4 Key Takeaways of White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools

Last Updated by Aja Williams on
Ryan Tauss

Tuesday, several education leaders, students, researchers and philanthropists gathered at the White House for the first ever summit on Next Generation High Schools. Several entities also engaged in the live stream and on social media throughout the day around it.

Two big announcements occurred during the Summit:

  • More than $375 million in public and private support will go toward redesigning high schools to serve students’ education needs of the 21st century.
  • New research and data from the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises and Everyone Graduates Center shows a decline of 27% in the national dropout rate between 2008 and 2012.

RELATED: Read the full release from the White House

During the daylong summit, the audience heard from a number of “lightning talks” speakers, which included White House advisors and administrators, educators, researchers and students. The goal was to highlight key factors being tried out in schools currently, including hands-on learning, deeper ties to post-secondary and expanding STEM opportunities. 


"Youth Voice starts when young people are given tools they need to make change in their communities." @DawnyaJohnson#NextGenHS#GradNation

— America's Promise (@AmericasPromise) November 10, 2015


A consistent theme throughout the day was the importance of working with communities to rally around our youth, which public media has been instrumental in doing across the country under American Graduate.

Several American Graduate public media stations joined the #NextGenHS to share their work and stories in the communities. 


#AmGrad has allowed us to tell powerful stories around our youth such as this one. https://t.co/62ZvDZxU77#AmGradWCTE@amerigrad#NextGenHS

— WCTE (@WCTE) November 10, 2015


#AmGrad has allowed us to tell powerful stories around our youth like this one featuring @DaytonaSymphonyhttps://t.co/1SlsP3xgxp

— WUCF TV (@WUCFTV) November 10, 2015


MPT showcases great work being done in Maryland #youth education @amerigrad#NextGenHS@WhiteHouse#amgradmpthttps://t.co/7AQTLGVlVG

— thinkportmpt (@Thinkportmpt) November 10, 2015


worth watching ... inspiring & informative #AmGrad#NextGenHShttps://t.co/uu9NTvy9ad

— Gwendolyn Kelly (@AmGradGwenKET) November 10, 2015

Here are other key themes and takeaways heard during Tuesday’s Summit.

  • Student voice needs to be present at the table when redesigning high schools. Throughout the day, students spoke live as well as through videoconference to discuss what more they would like to see happen in schools, which ranged from smaller classes to more schooling from home to less standardized testing. Student Andrew Brennen said that he would take the next year off from school to tour the country and speak to more than 10,000 students about what they would like in school. It was also noted that teachers want  a seat too, so that they can have a say in curriculum. 

Wouldn't it be something if students could hold schools accountable, too. - @aebrennen on Student Voice at @WhiteHouse#NextGenHS

— Matt Candler (@mcandler) November 10, 2015

"Students can & should be more than just passive consumers of our schools. We must be co-creators of our own learning" @aebrennen#NextGenHS

— Student Voice Team (@PCStuVoiceTeam) November 10, 2015

Next year @aebrennen visiting 10K students via @stu_voice to learn about how students learn and how schools can help. #NextGenHS#AmGrad

— American Graduate (@amerigrad) November 10, 2015
  • More innovation and technology is needed to be able to better support students. Throughout the day, speakers resonated around the fact that a school system of the 1950s is what is teaching students in the 21st centuries. This is especially true in technology where several rallied around the idea of making sure students had access to computers or tablets and Wi-Fi to be able to do the work needed for school. 


Supt. Darryl Adams of Caochella Valley said they've parked school buses w/ routers so students have Wi-Fi access in their area. #NextGenHS

— American Graduate (@amerigrad) November 10, 2015

Supe Darryl Adams of Coachella Valley, CA, with 1-to-1 iPad computing program: “We believe in leaving no child offline.” #NextGenHS

— Catherine Gewertz (@cgewertz) November 10, 2015

Our schools have 21st century tech & 21st century literacy w/ 20th century teachers in a 19th century system. -@SchleicherEDU#NextGenHS

— Deborah Howard (@DeborahHowardd) November 10, 2015
  • Some schools have begun to go “out-of-the-box” educational opportunities. Several school leaders spoke about how they’re really working to integrate more personalized learning opportunities and support services to keep students in school and on the right path. In addition, school leaders discussed offering more dual enrollment opportunities for high school students to attend college. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education noted the availability of Pell grants for high school students to take more college courses.


Pell grants are now available to HS students for dual enrollment programs. #NextGenHS#AmGrad

— American Graduate (@amerigrad) November 10, 2015


HS progress can be seen via improved grad rates in big cities, from "hard inventive work," says M.Cahill #NextGenHS - often very hard

— Liz Willen (@L_willen) November 10, 2015
  • One of the biggest hurdles discussed during the afternoon session of the summit was the difficulty in scaling plans. One speaker noted that there are three barriers to scale, including public policy, building and unleashing capacity and better use of evidence. 


Scalability and fidelity are key to Ed program success and sustainability. Maura Banta from @IBM#NextGenHSpic.twitter.com/peFhkiLVD9

— Shaun Tomaszewski (@PghSTEAM) November 10, 2015


#NextGenHS@WhiteHouse "scaling any model and retaining fidelity is the key to sustainability" & I will add 'culture' is the key to success

— Dina Sorensen (@dmiris2) November 10, 2015

A number of organizations also committed to helping further the cause of redesigning schools, including American Graduate. We're committed to broadcast and online stories and community conversations about new approaches to high school education across the country.