Three tracks to success in Santa Fe

Tracking is out of fashion these days, but Santa Fe high schools’ three tracks give students a choice, reports KRQE News 13. Some take the most rigorous academic classes to apply for highly selective colleges, others aim for a less-selective college or university and some plan to pursue a technical career, go to community college or enter the military.

The third track engages students who’d otherwise be at risk for dropping out.

Welding teacher Al Trujillo said offering hands-on training is an important tool in keeping Hispanic students in school.

“Here, they learn a skill and their education becomes more valuable to them,” he said. “Without something like this, they may end up having a low-paying, low-skilled job.”

Moises Venegas, founder of the Quinto Sol research group, worries about lower expectations for Hispanic students.

Students who are pursuing a career in the military or a tech college are told to take a “workplace readiness” course, but they are not encouraged to take any AP classes and they take fewer language and science classes.

New Mexico raised graduation requirements this year, requiring all high school students to take four years of math and enroll in at least one AP or honors course or college-credit class. State policy — all students will be ready for college or a career — means that career-oriented graduates “need the same abilities as a college freshman,” says Melissa Lomax, head of the state’s career technical and work force education bureau.

Melecio Sanchez, 17, who just finished his junior year at Santa Fe High, has already received one welding certificate that allows him to work with heavy metals. He has a job with a welding company in Bernalillo and said he may attend college after he works and saves some money. He has several uncles who are welders.

“I like it because you get to work with fire, and you learn how to build things,” he said. “You will also make good money doing this.”

New Mexico students lag in reading and math skills compared to the national average; graduation rates are low. I prefer Santa Fe’s honesty to the pretense that all students will take the same classes and graduate with college-level skills.

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Comments

  1. “New Mexico raised graduation requirements this year, requiring all high school students to take four years of math…”

    The systematic measurement of student performance in terms of time screams “make work program for public-sector employees”. “A year of Algebra” makes as much sense as “a pound of History” or “a square meter of love”.

    If “public education” is not a make-work program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, why cannot any student take, at any age, an exit exam (the GED will do) and apply the taxpayers’ $10,000 per pupil-year age 6-18 education subsidy toward post-secondary tuition or toward a wage subsidy at any qualified (say, has filed W-2 forms on at least 3 adult employees for at least the previous four years) private-sector employer?

  2. Cue Handel’s Messiah – Hallelujah, hallelujah!

    It’s about time – I’ve struggled with these misplaced students, who are NOT prepared for the classwork of college-prep courses (their skills are often too weak), or who just don’t have the desire to go to college. We can’t “incidentally” teach students whose skill set is so deficient (one of the dumb suggestions made by an administrator who thought I was not helping those students sufficiently).

    The two areas that can’t be “faked” are English (NOT language arts) and Math. If you aren’t ready in those areas, you shouldn’t be grouped with those who are. It takes time to bring a student up to speed in reading, writing, or math. I can’t do it during class time; it isn’t fair to the rest of the class. IF the student will commit to before or after school tutoring, OK, maybe, but it can’t be done without a LOT of extra work. And a lot of homework – a LOT.

    College is quite expensive – it’s not for everyone. I’m really tired of running into former students who left college without a degree, but still have the debt.

  3. You’d think here in LA, the home of show biz, that the public schools would figure out how to teach those skills that would get high school grads jobs on movie sets, leading to union membership and well-paid careers. But no. Instead–everyone’s going to college.

  4. tim-10-ber says:

    LindaF — very well said!! Thank you!

  5. What a silly statement, that workers need the skills of a college freshman. I don’t know where such idiocy comes from.

    We have *got* to get away from this idea that college skills and/or a degree is the only route to success. It’s demonstrably not true.

  6. “We have *got* to get away from this idea that college skills and/or a degree is the only route to success. It’s demonstrably not true.”

    That would be nice. How do we get there from here? College faculty are articulate, well-paid, and have a lot of free time. At government-operated schools, they are often unionized (the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly is a subsidiary of NEA).

    At one time, hospitals trained nurses out of high school. At one time, lawyers and surgeons learned through apprenticeship. Until recently, one could become an actuary entirely by examination.

    Credit by exam would bust the college racket, and the high school racket, and save taxpayers hundreds of billions every year. That money currently funds dedicated lobbying by system insiders, who parasitize the market economy and who will drive that economy into the dirt.

  7. Yay for a breath of rationality!

    Not everyone is college-bound, or should be. If we give these kids an opportunity to develop needed occupational skills, not only are we keeping them in school but addressing their very real needs.

  8. Malcom, said, “At one time, hospitals trained nurses out of high school. At one time, lawyers and surgeons learned through apprenticeship. Until recently, one could become an actuary entirely by examination. Credit by exam would bust the college racket, and the high school racket, and save taxpayers hundreds of billions every year. That money currently funds dedicated lobbying by system insiders, who parasitize the market economy and who will drive that economy into the dirt.”

    This is similar to if not exactly what Charles Murray has said for some time (see his book, Real Education). Malcom, perhaps if someone else besides Murray, hated as he is by educators and others, would say this over and over, it might happen.

  9. tim-10-ber says:

    Malcolm — I am game with your idea about bringing back apprenticeships and internships. Been “preaching” that in my district and of course no one listens…too much money too lose…but oh it would save me a fortune on college tuition…

    When do we begin…

    Anon– Now to add another book to my reading list — thanks for the recommendation

  10. Cranberry says:

    The apprenticeship system was changed for good reasons. The standardization of medical and legal training has benefited society. Read analyses of the importance of the Flexner Report, for an insight into the grave weaknesses of any apprenticeship system. http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/291/17/2139

    The certification system, as currently practiced for certain professions, is not well-administered. Given the current proven weaknesses of an exam and certification system for a few, essential professions, I decline to believe that a nationwide certification system would be trustworthy and an improvement over the present state of affairs. See: http://tinyurl.com/3a727hk

    http://tinyurl.com/3xxh9en

    I could have found more examples of fraud and corruption in certification and promotion processes. I chose only two recent examples.

    We do not have enough leading professionals of good moral character to be able to trust in apprenticeships. The best system for training professionals, at present, seems to be a rigorous training period, which some students are unable to complete, followed by an independently administered exam, which again washes out a certain percentage of candidates.

  11. greeneyeshade says:

    KateC, excellent point. A book called “Thanksgiving 1959,” about high school football on my native Staten Island, referred in passing to the vocational high school down the street from my academic school as for those with “no hope of college.” “No hope”? Why not “no hope of or interest in,” especially back then? I wonder what Frank McCourt, who started his teaching there, would have thought of that crack. One more bit of evidence that the educators, possibly the intelligentsia as a whole, have forgotten, if they ever knew, that there’s anything between the pre-professional track and flipping burgers.

  12. Well, I don’t think I would tout the fact that surgeons were trained through apprenticeships back in the day– this was also when people went to the barber for medical care because it was a common fear that medical professionals could kill you with the “folk wisdom” that passed for western medicine.

    But back to the issue of tracking, what I like about this is that the students can choose the tracks based on their career goals. Puts responsibility for one’s education squarely on the shoulders of students, as it ultimately should be. I teach AP classes– and we have open enrollment, but if you don’t– or I sometimes hear “can’t”– do the work, then you are welcome to adjust your classes to better reflect your priorities. I’ve had kids get the best grades of their lives in AP after never having taken a “challenge”class– and I’ve had kids scrape by with the minimum grade that will satisfy them. It’s all about choice.

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