Make high school matter for non-collegebound

We must make high school matter for students who aren’t collegebound, writes James Stone on Shanker Blog, weighing in on the “snob” debate.

Instead of ever-increasing academic requirements, disengaged students need “rigorous, world-class technical education” linked to the labor market.

. . .  in Georgetown, KY, Toyota has worked with local education systems to create a compelling, rigorous and relevant manufacturing career pathway—one that takes students from high school to the local community college to four-year college programs in engineering or manufacturing management and the promise of employment with Toyota.

Retooled  Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs should “include intensive career development opportunities that begin no later than middle school,” internships, apprenticeships and “curricula that integrate academic knowledge with technical skills,”  Stone writes.

Chicago plans six-year tech high schools

Chicago will open five new six-year high schools that will let students complete “grade 14″ with an associate degree and high-tech job skills. IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions and Verizon will develop curricula, mentor students, provide summer internships and guarantee a “first-in-line” job interview after graduation.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Dual enrollment classes let a wide range of students — not just high achievers — earn college and high school credits at the same time. Does it raise the odds of college success?

Shop is not a four-letter word

Shop is Not a Four-Letter Word, writes Jim Berman on Edutopia. ”Technical education is the foundation that can work for many of our students.” Berman started his teaching career at a technical high school.

On my very first day, my supervisor, Mr. Wells, walked me through the halls. He introduced me to Mr. Davis, Automotive Technology instructor. Davis explained that his students are almost always in demand, often securing good employment before making the big walk in June.

I saw students working beneath the undercarriage of cars, suspended with myriad of diagnostic cables, wires and hoses that made a surgical suite look plebian.

I saw the Carpentry classroom, complete with a house being built from the foundation, wired by the Electrical Trades students and run with pipe by the Plumbing crew. Mr. Wells hustled me off to Medical Assisting where a patient was splayed out on gurney with all the requisite needles and beeping monitors you would see at Cedars-Sinai or the Mayo Clinic. The Welding room was glowing with the azure, electric-white glow from plasma torches ripping through metal. The din from the Automotive Body Repair garage was deafening. Mr. Wells explained that we were witnessing a team on a hard deadline to finish the repair and paint work on a ’77 Corvette that was heading to a car show the following week.

Berman plans a three-part series.

College students need practical skills as well as liberal arts, writes Scott Carlson in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Students learn about “sustainability” in class, but don’t know how to cook their own food, much less grow it, he writes. They can’t install a thermostat that conserves electricity.

Even science and engineering students lack “a serious enough regard for the way things get made and the way that things arrive on our kitchen table to eat in the morning,” says Robert Forrant, a professor of labor and industrial history at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and a former factory-floor machinist.

Instead his students see themselves as designers, divorced from the dirty work of making. “Somehow we have this notion that we are going to be this country that has all the idea people—that all the Steve Jobses of the world will live in the United States,” Forrant says. “To somehow think that you can dream something up without really understanding what it takes to make it flies in the face of reality.”

My husband, who grew up tinkering in the basement workshop, understands how things work. As an electrical engineer, he holds 30-odd patents.

Who pays for job training?

A North Carolina community college recruits, screens and trains new manufacturing workers for Caterpillar, all part of a state incentives package that lured a new factory to an area with high unemployment.

Minnesota has cut career-tech programs for high school students, despite soaring demand.

 

95% grad rate for career-tech students

California’s career academy students are more likely to graduate and complete college-prep courses required by state universities, according to a new Berkeley report on “partnership academies.”

These programs create a small school with a vocational focus for students in grades 10 through 12.  Business partners provide mentors and internships and sponsor field trips. At least half the students must be high-risk for dropping out due to low grades, poor attendance and other factors.

Despite this, 95 percent of seniors in California Partnership Academies graduate, compared with 85 percent of seniors statewide. Fifty-seven percent of academy graduates complete the courses required by the state university systems, compared with 36 percent of graduates statewide.

I wrote about a San Jose electronics academy in the ’80s, when the program was new and all the students were high-risk. “Teachers care about us,” said students, who bragged about teachers calling home to get them to show up every day. The chance to qualify for a summer job was a major motivator. I remember a Mexican-American kid who became the first in his family to graduate from high school. A mentor told him he needed straight A’s at community college, so he could transfer and earn an engineering degree. He was earning straight A’s in pre-engineering courses while working half-time as a technician at a high-tech company.

Sixty percent of academy seniors plan to go to community college and another 28 percent hope to attend four-year universities, the report found. Nearly all plan to work while attending college.

Of 500 partnership academies in California, about 200 risk closure due to budget cuts, California Watch reports.

Voc ed vs. music, art, foreign language

Music and art teachers are complaining about a new California law that expands graduation requirements:  Students can take one career or technical education course in place of art, music or a foreign language, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Arts and foreign-language courses are twice as likely as vocational classes to be certified as college-prep courses, so students who choose career tech could be ineligible to go from high school directly to the University of California and California State University systems.

Some urban districts, such as Oakland Unified, San Jose Unified and East Side Union in San Jose, use UC’s college-prep curriculum as their graduation requirement.

The new law will lead to two tiers, of college-prepared and unprepared students, opponents say.

Proponents disagree. “We already have a two-track system,” said Eric Guerra of (Assemblyman Warren) Furutani’s staff. “It’s called college or nothing.” Students who aren’t on a college track leave school without useful skills, he said. California’s class of 2010 graduation rate is a dismal 74.4 percent. “There’s got to be a different way to deliver secondary education,” he said. “The status quo is not working.”

The law’s opponents seem to think that many students will prefer career tech to music, art or foreign language. If so, why force them to take  art or music to earn a diploma?

School choice: college or career prep?

Students need a choice of college prep or trade school, writes Ilana Garon, who teaches high school in the Bronx, in the Huffington Post.

Uninterested in learning to spot the symbolism in Animal Farm, tenth-grader Danielle announces she doesn’t plan to go to college.  Instead, she’s taking community college courses to qualify as a massage therapist. “I want to have something ready to go when I graduate,” she says.

A few years ago, I would have been horrified at this pronouncement. . . . But these days, I’m more inclined to be impressed by Danielle’s self-awareness, foresight and her implicit understanding of a fact I wish our system leaders would see: that perpetuation of the current “college for all” trend in education is neither economically viable nor beneficial to all students.

Career tech students would need strong literacy and math skills, Garon writes, but not necessarily the same skills required to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Curricular emphasis in trade schools would perhaps be shifted from traditional literary analysis (themes, symbols, etc.) to literacy in functional documents, perhaps teaching students to read technical articles or to use math-based software programs that would be applicable to our tech-reliant workforce.

Queensland, Australia has introduced a “learning or earning” program after 10th grade, a commenter writes. Students can take academic classes to prepare for university, train for a job at a technical college or start a trade apprenticeship.

Students must be either enrolled in the program full-time, or working a minimum of 25 hours per week and studying part-time.
. . .  ALL young people receive a statement of learning detailing their achievemen­ts when they turn 17.
Parents and students decide on the “senior phase of learning.” Students can change paths, if things don’t work out.
In high-scoring Finland, about half of students go to vocational school at the age of 15 or 16.
Of course, developing high-quality career tech programs on this scale would be a challenge.

Career ed bill vetoed

California students will not be able to to take career classes instead of art or foreign language to earn a diploma. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill. An advocate of vocational education, Schwarzenegger said he was worried the bill would impose new costs on school districts and could require funding of more career academies.

He also vetoed a bill creating “green tech” career academies in high schools using a small surcharge on electricity. The funding source would set a bad precedent, the governor said.

The governor signed a bill requiring kindergartners to turn five by Sept. 1 and creating “transitional” classes for children affected by the switch. The cut-off date has been Dec. 2.

‘Food for Singles’ or French?

California students must take an arts class or a foreign language to graduate from high school, but a bill on the governor’s desk would let students choose a career course instead. The sponsor, Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, hopes the option will engage students who might otherwise drop out.

Common Core, which strongly opposes the idea, looks at Granada High School, where vocational options include:

* Hospitality to “learn grooming and proper work ethic.”

* Fashion Apparel to “learn sewing machine basics.”

* Landscape Design to “grow flowers, ornamental plants and vegetables.”

* Food for Singles to learn culinary “short cuts, new techniques, budgeting their food dollars, and multiple uses of appliances.”

“Education is about more than workforce preparation,” Common Core argues. “It’s about building creativity, wonder, cultural literacy and citizenship, for starters.”

California’s college-prep curriculum includes arts and a foreign language. However, the students who’d prefer “Hospitality” are not planning to apply to a state university.

The problem I see is that the bill includes no funding to develop high-quality  classes that would prepare students for real careers, most of which will require some additional training at a community college or in an apprenticeship program. Potential drop-outs might be motivated by Cooking for Chefs. It’s hard to believe anyone sees Food for Singles as a reason to stay in school.