In this challenging economic climate we as a society have to reprioritize our resources when it deals with education. I believe that we should reform the tracking system in order to provide all students with hope, personal growth and opportunity. Not all students are meant to go to college, but all students do deserve a good future.
We need a tracking system that has an active career training system so those who do not want to go to college could make a good living. Instead of schools dismantling their auto shop or woodworking classes, we need to do our best to keep them there. Public/Private partnerships would be the best solution so the private sector could get the workers they need. Chino Unified School District ended up dismantling their shop programs, but these programs help keep students in school. I do not expect school districts to fund these programs on their own, but with grant writing and partnerships with private industry we can help lead students to their passions.
College is not exactly the silver bullet, not all students have the motivation and drive to discover a career that sparks their interests and pays a good wage. Personally I am still paying my student loan for a BA in Political Science, and I do not have a career that will pay off this student loan promptly nor I am putting in tax revenue to help fund the public services that we all value right now due to California’s massive budget deficits due to the state failing to plan ahead for the bad times.
In order to help students to discover their passions, there should be a mandatory career studies course so students could help plan their road map to success. Even if students are firm in their intentions about going into the military or wanting to be a veterinary technician they could still explore these potential careers in high school. We need to make sure that students have the tools to be functional members of society after they leave the school house doors. The required career studies class would be utilized in the freshman year of high school to help determine what educational program a student would have for the last three years of high school. I am totally against any high stakes testing like Japan, but I would have students explore three of their ideal career opportunities, take trips to the job sites to see how things are done, write papers on what it takes to get there from what type of classes you would need in high school or college and would you be able to make a living wage with this job. It would help add value to the courses students take in later years because they will recognize the importance of their performance.
Tracking is still a good idea in our education system; it helps prioritize our resources in our public education system. However it requires an equal care and concern for both groups in the tracking system. School districts and state education departments would have to take great care that the resources are distributed fairly so auto shop would be treated as a priority just as the Chemistry lab.
No matter what your background is there should be an opportunity for those who are willing to seek the opportunity. Just because a student may not be college ready, does not mean they should be set for a “dead end job” or a less than promising future. With improved access to vocational education in the high schools we can help industries bring forth talent for the needs of industry. When California’s economy picks up, who will be the next carpenters due to the closure of the wood shops, who will be our next auto repair technicians if we do not help spark the fire in these young people when an entrepreneur decides to open up an auto repair service station? A recent high school graduate making a starting wage of 24,000 would be a success just as much as an alumnus who got accepted to UCLA.
We mandate our young people to attend school, but it is perceived to be just busy work to most students. We as taxpayers are investing money in the education of our youth which is the future of our society. How we spend our money on public education affects how our society will be and if we provide a better future to our youth they will least likely be residing in our jails. My solutions for our public education system is multifaceted, I would have a student centered education program that would drive students to their interests with a mandatory career education class in the Freshman year of high school, a restoration of vocational education programs and the hope that if students recognize the reality of their choices they will be better prepared for college or the working world.