Saturday, February 07, 2009

High school diplomas should prepare students for future - which may or may not include college

Here's an editorial piece from today's Statesman. Pretty concerning if you ask me...


For me, a concern here is whether developing the other tracks will equate to large investments by the state of Texas producing resource-rich tracks. It also seems that it doesn't have to be mutually exclusive. You could have Voc-Tech tracks that also prepare students for college. Finally, stratification by race, class, and gender will be another hardly trivial consideration that should be taken into account should this move forward.

Plus generally, how many students really know at age 14 what they want to do for the rest of their lives? Very likely only a small minority. Lots and lots of children are late bloomers and so it's good to prepare for this type of student in a non-restrictive manner, and ideally, in a way that exposes them to a range of opportunities.


High school diplomas should prepare students for future - which may or may not include college.
Thursday, February 05, 2009

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff asked this question during a recent discussion with us about public schools: Which is more difficult to find, a doctor or an electrician?

With that, Ratliff pointed out a glaring deficiency in Texas public education. Public schools aim at preparing all children for college and university courses that lead to careers in white-collar professions such as medicine, engineering, business, teaching, law, science, politics or high tech.

There is no doubt that public schools must prepare students for college. We live in an information age in which ideas and innovation are our most valuable commodities. Texas public schools are conveyor belts that move high school students into college preparatory diploma programs.

But that approach leaves very little room for fine arts, electives or any other field of study. And it ignores the need for workers to fill good-paying jobs as electricians, auto mechanics, plumbers, medical technicians, firefighters, police officers, carpenters and more recently, jobs in an emerging green energy sector.

Ratliff and former Texas Education Commissioner Mike Moses are lobbying the Legislature on behalf of Raise Your Hand Texas to secure changes for public schools that are relevant to today's job market. Should high school students pursuing a fine arts program be required to pass calculus? Or is that best suited for students pursuing science and math programs? What is best for students headed for community college or jobs directly after high school?

Relevancy is the driving force behind the Raise Your Hand proposal, which would create three paths to earning high school diplomas. It is a realistic approach the Legislature should adopt.

Under the proposal, students could choose a traditional college preparatory curriculum that includes four years of math, science, English and social studies (including history and economics). That would be similar to the current Recommended High School Program that requires students to pass upper-level math courses, including precalculus or calculus, physics and advanced science courses, and economics.

Currently, all incoming ninth-graders are steered to that curriculum no matter what their future plans. If Ratliff and Moses are successful, there would be two other pathways to earn a diploma in Texas public schools. One would be a college preparatory curriculum that emphasizes fine arts. The third would be a career and technical curriculum that would prepare students for community college or jobs upon graduation.

The proposal offers flexibility, and all programs would be rigorous. Parents and students would select the diploma program best for them. The cost to change the current high school diploma program would be minimal. However, the cost of not changing it could be enormous in two years when high school dropouts are counted.

The unwise decision to steer all students to the Recommended High School Program (with some exceptions) won't be fully felt for another two years, when those students are seniors. Texas should brace for a potentially huge spike in the number of students who drop out of school because they fail to pass calculus and advanced science courses.

Also, many students who do stay in school might be denied diplomas because they fail to pass advanced math or science exit-level exams. Certainly it is sensible and beneficial for students seeking careers in medicine and engineering to undergo such preparation. But for students who want a career in politics or those who want to become electricians, such courses are superfluous.

Multiple diploma pathways that are relevant to students as well as the job market make sense. The Legislature can — and should — lead in making that a reality.

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