Job prep

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.

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  1. I don’t understand the opposition to vocational training in schools. Our society is full of hands-on, manual jobs. Who is supposed to do them?

    It’s not like we don’t need bricklayers and tool and die workers and welders. All of these are good, honest work that can pay well. Why not allow for students who want to work with their hands?

    How can giving students more choice ever be a bad thing?

  2. Here at Lake Woebegone High School, all of our girls and boys are above average!

    College is seen as a sign of success – and if you aren’t going to college what are you?

    Think parents are going to support programs that tacitly label their children academic failures by the current conventional wisdom?

    Or as Jeff Foxworthy put it once, “Ma’am, he’s gonna end up in a job with his name on his shirt!”

  3. The concept of students not being prepared for college level coursework is very true in our society and is also a problem at the community college level (where 2 year degrees sometimes take 3 years or more).

    The lack of proper preparation in public schools has led to this problem. In looking at a proper education for students who want to pursue a vocational track or a college track, the following courses might be a proper start:

    Math: Algebra I and Geometry
    Science: Earth Science and Biology or Chemistry
    English: English I/II + composition or literature
    History: World, US History, US Government

    in addition to phys ed, and other courses…

    Now these are some of the classes I took a quarter century ago (along with other math and science courses).

    However, when students don’t understand the basics of add, subtract, multiply, divide, fractions, and percentages (with paper and pencil, not a caculator), they will be hopelessly lost when they attempt to take algebra I in high school (which students in overseas countries usually take in grade levels 6-8 in our system).

    Want to fix the problems in the college system, start at the point where our students lose ground internationally (around grade 6-7)…


  4. This ties into the issue that I raised in “6% success rate” below – what would be an optimal “success rate,” if “success” equals earning a college degree? I don’t think it should be 100%. Maybe 10% (!).

    I am all for vocational education. Anyone who doesn’t believe that career training can be “rigorous” should try to fix their own stuff. I have far more respect for repairmen than for people whose only skill is parroting the PC party line. College students are taught about “tolerance.” Repairmen have zero tolerance for error. When I pay one, I expect my stuff to be fixed, period. How do they do it? I dunno. I’m a clueless humanities PhD. But I respect what they do. And hence I see the need for serious vocational education.

    We should stop seeing vocational ed as a copout for people who “can’t cut it.” On the contrary, they *can* cut it. It’s just that they do it in a different way. Elites need to stop judging people in terms of themselves and learn to deal with diverse (no scare quotes) educational needs.

  5. Wayne Martin says:

    > Want to fix the problems in the college system,
    > start at the point where our students lose ground
    > internationally (around grade 6-7)…

    The CA STAR test data reflect a general increase in test scores (English and Math) up until grade 7, then there is a gradual drop off in the scores until those posted for the 11th grade are roughly the same as the 2nd grade.

  6. Amritas wrote:

    Elites need to stop judging people in terms of themselves…

    But that’s half the fun of being an elite. What substitute would you suggest that’s anywhere near as fun and so undemanding?

    and learn to deal with diverse (no scare quotes) educational needs.

    Much as I disdain the courageless heroism and cheap generosity of America’s faux nobility, I can’t hold them responsible for the state of public education. That’s an inevitablity given the socialist nature of public education. It’s a created commons and there’s no such thing as a commons that doesn’t, eventually, play host to a tragedy.

  7. Wayne Martin says:

    > It’s a created commons and there’s no such
    > thing as a commons that doesn’t, eventually,
    > play host to a tragedy.

    If we can’t learn this from our collective past, what good is “education”.

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I do wish I had learned to type. Interesting things happened on the paper, then later on the screen, while I was [and still am] concentrating on the keys.
    Alas, typing was just for girls.