NASBE’s Standard Urges States to Prioritize High School Redesign 

May 16, 2023

Originally published by the National Association of State Boards of Education. 

Alexandria, VA—As graduation season approaches, high school students anticipate a new and unknown future, one for which their educational experience has supposedly prepared them. Yet less than half of these graduates are ready for college or a career. How can students’ high school experiences equip them better for life after high school? Authors of NASBE’s latest State Education Standard reimagine the high school experience, illuminating the data, policy reforms, and engagement with students, families, and educators that must align to make redesign possible. 

Russlynn Ali of XQ Institute and Timothy F.C. Knowles of Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching make the case for state leaders to focus on high school as the place for education reform. They explore the possibilities of competency-based and out-of-school learning and urge state boards of education to abandon policies that focus on awarding credit hours in traditional classrooms. 

Drawing on a national survey of high schoolers, Data Quality Campaign CEO Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger explores the impact that access to career and workforce data can have on student self-efficacy and confidence. She urges state leaders to share data that will help students and families consider, understand, and navigate pathways to graduation and postsecondary opportunities. 

Gene Bottoms, former director of the High Schools That Work initiative at the Southern Regional Education Board, finds that students who receive more strenuous academic and experiential learning opportunities have higher graduation rates and are overall better prepared to pursue postsecondary life. Bottoms encourages states to prioritize all students’ access to rigorous academics in career-focused, project-based learning and to take steps to bolster ninth-grade students’ preparation in foundational subjects such as math and literacy. 

UNC Greensboro’s Julie A. Edmunds shares research on the effectiveness of early college models as a practical, cost-effective method of degree attainment that begins during a student’s high school years, as well as extending opportunities for higher education to more economically and socially diverse students. She offers policy considerations for those looking to expand this promising model in their own states. 

education, gives readers a glimpse of what high school redesign at a statewide level entails. Through extensive collaboration with students, parents, teachers, and district leadership, Rhode Island developed new graduation requirements to better prepare students to fulfill their postsecondary aspirations. 

Finally, NASBE President and CEO Paolo DeMaria sits down with three student state board members—Joshua Leinwand of Maine, Téa Washington of the District of Columbia, and Valli Pendyala of Connecticut—to hear their views on high schools’ role in their preparation for life. Leinwald sums up the need for redesign thus: “The world has advanced so much, but the school system hasn’t.… A bottom-up restructuring is the only true, viable solution that we can trust to have a net-positive impact.” 

Read and share the “High Schools that Matter” issue of the State Education Standard. 

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at