Monday, September 1, 2008

College Prep for How Many?

Jay Matthews has an interesting debate with Chris Peters, a high school teacher from CA, in his latest column (well worth reading).

Matthews and Peters apparently have debated in the past over the role of vocational education in high schools (Peters likes it and Matthews doesn't, to over-simplify). In this edition, Peters presents his plan for incorporating vocational education into high schools. It goes something like this: all students take a rigorous, college-prep track for two years and then must pass a number of subject exams. After passing the exams (he allows two years for tutoring and re-takes for those who don't) students can either continue on the college prep track, switch to a vocational track, attend community college, or drop out.

All in all, it's not the worst idea I've heard -- though I don't see it being widely implemented any time soon. The debate goes back and forth, but the essence seems to be that Peters believes that high schools need to do something other than push college prep on the 70% of students that won't graduate from a 4-year college while Matthews believes that more students can be pushed to go to college, citing the paternalistic schools I've blathered on about the last couple weeks.

In the end, I think both make good points. I'm all for preparing more people for college, but at some point we have to realize that not everybody is going to go to college and high schools, or some institution somewhere, need to be prepared for that reality. In other words:

college prep > vocational ed > nothing

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's definitely an interesting topic. I agree with you that vocational education is better than nothing. Actually, in some circumstances I think it might be better than attending a traditional college.

Many students who begin college do not complete their degree. For those students (as well as those who would not attend college at all), vocational education would probably be more helpful than only an academic high school degree.

It also may help prevent unengaged students from dropping out altogether. Has anyone done research on the effect a vocational ed program has on the high school drop out rate?