The Transition to College

A gap year: more important than ever

Gap Years Succeed Where High Schools Fail

Laurence Steinberg recently suggested American high schools have failed to improve over the past 40 years. Paul Tough pointed to the importance of students having a sense of purpose for their learning if they are to succeed. Recent research shows that gap years help students find that purpose before heading to college, where they'll really need it. Read More

You Don't Say...

American high schools have failed to improve. Who knew? I don't know where you're located Mr. Pendoley, but I graduated from a midwestern high school in the 1980s and my kids will graduate from another midwest high school in a few years.

The biggest problem is that high school has changed very little since my day. My kids' future high school is highly concerned about earth-shattering topics like whether the football team will make it to the playoffs...whether the hemline of the cheerleaders' skirts is okay...and whether they can snooker the state into keeping their "Excellent" rating (new flash - some "excellent" schools in my state are more excellent than others).

Until they get rid of the stupid traditional 2 1/2 months off in the summer, and until they stop sniffing the jocks of kids who can shoot a 3-pointer or rush for a touchdown, nothing - and I mean nothing - will change for the better in your average American public high school.

Focus of Schools

Thanks so much for the comment. I agree, the focus of high schools is lacking and mis-directed. Many colleges aren't all that different. Talk to many high school and college students and we find their focus is largely on the social scene. While there's a degree to which this is developmentally appropriate, it's hard to imagine them getting excited about chemistry when it's taught as a series of equations whose only relevance is that they are on the AP test. For schools to improve they must shift their focus to directly engaging with issues that matter to society.

As a parent of current high

As a parent of current high school students--the focus in all our K-12 schools is simply--passing the tests. Teachers teach to the test, so kids do better and they keep their jobs. That's it, so the fact that sports and those extra-curriculars give them something to look forward to, at least keeps them there to graduate.

It was a sad day for me when during sequestration and the government shut-down, my ninth grader, who spends over two hours a day in a block social studies/language arts class came home and said "you keep talking about how important this thing is, so how come my social studies teacher says we don't have time to talk about it?"

Our schools reflect the values we GIVE them, and in embracing universal testing, a common core, and the standards movement, we chase away the very best teachers and tech our kids that all learning is formulaic, never to actually be applied, except on tests...

I would love to get gap year

I would love to get gap year ideas that are local and don't cost a lot of money. A lot of programs are for middle/upper middle class families who have money. My daughter will be going to a community college, while working, in order to pay for books and expenses. What kinds of things can a young adult do as a "gap year" experience that's more affordable?

Affordable Gap Years

Thanks for the great question, Kim. I'm hoping to post about how to make gap years affordable in the coming weeks. For now, I would suggest a couple of options. First, many gap year program providers offer scholarships, sometimes even full scholarships. Take a look at their websites to learn more. Second, City Year and Americorps are two excellent gap year opportunities that pay students to participate and engage with local communities here in the US. These are competitive programs, but they are high quality and even offer education awards upon completion of their programs. I hope this helps!

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Robin Pendoley is an educator working at the forefront of the gap year movement in the US. 

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