Some students aren’t college material and would be better off on a vocational track, Mike Petrilli wrote in Slate. Now, he concedes one of his critics’ points: Kids who aren’t “college material” aren’t “career- and technical-education material” either. Strong CTE programs require academic skills that many students lack. So what do we do with ninth graders who are way behind?
Sixty-four percent of eighth graders aren’t “proficient” in reading and math, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. They’re not on the college or career readiness track. Even worse, “just 14 percent of blacks and 21 percent of Hispanics are proficient in math at the end of eighth grade; for reading, it’s 17 percent and 22 percent, respectively.”
If we push the “pedal to the metal” on every school reform, we’ll still have many ninth graders who aren’t prepared for a true college-prep route or high-quality CTE, writes Petrilli.
. . . we encourage such students to muddle through “on-level” quasi-academic courses in large comprehensive high schools. Eventually, they drop out or get labeled as “over-age and under-credit.” At that point, various credit-recovery (or dropout-recovery) initiatives kick in. If the students are diligent and lucky, they squeeze out a credential. And then?
That’s hardly a strategy, a system, or a solution. And keep in mind that in some big urban districts, we’re talking about upwards of 80 or 90 percent of today’s kids—and, for all of our reforming, big fractions of tomorrow’s, too!
What would work best for these students? Petrilli doesn’t have the answer, just the question.
Carnegie’s Opportunity by Design is working with urban districts to design high schools that improve the life chances of underprepared students, respond Michele Cahill and Leah Hamilton. Their goal is to raise the number of underprepared students who complete high school, enroll in non-remedial college courses and stay in college for at least two semesters.