Career and technical education (voc ed for the 21st century) could lower the 30 percent drop-out rate, writes Liam Julian on Education Gadfly.
College-prep is not the only worthwhile track.
Yes, it’s increasingly difficult to land a good job without a college diploma. But that’s not because college is an educational panacea; it’s because high schools are such educational wastelands. Almost anyone has the academic ability to graduate high school with ease. A recent Gates Foundation report that surveyed dropouts found 88 percent of them had passing grades before they quit. These dropouts didn’t stop attending class because they struggled with coursework. Most stopped attending class because they were bored with their default high school curricula.
High-quality, rigorous career classes would make school relevant to students.
Take, for example, the Career Academies—small schools, generally housed within larger schools, that teach traditional academics as well as career-oriented skills. The Academies give their students significant work experience and maintain strong ties to outside employers. A recent evaluation found that Career Academies students did no better or worse academically than a control group, but over a four-year follow up period, the students from the Academies earned 10 percent–higher post-school wages. Students with a high-risk of dropping out who enrolled in the Academies were more likely to finish school, too.
Maintaining academic rigor is a challenge. Insider Higher Ed reports on a community college conference. Many students don’t have the skills to take vocational classes at two-year colleges.
“You have advertised yourselves as second chance institutions, and students believed you,” said Gene Bottoms, senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board. By saying over and over again that community colleges will help anyone, the colleges have unintentionally sent a message to high school students on a vocational track not to worry too much about the courses they take, and how hard they study, Bottoms said.
Two-year programs take three years because students need so much remediation. That’s assuming students don’t just give up.
“Developmental” (remedial) math is the most-flunked class, according to a story on retention of first-year college students.
WestEd is concerned that students who go to four-year colleges aren’t prepared.