Friendly debate: A single academic track or multiple tracks?

I had an interesting conversation today with John Konop, who is the CEO of a financial services company, a former candidate for Congress – he lost a GOP primary challenge to Tom Price in 2006 — and a frequent commenter on education issues.

Should a high school diploma mean different things for different students?

Should a high school diploma mean different things for different students?

A Cherokee resident, Konop was one of the early critics of the state’s new math curriculum. He sees the math reforms as a symptom of a larger problem: Forcing all students into an academic track that is not relevant to their dreams, may exceed their abilities and pushes them to drop out.

As a CEO who monitors job trends, he questions the mantra that high level math skills are essential to most future jobs. He advocates options outside college prep for students so they are not done in by early failure and give up on school.

He and I agree that the dropout rate in Georgia is a problem. However, we depart on the solution. He wants a non-college track, saying that a lot of students in Georgia – including those only learning English — could be better served by a track that leads them to technical training and certification rather than to college and a bachelor’s degree.

Konop agrees that people change their goals – what someone wants at 15 may not be the same thing they want at 25 – - but says that’s why we ought to make it easier for people who obtain certificates to resume their education.

“A lot of those kids would be better served in junior high by getting into a certification program. To expect a kid having a hard enough time grasping the language to go on a certain track to college is irrational for them and for the teacher. At the end of the day, no matter what we do, a certain amount of people will fall through the cracks,” he says. “If kids do fall through the cracks, what can you do to change it? I recommend giving these kids a chance to go to junior college. The guy who is the CIO at my company got his first IT degree from IT Tech and now has a MBA.”

Konop says many older workers went to college assuming they would  learn everything they needed for their careers. Their college degree marked the end of their education.

“We don’t live in that world anymore,” he says. “Now, if you study something it gets you in the door, but you have to keep studying. I am a CEO, but I keep reading every day. I don’t look at education as ever stopping.”

Here is my counterargument in brief: The attitude that students need an academically less demanding “vo-tech” track fails to consider the dramatic changes in the 21st-century workplace that can make a manufacturing manual tougher to comprehend than a college text. Strong literacy and math skills are vital.

As Kati Haycock of the Education Trust told me: “Young people today who don’t have those skills are not becoming auto mechanics; they are the ones sweeping the shop floor.”

Konop argues that the single college prep diploma will drive more high school students to quit, but history doesn’t bear out his predictions. The national movement to higher standards that began in the 1970s did not inflate dropout rates. In fact, dropout rates fell between 1973 and 1990, especially among black students. The key is to ensure that additional academic rigor seems relevant to future employment. Students who understand how physics is applied to careers in aeronautics or hydraulics, for example, are more likely to invest the time needed to master that discipline.

In addition, Census data still show that even completion of only two years of college yields higher lifetime earnings than a technical school certificate. Yes, there are high-earning mechanics and welders out there, but we often overlook all the folks coming out of tech schools into low-paying fields with very little opportunity for advancement.

Konop wrote a blog posting about his position and about a bill that he thinks will help: Here it is:

Our high schools are facing skyrocketing drop out rates, declining test scores, and limited tax revenue (because of the recession). No Child Left Behind’s one-size-fits-all education model, with its unfunded mandates from the sate and federal government, has been a massive failure by any measurement.

Georgia has unfortunately followed No Child Left Behind’s lead and established a one-track-fits-all philosophy, which forces all students into a college-bound curriculum. The result: students with an aptitude for vocational/tech curriculum are demoralized (and dropping out in greater numbers) and college-bound students are not challenged by an increasingly watered-down curriculum aimed at accommodating everyone (including students who would be better served by a vocational/tech curriculum).

The solution to these problems requires only common sense and familiarity with an already proven approach. For example, Macon, GA, has developed a multi-track (college-bound and vocational/tech) system based on each student’s aptitudes. By putting vocational students and college bound students on different tracks, the school has realized amazing results.

From Macon.com: “…the immediate benefits from the career academy include lower dropout rates, higher graduation rates, and a more skilled labor pool in the county, [school administrator Carpenter] said. The Newnan school’s web site states the county’s dropout rate has fallen by half since it opened, and the graduation rate for students in dual enrollment programs is 98 percent.”

Georgia State Representative Steve Davis has proposed a bipartisan bill (HR-215) to promote this multi-track concept. The bill will provide separate tracks for high school students (a college-bound track and a vocational/tech track) using joint enrolment programs with local colleges and technical schools to support honors and vocational programs.

HR-215 would 1) increase graduation rates, 2) provide our local economy with work-ready students who will increase tax revenues, and 3) decrease the money governments spend on welfare and crime. It will also lower the overall cost of education by better utilizing college and technical school resources, many of which have surplus capacity.

131 comments Add your comment

Old School

January 27th, 2010
6:49 am

I guess someone finally listened to the mantra I’ve been chanting for years. It’s not a new idea, it’s just coming around again in the ever circling band-aid cycle that seems to make legislators pat themselves on the back and those on the front lines sigh as they prepare for the next cure du jour.

pay attention folks

January 27th, 2010
7:19 am

Buckle up everyone, the dropout rate is, in fact about to soar. It’s already showing signs. Maureen, I urge the AJC to look at 9th grade promotion/retention rates around the state for the original class of 2012. I say original, because many who started with the class of 2012 are now members of the class of 2013. This is due in large part to their failure of Math I, and it’s just going to snowball from here.

Oldspartan

January 27th, 2010
7:23 am

3rd times a charm I hope?? if most submitters are never posted there is NO debate; here is a list of questions for you Maureen

Can every person bench press 500lbs? Should they be required to?

Can every person run a mile in under 5 min.? Should they be required to?

Can every person become an American Idol? Should they be required to?

Can every person become a Air Force Fighter Pilot? Should they be required to?

Can every person become a Doctor? Should they be required to?

In Amercia all students have the opportunity to become any one of these things, but do they have the capacity.

People in their ivory towers look down on the population and think they know better; but wasnt it the top of the class, the elite with their Harvard degrees that drove our economy right into the ground?

About 22% of Amercians have college degrees, that means about 78% are doing fine without one. Schools must be designed around the 78% thats why we can have IB or advanced placement for the other 22%.

If you dont like persons disagreeing with you, just give up the blog.

pay attention folks

January 27th, 2010
7:34 am

“Here is my counterargument in brief: The attitude that students need an academically less demanding “vo-tech” track fails to consider the dramatic changes in the 21st-century workplace that can make a manufacturing manual tougher to comprehend than a college text. Strong literacy and math skills are vital.”
I don’t think anyone is suggesting that all students don’t need strong literacy and math skills, but they certainly don’t need college level statistics in the 10th grade, and that is just what the state is trying to cram down everyone’s throat.
As for four years of science, to what end? Making them take it doesn’t mean they’ll get anything out of it. Their time would be better spent learning something meaningful for that individual student, whether it be more classical literature or auto repair. We are completely disregarding the fact that all students have different strengths and weaknesses, that are brains are all wired differently, and instead are trying to force everyone into the same size pair of shoes. It will not work.

pay attention folks

January 27th, 2010
7:36 am

typo: “are brains are all wired differently” should be “our brains…”

catlady

January 27th, 2010
7:37 am

Kudos to Mr. Konop! Is he running for office? I would think about supporting him.

We need ALL kids to MASTER basic math. Not everyone needs advanced math, nor, to be frank, does everyone have the skills, dedication, or ability to do so.

rocket scientist, not

January 27th, 2010
7:40 am

The idea Mr. Konop proposes has merits, but there are certain parts of his arguments that worry me.

English learners – why should they be automatically put in the group for technical prep? Just because they are English learners doesn’t mean those students may excell in math and science. Why limit their options?

Who decides what tracks to go into at what age? Many European systems are just like what Mr. Konop is proposing. In general, people in his party seems to dislike what European does so I found it interesting that he is proposing basically a system like what UK and Germany have been doing for years. In those systems, I think students are placed into tracks by standardized tests. Are we going to have such high-stake tests to use to screen students? Do we make sure that parents will not interfere in the decision — as they seem to do often in the current system?

What exactly is our current drop out rate anyway?

@catlady

January 27th, 2010
7:42 am

So, what is “basic” math and what is “advanced” math? Who decides?

Jennifer

January 27th, 2010
8:14 am

Ye gads, how low can we go with academic expectations in Georgia ? I would hardly say that the current academic requirements are even anywhere close to benching 500 or becoming an American Idol.

And in my experience, at least in the meetings I have attended in my county there is no real choice for parents when it comes to guiding students into technical/vocational/academic programs. If you have attended a 9th grade student academic planning discussion – it is painfully obvious that a “push” to vocational and technical education happens from the school, not the parents. And it happens more often to students of color, economically disadvantaged students, immigrant students, and special education students.

I am going to do a little research on the “career academy” that is cited in Macon..My guess is that there is a whole lot more to that particular story.

Maureen Downey

January 27th, 2010
8:16 am

rocket, The state says that about 78 percent of Georgia students are graduating, but other studies put it around 62 percent. All states have to move to a common calculation that will take into consideration how many kids start high school. The current system overlooks a lot of kids who disappear from the radar early on.
It is true that Georgia – whatever measure is used – is seeing an uptick in the number of kids graduating, but our rate is still among the lowest in the country.
Maureen

Cere

January 27th, 2010
8:18 am

“As Kati Haycock of the Education Trust told me: “Young people today who don’t have those skills are not becoming auto mechanics; they are the ones sweeping the shop floor.”

That may be true — in the south.

I’ve never seen a successful vo-tech high school in the south. I’ve never even met an education leader who could envision one. You should investigate some of the very successful schools in the Midwest and New England. The one in my hometown partners with the local community college and Ford motor company. These kids DO leave school with an ability to land an entry-level job in auto mechanics, carpentry, hair design, desktop publishing, small engine repair, HVAC, preschool education, dental asst, etc etc. They have a waiting list to get in! And guess what – many of them do still go on to college – perhaps first to community college and then to the university – but the path to a college degree is not blocked by attending a vo-tech high school.

I would suggest that SOMEONE from Georgia look outside the boundaries of Georgia and see how people are running successful school systems elsewhere. Georgia did not do this with the math – they instead tried to create their “own” – and it’s a flop, IMO. Why do that? When you can just find someone doing something well and copy it?!!

Check out this example – and I can find you 10 more like it – but they’re not in GA

http://www.pentacareercenter.org/

john konop

January 27th, 2010
8:28 am

First I want to thank Maureen Downey for posting the topic and a very friendly as well as interesting conversation. I would like to point out the drop out rates are soaring around the country. And in Georgia, Kathy Cox is using creative math to cover up the problem as reported by the AJC.

If Kathy Cox did real tracking by students that entered the system you would see the drop out rate is close to 50%. We cannot fix a problem by covering it up.

Maureen is right that some kids could fall through the cracks needing more education latter, but relative to the above problem, we must focus on the drop out rate immediately!

Also slowing down the curriculum for high level college bound students only adds to the mess!

Data shows inconsistency in Georgia dropout, graduation rates

AJC-Georgia loses track of thousands of students each year, suggesting the dropout rate may be higher and the graduation rate lower than the state has reported, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found.
Last year, school staff marked more than 25,000 students as transferring to other Georgia public schools, but no school reported them as transferring in, the AJC’s analysis of enrollment data shows.
State officials said their records confirm the mismatch. After the newspaper asked where the students went, the state searched further using student names — which are not public information — and other personal details.

That search located 7,100 of the missing transfers in Georgia schools, state education spokesman Dana Tofig wrote in an e-mailed statement. The state does not know where an additional 19,500 went, but believes other coding errors occurred, he wrote. Some are dropouts but others are not, he said.
State officials have touted their statewide student tracking system as among the more advanced in the country. The missing transfers, however, are only the most recent students caught in an informational black hole due to coding errors.

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories//2009/06/07/georgia_dropout_rate.html

[...] Read a strange here: Friendly debate: A singular educational lane or mixed tracks? | Get … [...]

john konop

January 27th, 2010
8:37 am

rocket scientist, not,

I am not advocating all kids with language issues be put on a vocational/tech track. What I am saying is many of the kids who dropping out now because they see no hope of getting through the current requirements as well as not getting the proper training for a job.

If you set people up to fail than you will see failure. And as I said, the junior college system was set up for kids to get needed course work for entering a 4 year degree program if they did not get it in high school.

The real question is it better to have a kid with a skill for a job who has the choice to enhance it latter with more education or should we let them drop out if they do not fix the box.

pay attention folks

January 27th, 2010
8:39 am

Jennifer,
While you may have seen students pushed into vo-tech programs, you will see that no more. With the class of 2012, there is ONE diploma. It’s college prep or nothing. There are no more vo/tech diplomas, and the programs are dying along with the votech diploma. That is not a good thing in my opinion. As Cere said we should look at what other states are doing. The Penta program she links to looks amazing.

teacher/parent

January 27th, 2010
9:16 am

The argument that students will be ‘pushed into a vocational track’ is a fallacy and is insulting. First, it ignores the fact that right now students are ‘pushed’ into a college prep track. If you say, that’s what everyone should be doing, then that’s an insult to those who do not want to or can not (as Konop states) at the time complete college prep work.
How will we decide who goes on the vocational track? The students will decide.
If they cannot or will not complete the work in college prep classes, who are we to force them to stay there. We can’t ‘push’ them into vo-tech, but we can force them to sit in college prep classes over and over until they ‘get’ what we tell them they ‘should’ be learning?!? Talk about demoralizing.

Attentive Parent

January 27th, 2010
9:17 am

Kati Haycock is quite an advocate of the one track for all high school curriculum. She believes that the strong students do not suffer in a heterogeneous classroom and the weaker students do better with the more challenging curriculum.

I think the evidence shows she is wrong about the effect on the stronger kids but she clearly wants a more equal society than the one we have in the US. That belief influences what she advocates for.

In an October education conference here in Milledgeville Haycock went on to say that it is important for luggage porters and garbagemen to also be well educated because “it gives their lives dignity”.

She seems to have a utopian, dreamy idea of the world as she wishes it were, not the reality we have in Georgia’s classrooms. Her ideas make even less sense in a world of increasingly scarce public dollars.

Attentive Parent

January 27th, 2010
9:27 am

Maureen- I seem to be caught in the filter.

Can you check?

Disgusted

January 27th, 2010
9:42 am

Since the topic has come up I guess I’ll beat this horse again.

There is a growing problem in the way some career academies and alternative schools are being used to hide drop outs and low performing students in order to increase graduation rates.

My school district, Hall County, has been taking students who will receive Certificates of Performance due to not passing certain tests and transferring them mere days before graduation to our Lanier Career Academy to graduate. This is done in order to improve the graduation rate at the traditional High Schools in the county and helped get this district off the needs improvement list.

I have reported this to Kathy Cox’s office and to the Governors Office for Student Accountability with no response from either place. This is shamefull. The vast majority of these students are minority and/ or poor.

There is also a program here that takes students out of the high schools who are behind in credits and puts them in a GED prep program of sorts. The trick is that in order to actually take the GED the student actually has to withdraw at some point and move on to the local tech school’s program, so the students that do so never register as drop outs. The ones that do actually drop out from this program are not counted against their home school because the career academy is set up as an independent school and never has a large enough population to register as a sub group for AYP purposes. Pretty slick game of hide the student.

I find this not only unethical on the part of all involved in the scheme, but very harmful to our minority and lower income children. But hey, it sure makes the powers that be in our district look great !

john konop

January 27th, 2010
9:43 am

Maureen Downey said;

……in addition, Census data still show that even completion of only two years of college yields higher lifetime earnings than a technical school certificate. Yes, there are high-earning mechanics and welders out there, but we often overlook all the folks coming out of tech schools into low-paying fields with very little opportunity for advancement…….

My point:

Data also shows the 40 to 50% of drop outs are a major drain on society ie prisons, welfare……

We must set the students for an opportunity to win not fail!

Disgusted

January 27th, 2010
9:43 am

Since the topic has come up I guess I’ll beat this horse again.

There is a growing problem in the way some career academies and alternative schools are being used to hide drop outs and low performing students in order to increase graduation rates.

My school district, Hall County, has been taking students who will receive Certificates of Performance due to not passing certain tests and transferring them mere days before graduation to our Lanier Career Academy to graduate. This is done in order to improve the graduation rate at the traditional High Schools in the county and helped get this district off the needs improvement list.

I have reported this to Kathy Cox’s office and to the Governors Office for Student Accountability with no response from either place. This is shamefull. The vast majority of these students are minority and/ or poor.

There is also a program here that takes students out of the high schools who are behind in credits and puts them in a GED prep program of sorts. The trick is that in order to actually take the GED the student actually has to withdraw at some point and move on to the local tech school’s program, so the students that do so never register as drop outs. The ones that do actually drop out from this program are not counted against their home school because the career academy is set up as an independent school and never has a large enough population to register as a sub group for AYP purposes. Pretty slick game of hide the student.

I find this not only very unethical on the part of all involved in the scheme, but very harmful to our minority and lower income children. But hey, it sure makes the powers that be in our district look great ! And apparently Cox and GOSA think it is ok.

We aren’t leaving kids behind, we just shove them out or hide them.

john konop

January 27th, 2010
9:44 am

sorry

We must set the students up for an opportunity to win not fail!

Disgusted

January 27th, 2010
9:44 am

Sorry for the double post!

john konop

January 27th, 2010
9:55 am

Maureen Downey said:

…..The key is to ensure that additional academic rigor seems relevant to future employment……

My point:

Did you not just make my point about fixing the drop out rate is based on students equating completing education to getting a job?

As someone who deals with studying research data it is very important to always break it up into sub groups to fix a problem, instead of looking for a one size fit all magic bullet solution ie NCLB.

It is irrational to think we can have the exact same solution for all sets of kids with different needs and skills.

Oldspartan

January 27th, 2010
9:57 am

sometimes what is wrong with teachers is they tell their students “wait until you get into the real world” here is whats wrong with that; the teacher has never been in the “real” world. the majority of teachers finish high school, go straight to college, then return to the area they were raised and get a teaching job. The student has to spend the day at school, then some go to work, and then have to give part of their paychecks to their family. The student is in the real world and some teachers are in their own little universe.

In defense of teachers, I own a business and i can pick and choose who works for me; public education can not be run like a business, i keep only the best employees and send others on their way. teachers must accommodate all students that come through the school house doors; and lets give them the opportunity with several different systems/routes for students to succeed. One size does not fit all in public education.

john konop

January 27th, 2010
9:57 am

If you do agree:

Please contact the new Speaker of the House David Ralston, who promised to put Georgia’s kids before lobbyist interests. Hold him accountable by demanding that he bring HB-215 to a vote. And please forward this e-mail to your friends who care about the quality of Georgia schools.
E-MAIL AND OR CALL! david.ralston@house.ga.gov –or– 404.656.5020

what's right for kids???

January 27th, 2010
10:21 am

I just paid my apliance repairman 500.00 over the past two weeks for about a half an hour of his time. 100.00 of it was for parts. I’m thinking he is successful; he makes a good living, and he enjoys what he does, which is fixing things. He had the choice to do that. He was not pushed into a college prep diploma. He makes his own hours and earns a good living for his family. He brought his son along the second time, as he said the schools don’t teach this stuff anymore.
A one track college degree looks like communism to me. All students are NOT equal in ability…sorry, folks, but it’s true. Maureen’s argument of keeping them from university later in life is also not true. College will always be there. If a student decides that he or she wants to go to university, he or she can. It may take a roundabout way to get there, but the kid can get there.
The CHOICE of a votech degree should be available.
Part of living in a free, democratic society is the freedom for people to make choices for themselves and their education. Forcing students into tracks that do not fit them or hold no interest for them takes their choice away. It’s not what is right for the child. It demoralizes and demeans them. Am I a bad person because I have no interest in Shakespeare? Am I stupid because I can take apart a vacuum cleaner and fix it, yet I have no interest in Physics? Why does it mean that a person can only be successful if he or she goes to college?

Oldspartan

January 27th, 2010
10:31 am

thank you very much J.konop for providing information on contacting leaders to voice for or against.

Maureen Downey

January 27th, 2010
10:39 am

What’s right for kids, The issue for schools today is not what kids want, but what they need to succeed in a future that will focus very much on people’s ability to learn and adapt. This is an excerpt from a Bill Gates’ letter. This part talks about his visits to some of the high schools that his foundation is funding:

It is invigorating and inspirational to meet with the students and teachers in these schools and hear about their aspirations. They talk about how the schools they were in before did not challenge them and how their new school engages all of their abilities. These schools aim to have all of their kids enter four-year colleges, and many of them achieve that goal with 90 percent to 100 percent of their students. Every visit energizes me to work to get most high schools to be like this.

These successes and failures have underscored the need to aim high and embrace change in America’s schools. Our goal as a nation should be to ensure that 80 percent of our students graduate from high school fully ready to attend college by 2025. This goal will probably be more difficult to achieve than anything else the foundation works on, because change comes so slowly and is so hard to measure. Unlike scientists developing a vaccine, it is hard to test with scientific certainty what works in schools. If one school’s students do better than another school’s, how do you determine the exact cause? But the difficulty of the problem does not make it any less important to solve. And as the successes show, some schools are making real progress.

Based on what the foundation has learned so far, we have refined our strategy. We will continue to invest in replicating the school models that worked the best. Almost all of these schools are charter schools. Many states have limits on charter schools, including giving them less funding than other schools. Educational innovation and overall improvement will go a lot faster if the charter school limits and funding rules are changed.

One of the key things these schools have done is help their teachers be more effective in the classroom. It is amazing how big a difference a great teacher makes versus an ineffective one. Research shows that there is only half as much variation in student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.

Whenever I talk to teachers, it is clear that they want to be great, but they need better tools so they can measure their progress and keep improving. So our new strategy focuses on learning why some teachers are so much more effective than others and how best practices can be spread throughout the education system so that the average quality goes up. We will work with some of the best teachers to put their lectures online as a model for other teachers and as a resource for students.

Finally, our foundation has learned that graduating from high school is not enough anymore. To earn enough to raise a family, you need some kind of college degree, whether it’s a certificate or an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. So last year we started making grants to help more students graduate from college. Our focus will be on helping improve community colleges and reducing the number of kids who start community college but don’t finish.

john konop

January 27th, 2010
11:11 am

Maureen Downey,

In all due respect you keep avoiding the fact that around 40 to 50% are dropping out of school, with very limited options if any for a job. Also you avoid the fact Kathy Cox has handed out waivers like pizza coupons or pushing kids toward a GED to inflate results, while the kids have no real skills for the job market.

You cannot argue the above would not be better served with a skill for a job rather than being a drop out or having a degree with limited options.

pay attention folks

January 27th, 2010
11:23 am

And to add to what John Konop just said said:

If 40-50 percent are dropping out now, just wait til the stats on the class of 2012 com rolling in. These kids are the first subject to the one diploma rule, and the problem is they are also subject to the new math curriculum, which they are failing in record numbers and increased science requirements. Dropout rates are absolutely going to increase unless somebody does something soon.

teacher/parent

January 27th, 2010
11:31 am

Maureen-Your response to What’s Right for Kids is STILL predicated on the notion that our goal should be for most (if not all) students to go to college. I disagree. Also, the statement that you can’t make enough money to raise a family if you don’t go do college is false. What’s right for kids, what 4 year degree did your repairman have? Is his business still successful in this economy. It is probably MORE successful since we are finally willing to repair instead of buy a new one (whatever ‘one’ might be). Face it, if the toilet’s broken, you’ve got to fix it, and most of us don’t know how-now why is that?

what's right for kids???

January 27th, 2010
11:35 am

High school isn’t enough any more, I agree, but putting children on a four year liberal arts college track is not the way that all students need to go. I’m looking, but I don’t see anywhere in the above that states all children need to go to college. It just says that schools should have students ready to go to college. Which college?
Even the students who go to schools that Bill Gates funds don’t 100% college attendance. The students who enter those schools also have a choice to go there, and I am assuming that they went/go to the school because they WANT to go to university. These students are also applied to get into the school, as it is a charter school, not a FAPE (free and appropriate public education) school. As a FAPE teacher, I get students who not only don’t have the ability to take Physics and pass it, but also don’t have the desire.
You state that we need to prepare students to be successful and with the ability to adapt and learn. Then why are we teaching to the test? Why aren’t we taking the time to grade portfolio only work, and not have standardized tests shoved at us, along with the two “checkpoint” tests that we also give in the year? With all due respect, Ms. Downey, I don’t think that we are in any place to tell children that they need to go to university to be successful. What is success? Who defines it?

cobbteach

January 27th, 2010
11:40 am

As will so many other educators, I agree with the multi-track approach. One Advanced Algebra/Calculus class does not fit all. The world needs lots of creative, competent, people-savvy workers for our techno-future. Where is it written that there is no room for craftsmen?

Even Einstein chose his path. Today, he’d have no time to dream. He’d be saddled with AP Literature, AP Chemistry, AP European History, AP Trigonometry, Advanced WebPage Design, AP STatistics, Spanish IV, and Weight Lifting (you gotta be fit to get into college…)

You want to see some happy kids? Come to one of my work calls on a cold Saturday morning when the tech crew is working on our latest theatrical production. Drills, screws, saws, lumber, and satisfaction from working with their brains AND their hands. My guys are carrying the load above and still finding time to be creative. Open up the opportunities, folks!

Maureen Downey

January 27th, 2010
11:41 am

John, I certainly agree that dropping out is a doomsday scenario for both the kids and the state. The ideal is keeping all kids in school and getting them not only through high school but onto some postsecondary school.
I think the best job skill today – and you said it yourself in our conversation – is becoming a lifelong learner who has strong enough literacy and math skills to handle what will only be increasingly complex material.
Maureen

john konop

January 27th, 2010
11:52 am

Maureen,

I think the difference in our view of the world is this:

I think we can provide opportunities to an individual but at the end they must decide how far they can take it. You think that you can force someone to see the opportunity and if they do not understand, they should have all options taking off the table.

At the end of day I think the individual should decide what is best for them not you or I.

jim d

January 27th, 2010
11:53 am

Bill Gates?? you gotta be kidding!

What exactly makes his thoughts on what a child should or should not do more critical than what the student wants??

Perhaps it is time that we write legislation (since that now seems the only way to get anything accomplished) quaranteeing a students bill of rights which should include their right to chose their own path in life, be it technical or college bound.

jim d

January 27th, 2010
11:55 am

dont post in a few days and end up in the filters AGAIN

jim d

January 27th, 2010
11:58 am

John,

I agree that it should be an individual choice..

As for non college grads being on the lower pay rungs?? Hell, I know plumbers, electricans and pipe fitters earning 6 figure salaries. Not too shabby for a bunch of uneducated morons. :)

Maureen Downey

January 27th, 2010
12:10 pm

jim d, You weren’t in the filter. So not sure why the post was delayed in this instance. Our tech folks did look at your postings to try to figure what was triggering the filter so often.
They have no idea.
Maureen

jim d

January 27th, 2010
12:14 pm

Ms. Downey,

I suspect it may be caused by everything i write having to be cleared by Gwinnett County?? :)

JATL

January 27th, 2010
12:23 pm

AMEN Mr. Konop! We desperately need tracking in our schools, and STRONG vo-tech tracking at that. I also agree that we need SUCCESSFUL vo-tech education. This “everybody needs to go to college” crap is so out of hand, and jim d is correct -many “skilled” non-college grads are out there making 80-150,000 per year, which isn’t too bad. Not everyone can or should become a surgeon or a rocket scientist. I’m 40 and my husband and I have worked and supported ourselves for over 20 years. We’re both college grads and have jobs you must have at least a Bachelor’s to hold, but I’ve NEVER used geometry, trigonometry or even algebra in any capacity outside of class.

Kyle @ VSU

January 27th, 2010
12:33 pm

As a young person who came through the Ga education system, I’ll say that I honestly believe the aspect that was absent in my high school education was basic life skill. In theory, by the time a person graduates high school they should be able to take care of themselves. Most high school grads today have no clue how to cook, clean, budget their finances, or pay their taxes. If high schools produce more self-sufficient graduates then the quality of life for those in their early 20 would increase and the would be able to contribute more to society than beer pong and being a prolonged dependent of their parents.

Special Ed

January 27th, 2010
12:34 pm

The current system we have in GA high schools borders on communism. Since when, in the United States, do we aim to have everyone the same?

Even in the economic crisis, we are privileged to have a variety of career options, ranging from the manual, the technical, and the intellectual. Every person has something they can contribute to our society. Shouldn’t schools seek to better promote each students’ strengths, rather than frustrate them with perpetual failure, because they don’t fit perfectly into a specific mold?

Why is vo-tech even viewed as being inferior to college prep? I don’t consider myself any better, with my graduate degrees, than the next person who may posess a completely different skill. Sure, I know how to do math, and even how to teach it, but when my car breaks down, I am at a loss, and I have to bring it to people who probably didn’t go to college, but learned their trade through a technical school. How am I superior to this person when I need them? The same thing goes for other technical skills, even cosmetology. How many people do you know that cut their own hair? Most of us pay a person who was specifically trained in their trade, to handle common aspects of our lives. Do we really care how well they understood quadratic functions and 12-step equations? So, why then, do we waste many of our students’ time, rather than preparing them for something they are not only good at, but enjoy as well?

SallyB

January 27th, 2010
1:14 pm

So ….HOW LONG HAVE THE TEACHERS [and others] ON THIS BLOG BEEN POSTING ABOUT THE NEED FOR MULTIPLE PATHS ????
Not weeks or months..but YEARS!!!!! It is not only unrealistic but boardering on ABUSE to give students no choice , no paths other than the college bound track. Students can , will, and have in the past become contributing members of our society without going to college. Some went to technical training schools, some learned valuable skills on a business path in high school, and some, [and here is where we really omit an obvious path,] are apprenticed to electricians, plumbers, mechanics and learn from the ground up a most valuable skill that will be the basis for a successful
future.

Attentive Parent

January 27th, 2010
1:58 pm

Maureen,

Katy Haycock testified before Congress on September 25,2006 and stated:

“At the end of high school, African-American and Latino youngsters had skills in both reading and mathematics exactly the same as white eight graders”.

We can assume all these groups STARTED high school at different skill levels. Who does the one track in high school system help? Given these statistics one track is too hard for certain students, too easy for other students, or a poor fit for everyone.

We need to deal with the actual needs of our real students and quit worrying about demographic groups. There’s a related essay on this today in Education Week called “What is ‘Excellence for All’? http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/01/27/19schneider.h29.html?tkn=QMLFfaeEe1pVHqCb5aWPCF7S5IjWBSCYRigQ

john konop

January 27th, 2010
2:06 pm

In fairness to Maureen I give her credit for letting our voices be heard. Thank you Maureen!

Attentive Parent

January 27th, 2010
2:15 pm

Help me out of the filter please!

retired

January 27th, 2010
2:33 pm

I, too, believe students need more choices in diploma programs. Not everyone needs 2 or 3 years of algebra. Much of the math I actually use is what I learned by 8th grade. Some students need to learn balance a checkbook, and a budget, how to complete the tax form, and how to write a letter of complaint to someone.
Some of these kids sat in my friends Algebra II class causing diruption.

Teacher, Too

January 27th, 2010
3:30 pm

Didn’t Billl Gates drop out of college (Harvard)? Did not having a four year degree prevent him from being successful? Haven’t other technology inventors (thinking Apple here) been successful without the benefit of college?

I do believe that we push too many kids into college who either don’t have the ability to handle the rigorous course work and need to remediate at junior college, or who don’t care about a white collar career and drop out. Some kids want to be artisans or mechanics, etc… I know a cabinet installer who makes high five figures (over 60,000) in THIS economy. When things were really good, he made into the six figures.

Oh, by the way, this teacher does live in the REAL world. For the first ten years that I taught school, I held down a part-time evening retail job. All through high school and college, I worked at the grocery store. And, while I was in college, I worked a second job as a part-time secretary. Now, I reconcile the books for my partner’s business.

What some students need more than algebra and geometry, is how to balance a check book, figure a mortgage payment, understand interest rates and credit, and figure percentages. These are skills that are used daily, and so many students don’t know how to do this. I was fortunate. My dad taught me about these topic because I was busy taking trig, Algebra II and III, and Calculus.