One boy built a self-sufficient doghouse; another, who wanted to study money (because he wanted to be rich), sought out a young banker to interview and ended up with an internship at that bank, with the banker as his mentor. Not only do the students learn to use their own ingenuity to discover more about the world, but many are interested in school for the first time. One student, for example, missed more than 100 days at his previous school but had perfect attend-ance at the MET.
Why: Comfort with the working world gives students a leg up on the job.
Examples: At the Knowledge is Power Program academies in the Bronx and in Houston (where formerly "at-risk" students consistently perform in the above-97 percentile range on Texas-based TAAS exams), kids earn points for good behavior, for meeting deadlines, and for school performance. The points are calculated on coupons that look like payroll checks, which can be used to buy merchandise at the school stores. Every Friday, students go the reverse of casual day and are required to dress in suits and ties or business-worthy skirts. Joining the workforce is these students' aim. "If you have the wrong attitude, then you might not get a job," one student told The New Republic during a site visit.
Internships also help initiate kids into the working world. At the MET, students start internships in the community their freshman year, enabling them to sample early on the world outside school walls. Exposed to work life, students often change their goals; one girl who wanted to be a cosmetologist interned with a social worker and decided instead to pursue social work.
Students at New Technology High School in Napa work in a businesslike atmosphere every day, where there are no hall passes or monitors, and no school bells. This flexible environment, where students are expected to meet deadlines on their own and to be responsible with their time and to others, is designed to teach them the skills they need to get along in the workplace. "Responsibility has become more important," observed one student. "I have the ability to organize, keep on task, stay focused, and be on time. Tech High ... carries into your daily life."
TRACY STATON is a senior editor of American Way.
BILL MARVEL is a feature writer for The Dallas Morning News.
BETH MAYALL is a Los Angeles-based writer, and former editor at U., The National College Magazine.
LEE EMMERT'S work as an advertising and editorial photographer has taken him to 18 countries and 26 states since completion of post-graduate study at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C.
Welcome to the new higher ed, where you must have a computer, a Palm Pilot, and wireless Web access around campus. But no, you still can't have a hot plate.
By Beth Mayall
Consider this: Today's college freshmen were born in 1983. They grew up around computers, many with one in their home. And now they're flocking to universities across the country, expecting to be plugged in and enlightened. They won't be disappointed.