Colleen D. Grady, of the State Board of Education, responds to Terry Ryan's opinions concerning high-school reform:

I agree with your list of five keys to high-school reform but felt you stopped short of a couple of crucial ideas.

While I am a fan of daring to be different, different alone doesn't make the difference. A longer school day or school year without qualitative structural changes will just look different-without improvement in student achievement. And before jumping into "different" with both feet, how about having hard evidence that proposed changes (if implemented with fidelity) actually will pay off in improved student performance? We spend far too much time and money implementing changes to our education system without any evidence that our changes have a reasonable chance of effecting positive change.

The other issue that came to mind was middle school. If we are serious about improving graduation rates, reducing dropouts, reducing college-remediation rates, and increasing educational attainment we must include substantial and wide-ranging changes at the middle school. Too many high-school students drop out, fail to continue their education or obtain a job because they left middle school wholly unprepared....If we want world-class high schools it won't happen if middle schools continue to be the "black holes" of K-12 education.

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