The three words most used by high school students to describe their school experience are: tired, stressed, and bored.

This is according to a poll that surveyed 22,000 high school students published last year and reported in USA Today.  As Laurence Steinberg, Temple University professor and leading adolescent development scholar, explains in this great article: the magnitude of the dysfunction of our current high school model is immense. America’s high schools are failing our students, and more importantly, they are doing little to develop them as people.


national movement

Around the country, there is a growing movement to radically re-design high schools. Recently, a number of initiatives have popped up with the aim of re-designing high schools including:

  • The XQ Institute is in service of parents and pioneers, entrepreneurs and teachers, business leaders and administrators, youth and education experts—who are joining a movement to rethink America’s schools.
  • In May 2015, the Mayor of Boston launched a competition calling for new out-of-the-box models of high school. This accompanies the recent Innovation Schools Initiative launched by the state of Massachusetts to spur new school models.
  • In November 2015, the White House held a summit on Next Generation High Schools.
  • Most Likely to Succeed, a documentary about a next generation HS in San Diego, has won acclaim at documentary film festivals and sold out with audiences around the country.


Released summer 2015, this book

MOvement amongst educators and authors

There is a concerted effort led by educators and authors calling for more sane, healthy high schools that redefine success.  This is contributing to a movement for high schools that value both academic achievement and that incorporate social and emotional health and skills.  Educators are wanting to bring more purpose and meaning into the lives of their students.

This movement has gained particular steam in high-achieving districts (like Palo Alto) where students suffer disproportionately from mental health issues and have even seen several suicides clusters in the past several years. It has also been led by a number of inspirational school models working with primarily low-income minority students across the country.




  • Deeper Learning Network is a collection of over 500 traditional and public schools including ten different school networks that are helping to lead the way in terms of high school innovation.
  • In the independent school area, Riverdale High School in NYC and University High School in San Francisco are making waves with mentoring programs and purpose learning programs that focus on developing a students’ sense of interiority and purpose.



further reading

  • This article in the New Republic captures the remarkable amount of boredom encountered by young people at our high schools. Great lens into a typical day at a high school. 
  • This is a powerful article about a veteran teacher who shadows a student at his high school for two days – and it changes his whole outlook on what it means to be a high school student and the need for radically changing how students learn.
  • This article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by Patrick Cook-Deegan is about how we might re-design American high schools for the 21st Century, using human-centered design and integrating the latest research on adolescent neuroscience and purpose learning.


A host of books has come out in the past few years calling for a change to our overloaded students:


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