More students need tougher challenges

Jan. 12, 2010

Many educators, parents and students have long believed that college-bound students need a more challenging high school curriculum than those planning to enter the work force after graduation, but newer research has shown that isn't true, Superintendent Phil Ertl said.

"It really comes down to, all students need a rigorous high school education, not just those going to four-year colleges," Ertl said.

Comparable readiness in the areas of reading and math is necessary both for success in work force training and in college, Wauwatosa West High School Principal Patricia Luebke said, citing a 2006 study from ACT.

That means a shift in how teachers, administrators and parents look at high school education.

"We're moving more toward 'readiness for the future' and away from 'what does it take to graduate,' " Luebke said.

That will be the general message Ertl, Luebke and other district staff members will share with parents at tonight's Superintendent Parent Meeting. The meeting, titled "Opening the Doors to the 21st Century Through High School Opportunities," will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Wauwatosa West auditorium, 11400 W. Center St.

The meeting will be presented with support from the parent-teacher associations at Longfellow and Whitman middle schools and Wauwatosa East and West high schools.

Challenging work needed

Ertl said parents and students must accept the importance of challenging school work. Better preparation is expected of high school graduates now than in the past, he said, whether students are planning to attend a college, get a job or enlist in the military after high school.

"I think it's just that things are changing a little bit for expectations for students," Ertl said. "I think one of the points is that all students - regardless of what they're going into - need a high level of challenging curriculum when they leave high school. … That hasn't always necessarily been the case."

Luebke said the district will be encouraging more students to take Advanced Placement courses, not just those who have high grade-point averages.

"The idea that AP courses are only appropriate for a certain set of students is no longer a commonly accepted practice," she said.

The district has set a goal that eventually every student will take at least one AP class before graduation.

"Students gain by taking more rigorous courses, regardless of their achievement level," Luebke said.

Tips to be offered

At the meeting, district principals and counselors will tell parents about the courses available at Wauwatosa high schools and how those courses can be used to help students prepare for all kinds of post-secondary pursuits. District staff members also will discuss setting expectations for high school students.

Luebke said she will offer tips for parents not familiar with what it takes to prepare for college, and give information about school counseling and academic resources.

Much of the information that will be discussed and handed out at the meeting, including a year-by-year guide of decisions and preparation steps, also is available through the East and West high school guidance offices.


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