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Aiming High: High Schools for the 21st Century - CalEdFacts

This content is part of California Department of Education's information and media guide about education in the State of California. For similar information on other topics, visit the full CalEdFacts.

Aiming High: High Schools for the 21st Century is built on the legacy of Second to None, California's visionary guideline for high school reform. Aiming High is a how-to document for implementing a standards-based educational system. The document helps to place standards-based education in the context of California's accountability system that includes state standards and local outcomes. The document's focus is to guide schools in "doing the right things" and in "doing things right." Elementary and middle grades publications are also available.

Districts and schools moving towards a standards-based educational system will find Aiming High a resource for: 1) defining standards and outcomes and how schools and individual students are assessed for them; 2) delineating how to identify, teach, and assess academic standards and local outcomes successfully; 3) providing supports to enable students to meet high standards and outcomes; and 4) using data for continual improvement of the system.

California public high schools have received copies of Aiming High and an introductory video.

Message from State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Superintendent's Message
Jack O'Connell highlights the key concepts embedded in Aiming High: High Schools for the 21st Century.

Table of Contents

Aiming High contains an Executive Summary, a Reflection Tool to determine a school's progress in implementing a standards-based educational system, and a Glossary of Terms. Chapters one through three and the table of contents are available online in the table below. The ten chapters are:

Chapter Title
1 Using Standards-Based Education to Raise the Bar
2 Understanding Standards, Assessment, and Accountability
3 Creating the Context for Standards-Based Education
4 Implementing Standards-Based Instruction and Assessment
5 Initiating Instruction and Assessment of Local Outcomes
6 Supporting Student Academic Success
7 Creating Structural Supports for Student Success
8 Promoting Family and Community Supports for Student Success
9 Developing Academic Literacy for Student Success
10 Using Data for Continual Improvement

Reflection Tool

The Reflection Tool is directly related to the chapters and intended as one source of data for districts and schools to use in identifying areas of need for implementing a standards-based educational system. The Reflection Tool is divided into two columns. In column 1 are the elements of a standards-based educational system found in effective high schools. The elements are clustered under each of the chapters of Aiming High for referring to the chapter for more information. Column 2 is a 1 through 4 rating scale. In using the Reflection Tool, you would circle the rating that best describes the extent to which you believe each of these elements is currently in place at your high school.


The purpose of the ToolKit is to introduce research-based resources of high school reform; offer concrete how-to processes for instituting strategies that will increase student achievement: and provide tools, guides, and models to accompany the California Department of Education's publication, Aiming High. If the large file size prevents downloading, please contact the High School Initiatives/Career Education Office at 916-319-0893.

Ordering the Publication

Aiming High is available for $13.25 from:

California Department of Education
CDE Press Sales Office
1430 N Street, Suite 3410
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901
Fax: 916-323-0823


Aiming High: High Schools for the 21st Century is administered by:

California Department of Education
Career & College Transition Division
High School Initiatives/Career Education Office
1430 N Street, Suite 4503
Sacramento, CA 95814

Patrick Ainsworth, Director

John Merris-Coots, Education Programs Consultant

Questions:   John Merris-Coots | | 916-324-8151
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