October 3, 2016

Sometimes the points one wishes to make about an important subject are best expressed through thoughtful quotes:

“  .  .  .  High schools like Mercy – known as career and technical schools or vocational schools – are increasing their presence throughout the country, at a time when support for career and technical education is picking up steam as an alternative route to the middle class. There are roughly 90 career and technology schools and centers in Pennsylvania, at least 70 vocational high schools each in Ohio and Massachusetts, and similar numbers in other states. 

 Vocational education historically has been prevalent in European countries, such as Finland and Germany, but often comes with a stigma in the U.S. that suggests only low-performing and troublemaking students end up in such schools. In Germany, children of middle school age take tests and either move on to apprenticeships or a university preparation route, says James Stone III, director of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education at the University of Louisville.

 “We look at that and say, ‘Oh, isn’t that terrible?’ Because we’re condemning kids based on a test at that age,” Stone says. “But when you actually look at what they do and how they do it, the system works extraordinarily well. They have one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the industrialized world, and going through an apprenticeship in no way prevents one from moving on to college.”

 While the rhetoric of the last few years has centered around encouraging every young person in America to go to college as a way to find gainful employment and a guaranteed route to the middle class, some are increasing their calls for multiple pathways to those outcomes.  .  .  . “  (“Vocational High Schools: Career Path or Kiss of Death?” by Allie Bidwell, U.S. News & World Report)

Another aspect of this important subject can be found in an excerpt taken from THE WILSON QUARTERLY, “Getting Real about High School” by Sarah Carr:

 “  .  .  . Even advocates of career and technical education acknowledge that the programs are often divorced from economic and industry needs. Many of them were designed not out of a desire to prepare students for high-wage jobs in growing technical fields, but on the basis of classist, racist assumptions that low-income students and children of color cannot learn at high levels. To the extent that these programs fill an economic need, it’s to create a permanent underclass of workers destined for minimum-wage jobs. In New Orleans, before Katrina, that meant the schools produced an endless supply of graduates to serve as housekeepers and dishwashers working for less than $20,000 a year in the city’s tourist-based economy, but very few who could repair air conditioning units, a job that pays more than twice as much.

A confluence of forces has fueled the college-for-all push of the last couple of decades. Apart from the well-publicized hollowing out of the economy, a raft of reports have shown the differential benefits of college and graduate school education in terms of earnings, job stability, and health. In 2010, for instance, the median wage for a male high school graduate between the ages of 25 and 34 was $32,800, compared to $49,800 for one with a bachelor’s degree.

 At the same time, the standards movement—with its emphasis on disaggregated data, high-stakes testing, and school accountability—exposed huge failures in the schooling of low-income and minority children. “This very good idea that all kids need a strong academic underpinning morphed into the idea that all kids need to be prepared to attend a four-year college,” says Robert Schwartz, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He doesn’t think the two ideas are necessarily the same. .  .  . 

 With so much emphasis on “college for everyone” these days, we need to recognize an equal need for providing technical and vocational education choices in our high schools.  Teaching and training all our young people are the best investments we can make.

More on Wednesday –  –  –

        — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning

      www.itclearning.com/blog/  (Mondays & Wednesdays)

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