Obama: Educate for high-tech economy

High schools should put “our kids on a path to a good job,” said President Obama in the State of the Union speech.

Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this. Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

Many high schools offer “dual enrollment” courses that let students earn college credits — usually through a local community college — while completing high school. (The sinister Gates Foundation has been a major funder of dual enrollment.) Moving to a German-style apprenticeship system, which explicitly prepares students for skilled jobs, not for higher education, will take a lot more than money. It will take a major attitude change from college for all to competency for all. (Competency for most?) President Obama, whose administration cut funds for career tech programs, could lead the way.

“A Race to the Top-style grant program for high school curriculum” may raise hackles, notes Ed Week. Conservatives — and some liberals — are unhappy with the administration’s use of funding power to push states to adopt Common Core standards, which was supposed to be a state initiative.   Now Obama’s admitting that’s what Race to the Top did and asking for more money and power over curriculum.

Colleges pushed to disclose grads’ earnings

As student debt mounts, colleges and universities face pressure to disclose their graduates’ earnings.

Washington, Florida Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia have released wage information by major, degree and institutution. Colorado, Nevada and Texas will do so soon. A bill in Congress would publicize graduates’ wage data for every college and university.

Community colleges and employers are working to develop apprenticeship programs.

Top chef trained at community college

Richard Rosendale, chef at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, hopes to be the first American to win the Bocuse d’Or cooking competition in France. Rosendale earned a culinary arts associate degree at a community college, then entered the Greenbrier’s apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeship + college = opportunity

Apprenticeships are making a comeback, but these days young people want a college degree too.

In Washington state, Jesica Bush earns nearly $25 an hour as an apprentice iron worker while taking classes at Bates Technical College. After four years, she’ll earn a journeyman’s card and an associate degree.

Career tech ed for all

Stereotypes about Career and Technical Education (CTE) may be crumbling, writes Randall Garton on Shanker Blog. According to a National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE) report, the old distinctions between “CTE” and “academic” students are no longer useful. Nearly all high school students, including high achievers, enroll in some CTE courses.

States classify students as “vocational” or “academic” based on 50-25-25 rule that goes back to the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917.

Vocational education students spent 50 percent of their time in the shop, 25 percent of their time studying closely related topics, and 25 percent in academic subjects. Although the classifications were eventually broadened to include general students (neither vocational nor academic) and dual (both), the underlying concepts remained unchanged.

Over time, “federal and state policy increasingly emphasized” academics, which influenced the Perkins Vocational Education Act of 1984. But even as voc ed became “career and technical education,” the academic-or-vocational divide remained, writes Garton.

Using NRCCTE’s new template, researchers estimate that 92 percent of public high school students take at least some CTE courses. Nearly 17 percent  complete both high-intensity CTE courses and academic requirements in an “occupational area.”

I worry that schools are unwilling to offer pathways that lead directly to work or even apprenticeships, believing that all programs must be — or pretend to be — college prep.

‘Middle’ skills lead to middle-class jobs

Career technical education is “the missing middle ground in American education and workforce preparation,”  concludes a new report. There are 29 million jobs paying middle-class wages — $35,000 to $75,000 a year — that are open to workers with employer-based training, industry or college certifications, apprenticeships and associate degrees.

Students need to know there’s a third path to success that gets them much farther than a high school diploma and doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree, writes a community college president.

Getting to Graduation: How — and how many?

Getting to Graduation will require state and federal policies that encourage new and established higher ed providers “to compete with one another on the value they deliver to their students,” argues a new book on the completion agenda in higher education. And don’t forget apprenticeships, vocational certificates and associate degrees that qualify graduates for “middle-skill” jobs.

How the Germans (and others) do voc ed

Nancy Hoffman’s Schooling in the Workplace: How Six of the World’s Best Vocational Education Systems Prepare Young People for Jobs and Life reminds us of how much the U.S. has neglected vocational education, writes Graham Down in an Ed Next review.

Believing in equality of educational opportunity, U.S. schools promote the same goal — some sort of college — to all students, Hoffman writes. Our competitors — Germany,  Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland — integrate job training with academics, increasingly moving learning from the classroom to the workplace.

In the U.S., Hoffman sees promising  CTE (Career and Technical Education) in Big Picture Learning schools, Project Lead the Way and Linked Learning  However, the U.S. culture makes it very hard to offer vocational training without promising that most students will end up going to college.

Coast Guard trains its own shipyard workers

As older shipyard workers retire, the Coast Guard is training apprentices in ship-building skills. Always in demand: electricians.

College isn’t for everyone

The crusade to send everyone to college has backfired, writes Robert Samuelson. It’s dumbed down colleges and filled high schools with bored, frustrated students who see no connection between their college-prep classes and their goals.

In Canada, male apprentices earn slightly more than community college graduates, new research shows.