Morton J. Marcus is an economist formerly with the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. His column appears in numerous Indiana newspapers.
Rarely do I find a book that I can suggest to all my friends. “College Acceleration: Innovating Through the New American Research High School” by Eric Ban is such a book. Those who are politically progressive or conservative will find this book challenging. Those who already know everything about education will learn something. Those who are fed up with books about education will discover hope.
Dr. Eric Ban is the principal at the Crown Point High School (CPHS) in Lake County, Indiana. His degrees are secondary to his vision and his experiences. His brief book should be read by members of the state legislature, every school board member, and most parents, teachers and students.
Before I get into the book, let me note that Crown Point is home to many successful, upwardly mobile suburbanites. It enjoys a median household income of $61,200 compared to the state’s $45,400. But it is not Carmel where the figure is $87,100. If Ban’s ideas for changing the local public high school would not work in Crown Point, it is unlikely that they would work anywhere. Alternatively, if his ideas are potent in Crown Point, they should be equally effective in many other settings.
To over-simplify Ban’s detailed outline for successful education endeavors, he proposes a system to garner respect. Respect for the unique characteristics of students. Respect for the professionalism of teachers. Respect for the thoughts and concerns of the community.
The book is the result of Ban’s four year experience as principal at CPHS. During this time he has instituted a rigorous program whereby high school students earn college credit for taking college level courses. This saves families thousands of dollars and reduces the amount of time students are suppressed by the national educational establishment.
Behind this achievement is a program encouraging teachers to do research on teaching. Just as the best doctors often engage in clinical research, teachers are enlisted to search for improved techniques that allow each student to exceed his/her presumed potential.
Ban is not interested in college-bound students alone. His program begins with a careful assessment of each student entering CPHS. To demonstrate the CPHS commitment, the transition to high school is directed by a principal specifically for freshmen.
Twenty-first century learning at CPHS includes learning plans for each student and full acceptance of contemporary technology to advance individualization of learning. Not every student is directed toward college. But all should receive “rigorous and relevant” instruction “to become critical thinkers succeeding in a competitive world economy.”
Some readers will find Eric Ban overly organized. Others may deny the novelty of this or that facet of his approach to education. The strength of this slim volume, however, is its meticulous organization within a framework of ordinary conversation. The reader discovers a structure for familiar and new ideas without struggling with the jargon of the education educator.
Most importantly, Ban’s system is driven by performance data without sacrificing important interrelationships among all parties to the educational process. Without the strident tone of a revolutionary tome, “College Acceleration” enlivens the discussion of how to improve education in these difficult times.