The most important and perhaps the most often overlooked [characteristic] is an intellectually coherent program of study based on a curriculum that grows progressively more challenging over the years. In practice, most high school course sequences do little more than introduce new material in similar ways at all grade levels. Students are confronted with a steady stream of new dates and events to memorize, new equations and concepts to use to solve practice problems, new books and short stories to read and react to, and new vocabulary, laws, and rules in the sciences and second languages. Key skills, such as writing, are not nurtured with progressively more challenging assignments tied to a common scoring system to ensure that the same skills are developed and new skills are mastered and that students mature intellectually.
High schools today provide learning in discrete units with little connection across the day or across the years. (p. 73)
My first post about College Knowledge also asked whether we had an "intellectually coherent" program at AHS, but I thought it was worth talking about again in a slightly differnt light. While I believe that, in general, we do expect more from students as they move from 9th through 12th grade, I'm not sure that it qualifies as "intellectually coherent" or "progressively more challenging." And I'm particularly concerned that we may just be "introducing new material in similar ways" at all grade levels.
Where are the connections being made? Are we asking (demanding?) that our students make those connections, or are we satisfied as long as they master the "discrete units" that we teach in each course? Do our subject areas exist in isolation, or should we be focusing more on teaching the "whole"? Are all of our little individual units that important (see Cara's recent post where she talks about her plant unit), or is there a bigger picture we should be worried about? Can I ask any more questions in this format, or am I done? :-) OK, I guess I'm done (for now). It's your turn - any thoughts?