Center for American Progress

Helping Students Avoid the “Engagement Cliff” through High School Redesign
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Helping Students Avoid the “Engagement Cliff” through High School Redesign

Author Abby Quirk explains how high school redesign efforts can improve student engagement, ensure equitable access to future career opportunities, and strengthen local industries.

“I take history because I like it, and I take science because it’s relevant to what I want to do,” expressed Garett, then a junior with engineering aspirations at Cañon City High School (CCHS) in Colorado. “Pre-calc isn’t fun, but it’s important for life.”

Garett’s desire to take courses related to his goals is shared by students across the country, and research confirms that relevance and interest are critical components of student motivation. Unfortunately, in survey data from more than 230,000 students, only about half of respondents said they thought what they learned in school was relevant to the real world. A 2016 Gallup poll found that 74 percent of 5th grade students reported being engaged at school, while only 32 percent of 11th graders said the same—a phenomenon referred to as the “engagement cliff.”

The above excerpt was originally published in Behavioral Scientist. Click here to view the full article.

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Abby Quirk

Former Former Policy Analyst