at school in the evening. Other students may want to follow a traditional high school schedule and participate in extra-curricular activities in the evening. Some students may want to extend their day in order to complete required competencies in 2 or 3 years. These choices promote flexibility for every student!
Some critics of this forward-looking approach want to continue with the best practices of today or yesterday. However, we are living in an era that presents new challenges and new possibilities. As Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky wrote in their article “Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis” published in The Harvard Business Review:
Executives today face two competing demands. They must execute in order to meet today’s challenges. And they must adapt what and how things get done in order to thrive in tomorrow’s world. They must develop “next practices” while excelling at today’s best practices.
LYNX is about adapting to the change that surrounds us. Teachers will build on the traditional practices of today, while working collaboratively with peers, students and community members to design better practices. It is this ability to adapt that makes the LYNX model so compelling—finding the right way to support each and every student in developing the competencies needed for future success!
The current high school model was designed for a society that doesn’t exist anymore. LYNX is designed for our century – for today and the future. We have to prepare students for “constant disruption” and for a world that few of us of previous generations ever even imagined. LYNX will do just that!
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