Vocational ed that works

Vocational high schools in Massachusetts are posting above-average test scores and lower drop-out rates than comprehensive high schools, concludes a Pioneer Institute report. In Worcester, the vocational school is the highest scorer in the district, writes Julia Steiny in the Providence Journal.

. . .  at Diman Regional Vocational High School in Fall River, 60 percent of the kids typically go on to college. One year the college-bound rate was 80 percent.

But this success is new. Before the 1993 Education Reform Act, maybe 5 percent of Diman’s kids went to college, 10 in a really good year.

What happened? The state made vocational students pass the same tests as everyone else. Teachers integrated reading, math and science into trade courses. Now there are waiting lists to get into vo-tech schools.

Via Education Gadfly.

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  1. My impression is that this is what Japan and Germany have done for some time. The idea that all kids should go to college is stupid, and the consequence of pushing in this direction in the US has been to dumb down college, and to graduate a lot of people that are completely untrained in any useful way. Can you say deconstructive literary criticism?

    For kids that aren’t interested in going to “real college”, the gap between academically oriented classes and their interests are just too wide for them to be motivated. And when they eventually get jobs, they are missing the basic knowledge that makes them flexible enough to learn new skills as jobs change. My older brother goofed his way through high school, and drank heavily for a semester at party college before dropping out, and if he weren’t extremely intelligent, he would have been unable to learn everything he had needed to know in his craft (he’s a highly skilled welder).

    I’m not sure what it is that makes us feel that it is elitist to have decent vocational education, but if we were all lawyers and doctors (ugh) pretty soon nothing would work.

  2. I don’t know that the idea that all kids should go to college is “stupid,” but it *is* a misguided idea. Having worked in a vocational high school for 7 years (in NYC), I firmly believe that being able to leave high school with a specific skill set is much better than leaving high school being able to take a test or write a 5 paragraph essay. The idea that all kids should go on to a 4 year higher education institution instead of considering an apprenticeship or going straight into the workforce is a well-meaning, bleeding-heart, sappy liberal ideal in the name of equal opportunity.
    I wonder what Mike Rose would have to say about this report.

  3. You did a better job of saying what I meant. Thanks.

  4. Not all vocational high schools have higher test scores and lower drop-out rates than their host districts. It depends on the district. Beating the state average is wonderful in Worcester, or Fall River. It’s not impressive in Lexington.

    What do they have in their favor? They are schools of choice, so they have the advantage of an admissions process. They also can expel disruptive students.

  5. If it works, don’t fix it.

  6. “They also can expel disruptive students”…and the reason we don’t want to extend this feature to other schools would be….???