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THE BIG FIX

How to leave no child behind. What do L.A. kids need to thrive?

Get 'em outside the box

December 29, 2007|BY BRUCE FULLER | UC Berkeley sociologist Bruce Fuller is the author of "Standardized Childhood."

Let's fling open the doors of high schools and move restless kids from passive to active learning. Most education reforms now seek to cram more testable facts into kids' heads while they sit still, packed in pallid classrooms.

Sure, every teenager has to learn to read and tackle algebra. But the current approach isn't working: Fewer than half the city's 14-year-olds will complete high school. Many are distracted (by working, giving birth, dodging gangs). In a recent UC study, a majority said not one teacher really knew them well. They're disconnected.

So, how to connect? Los Angeles has an alternative model. Consider the medical magnet high school attached to Orthopaedic Hospital, which requires its 800 students to put in at least 200 hours yearly alongside nurses and doctors in health clinics and offices. The school is still new, but common sense and eyewitness testimony attest to its effects. "It teaches responsibility, keeps them motivated and engaged," says counselor Carmen Ochieta.

L.A. has other school and business partnerships (read about Lewis Chappelear's engineering program at Monroe High in North Hills on latimes.com). But dozens of new high schools are scheduled to open in L.A., and the majority will be kid-in-a-classroom traditional. Expand the partnerships instead, and free kids to really learn.

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