Vote Judah

My response to the question, “Should 11th and 12th grade be made non-compulsory?” is over at Authentic Education, following an anecdote from my high school years which probably exceeds the bounds of good taste.

I’m not subversive enough to send our kids on their way after tenth grade, but I’m willing to declare the four year plan outdated. Split it in half and dedicate the second part to broader experiences than an analysis of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or preparation for College Board exams.

Get them into community college electives and job shadow programs. Get them a home room mentor, someone to show them how to execute a business plan, to teach them how to contact community leaders, and to ensure that they always always always put a lookout on Mr. Albrecht’s door.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. You’re in high school, so tell me if I’m wrong about this, but it seems like most students want something that is more career oriented in their education. They would like high quality trade oriented programs, among other things. Meanwhile, the State Superintendent of Instruction insists that all students be prepared for a four-year college. I think your idea goes a long way towards reconciling that difference.

    In addition, I think students need to lots of entry points back to school and college. They have this in the community colleges, but if they are not even ready for that level of study, they are out in the cold taking years of remedial coursework.

  2. I know this is especially important to students in most non-suburban schools. A significant number of these kids don’t need or don’t want the classes that are being offered.

    One of my 7th graders last year was already working 30 to 40 hours a week with his fathers painting business. Then he comes in to class, I ask if he studied for our test, and he just smiles. “What do I need this for?” are his thoughts.

    There is this school I read about during a curriculum class last summer, run by The Big Picture company. Have you read anything about their schools?
    Book: One Kid at a Time by Eliot Levine

  3. As you might know, I teach gifted kids. My advice to them (and their parents) is to do something that will set them apart from every other smart, suburban kid. I like the idea of shadowing, gap years, traveling, building a house…whatever. So many times kids get on a track toward college with blinders on—they end up at the end of the road looking just like every other kid. I do think h.s. is too long for a lot if kids.

    Aside: I heard today that there are more applicants with perfect SAT scores applying to Harvard than there are positions in the freshman class. The same holds true for kids that were at the top of the h.s. classes.

  4. “I heard today that there are more applicants with perfect SAT scores applying to Harvard than there are positions in the freshman class.”

    Incredible. You recall a source on that?

  5. the h-bomb got dropped in this thread – i gotta weigh in.

    dan, do the math…harvard admits about 1600 (maybe a bit more), how many kids score perfect sats, and then, is it plausible? i can check with my peoples and see if they know if that’s official.

    but here’s TRUE quote on harvard admissions for you, from a source who worked at their admissions department for about five years (a friend of my father’s).

    she told me they could reject their top 1600 and admit the next 1600 and it wouldn’t look very different. as far as the admissions officers are concerned, there’s basically very little discernible difference in quality among the top tier of applications they receive.

    this means nancy is definitely right…that’s what i always told the high schoolers i worked with about the “trick” to get into harvard – do what you love to do and that might make you stand out. don’t try to amass the perfect number of APs / summer courses / service club leaderships. just be yourself. if you get in, that’s great! if you don’t get into an ivy, guess what – you’ll still live.

    but to say that advice falls on deaf ears among the upper class in Hong Kong is a bit of an understatement…

  6. “Harvard turned down 1,100 student applicants with perfect 800 scores on the SAT math exam. Yale rejected several applicants with perfect 2400 scores on the three-part SAT, and Princeton turned away thousands of high school applicants with 4.0 grade point averages. Needless to say, high school valedictorians were a dime a dozen.”

    My comment may have been hyperole— better not quote my friends!

  7. Point #1:

    Sounds very much like The MET in Providence, RI. Worth taking a look at when you get a chance.


    The model — designed by the founders for for urban kids who often aren’t fairing well in traditional schools — has students working with advisors/mentors from 9th grade through graduation, not in traditional classes.

    Several days a week, each student is in the community in internships. The rest of the time, they are doing advisor-supported research based on ideas central to their own interest set.

    Needless to say, I’m a fan of your argument and school models like The MET. Especially when they are done well for the right reasons.

    Point #2:

    As to the H-bomb comments above, one would be better suited to move you family to a small town in Montana, home-school your kid, have he/she pursue topics of real interest to them, and to have them publish like mad (book, blog, etc) in order to stand out in the H admissions office.

    Or, you could do what I did re: the H-bomb: forget your high school credentials when it’s a cattle-call at best, wait until you have a bit of life/work experience under your belt a few years later, focus on an audacious goal driven by a true professional passion of yours, challenge them to let you create your own program, and then apply formally.


    Either way you go, I’d rather teach/mentor a kid, accept an applicant, or hire a new employee that walked in the door with a passion they wanted to pursue than the traditional ‘talent’ coming out of a traditional program with all the same credentials as everyone else standing next to them.