Saturday, May 26, 2018

Too Much Sense for Mississippi

 Oren Crass of the Manhatten Institute urges schools to reshape schools so that vo-tech education is a serious part of the curriculum.  He recently opined in the Wall Street Journal:

Nobody knows what a community college is,” President Trump said last month in Michigan. “We’re going to start using—and we had this—vocational schools.” Conflating community colleges with vocational schools is a mistake, though an understandable one. Everyone talks about better vocational programs for students who will not complete college, but prescriptions invariably focus on options for after high-school graduation.

Waiting until students are college age is too late. Elevating vocational education, and prioritizing its students, must begin with a substantial reshaping of American high schools. Vocational education will not succeed so long as culture and public policy consign it to second-class status—a dumping ground for students who interfere with what school districts consider their real mission, college prep.

But that mission ends in failure for most American students. Only 46% of Americans 25 to 29 have attained even an associate degree. Why do we design our high schools for college completers, if fewer than half of students complete college?

The problem is that schools refuse to track—to separate high-school students into different educational programs that target different outcomes. The impulse is an egalitarian one, but the insistence on treating everyone equally in high school harms students for whom the college track is not appropriate. It deprives them of schooling that could be more valuable and abandons them after graduation ill-prepared for work.

Would a noncollege track prevent some students from achieving their full academic potential? Perhaps. But the risk pales in comparison to the problem of today, when everyone is placed on a track that we know is wrong for most. A well-designed tracking system could mitigate that risk by leaving the choice to students and parents, by providing offramps from one track to the other, and by ensuring that the noncollege track is not undesirable to begin with.

How could a noncollege track be made more attractive? For starters, it could receive comparable resources. Schools lavish tens of thousands of public dollars on students who pursue college, while others, trying to find their own footing in life after leaving high school, get nothing at all. The Trump administration’s proposal to let students use Pell Grants for different forms of postsecondary training is a good start. But students on a vocational track shouldn’t have to wait until after high school for such resources.

A strong noncollege track would also allow employers to play a much larger role. School hours can be working hours—what Mr. Trump has called “earn as you learn.” But vocational students need access to this in high school if that is when their career preparation should begin.

Imagine if traditional high-school academics were compressed. Part of 11th grade would emphasize career selection and readiness, and 12th grade would mark the start of a subsidized internship or apprenticeship. Such a student could have significant work experience, certified skills, and $40,000 in the bank—before being old enough to drink. And that’s for the same cost as what Americans spend on the typical debt-laden college dropout.

With financial viability would also come cultural acceptance. The choice would come to seem normal; employers would know what to expect. Across the other developed economies of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, between 40% and 70% of secondary-school students pursue a vocational track. In Germany, business leaders often begin their careers in apprenticeships.

The current system is not really trackless; it offers a single track, tailored toward those most likely to succeed anyway. If there is to be only one track, why not switch the default? Design the local high school for the needs of the median student, who won’t complete even community college. Those aiming for college could enroll in an after-school enrichment program three towns over.

If that’s how “no tracking” looked, many of tracking’s opponents would probably come around.

Kingfish note:  A worthy idea and probably much-needed in Mississippi.  However, one doesn't see MDE or our leaders pushing for this sort of change.  Then there are the little fiefdoms called community colleges.  Too much turf to protect and it makes too much sense. 


Anonymous said...

Great post. I am a secondary math teacher. Many of my students would benefit greatly from a vo-tech option. Many (or most) of these students would gladly choose this option on their on - no need for the school to "track" them, just make it available in a real, funded way as described here. A true vo-tech option gives purpose and meaning to education which is lacking for the students that struggle with algebra and higher maths, or English, etc.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant read.

This guy nails it.

Anonymous said...

community college should be technical training. no more college transfer credit classes! with online learning we don’t need a community college campus every 25 miles

Anonymous said...

The last thing we need is more little programs in the high schools that require multiple assistant principals at 120k. Instead of criticizing the community college fiefdoms, just send the 15 and 16 year olds to the community college programs that already exist.

Anonymous said...

I have benn saying this and have been admonished. We need a vo tech program Germany did a his and they are miles ahead of us. At the 8th grade students are given a test and that determines whether they go to a prep school or Votech, Graduates are doing better in the VT sector ($85,000) to begin.

Please forgive me for typos. I own a Construction Company and cannot find a damn stinking “graduate”that can read a tape measure.... but they can play football for ole miss and state. Y’all figure that out.

Anonymous said...

This is maddening. As if this guy fell out of the loft and suddenly a brain fart hit him like a light bulb coming on. Vocational Educators in this state have tried for a decade to fifteen years to get parents, other educators, community leaders and politicians to understand the untapped resource of what we now call 'career centers'.

And the poster who actually thinks vocational training is a 'good option' for those students who can't do well with algebra, higher math and English (ETC), is full of crap.

I have a relative who graduated from Community College two weeks ago with the highest GPA in the graduating class. And that included math and English. He was enrolled in a co-op type program sponsored by both the school and John Deere. He's already at work in a continuation of John Deere's training program. He won't be living above his mother's garage in two years. He'll be busy building a new home with a third garage for his bass boat.

And his younger brother, who excels in math, will be enrolling soon at the Community College HVAC program. Sure, they could have both enrolled at Ole Miss and spent the next five to six years pursuing a useless degree. Students who are 'lacking and struggling' my ass!

Anonymous said...

Hi 4:21, I'm the one that wrote that. I did not in any way mean that vo tech was only for those students that struggle, sorry if it came off that way. It is absolutely an awesome option for anyone interested in whatever line of work with whatever gifts. I totally agree with what you have said.

When I read the article, my mind just went to those students of mine that have great gifts - their gifts and/or interests are just not particularly the academic subjects - but how great an earlier vo tech option would be for them too.

Anonymous said...

Great post. We need to end the stigma of a college degree being a requirement for management/ownership/success.

Anonymous said...

Graduated Central High School 1971 There was ROTC and Vo-Tech. A few of us went to college, a lot of us benefited from Vo Tech and ROTC...

Anonymous said...

Mike Rowe is a big supporter of vocational schools. If you haven’t heard him speak about them, there’s a ton of YouTube videos. It’s refreshing hearing common sense from a celebrity instead of the usual Hollywood crap.

Anonymous said...

3:51 is correct. I know someone from Germany who said that in 8th or 9th grade students are tested to determine what's best college or votech type classes. There's no stigma either way u go. Both are free and or low cost so go figure. College in the USA is a business and votech is bad for business.

Perkn said...

there should not be any stigma involved. i used to go to the job site with my dad and grandfather after school. my father made enough to send me to school, where i earned a masters in biological sciences. i could not find a job in ms making more than 45k starting off, even though i had a 4.9 gpa. so i went back to trimming houses, now im building houses.i have been telling people for years now that we need teach our youth practical vocational skills( hvac, plumbing, electrical, trim, framing, roofing, welding, etc.). all that said, i build around 150 houses a year, but i still run a trim crew on the side. my trim employees average salary is more than my starting salary with a masters degree. the only problem is, stated in an earlier post is that people dont know how to read a tape measure. we need to teach OUR kids how to work, not these illegal immigrants. i do have respect for them. i and most of you would not travel 1000s of miles to go to work. hats off to them. thani k God we live in america. #vocationalschool

Anonymous said...

On a related note, and something you may not know, even students in the private schools are entitled to go over to the local 'career center' for courses offered there. YES! Entitled! Every student in the community/District has a right to attend these classes/courses, whether they attend the public school district or not. If interested in more information, call or visit the Student Services Tech/Prep Coordinator at any of the public school Career Centers (vocational centers we used to call them).

Anonymous said...

At 4:21,
There are many trades that pay more than a student can make out of law school. My cousin is a tradesman and does plumbing in Birmingham. He makes more than many lawyers I work with.

Jay Hughes said...

I'm Jay Hughes, a state representative, candidate for Lt. Governor, product of High School Vo-Tech, and absolutely endorse this concept of vocational training for high school students. It has to be removed from being thought about as "shop" or as secondary to going to college. It doesn't have to be an either or decision. You can do both. Had I not decided to join the Army after my first post-high school job (truck in the oil field), and then to college, I could have easily provided well for my family in either an engineering, drafting or construction firm. I earned double the then-minimum wage while I was still in high school drawing for an engineering firm after hours. Sadly, MS students mostly have to wait to attend CC until after HS graduation, when many have to get a minimum wage job just to make ends meet. Transportation, like it or not, is a very real issue for many people in Mississippi and the rest of the country, just as it was in my family 40 years ago. Too many seem to be focused on college and significant student loan debt that cripples students and young families for years, when such a great living could be made as a plumber, lineman, electrician, construction worker, coder, HVAC, EMT, legal assistant, cosmetologist, etc. One does not have to be stuck at minimum wage with only a high school diploma, nor do they have to move away from small and shrinking hometowns to make a living. What will we do when no one can do anything with their hands any more and there are no small communities left? Just IMHO J

Anonymous said...

I’m the 3:51 poster and I am STRUGGLING to find workers that can perform. What we are doing is NOT working. Thank you KF for posting this. It needs to be said. I am a high school grad with no college degree but I make 250k plus.... I paid my dues but it takes hard work and determination and a lot of blood sweat and tears. In the end, I don’t answer to anyone and I am my own person. I have a friend who at 50 is just now paying off his student loan....he is an oral surgeon from another state.

I asked a young man to measure something yesterday and he said he is not good at numbers....public schools...but we know about ou civil rights hero’s don’t we. F THIS is what we are teaching we are absolutely deserving of what we get!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I’ll wait for the follow-up piece about how several Mississippi districts just graduated a lot of kids with associates degrees at the same time they got their diploma... literally a week ago.

Anonymous said...
Fantastic resource this state has and nobody knows about it.

Coffee and cornbread said...

Vo-tech isn't what it used to be. its not learning how to pull dents and weld. My son took some vo-tech classes and they were in robotics and learning how to make files for 3-d printing and such. As complicated as building and making things is these days we need people that are just as skilled as the degreed people that manage them. If im honest the people that are in management positions and aren't degreed tend to make better managers. They came from the same stock and know how to work with skilled/unskilled labor better.

Just my two cents

Fourth Year Sophomores said...

What's the main driver that sends so many kids to college who have no business being there? Parents. From the time we're two years old we're taught to be competitive with each other, to be a bit better than or faster than or richer than. So, when we're 44 we're still competing with every other parent at the school and in the neighborhood.

To the point that there's very little chance your momma won't push you into college simply because all the other mommas do and she damned sho won't be the one in the neighborhood to say, "Oh, my son's not going to go to college". That's the STIGMA that results in colleges being 60% full of people who ought not be there.

Or if she says, "Oh, he's taking up HVAC or robotics or drafting at Hinds or Holmes"....her time slot at the tennis club is immediately filled by someone else.

Anonymous said...

"I’ll wait for the follow-up piece about how several Mississippi districts just graduated a lot of kids with associates degrees at the same time they got their diploma... literally a week ago."

Please explain what you mean by this post and accompany it with evidence. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Here's your follow-up piece----documentation at many community colleges around the state. Just Google Mississippi Community Colleges and MIBEST programs.

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