College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

Giving High School Graduates Options

By Mark Sass — May 23, 2013 1 min read
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Mark Sass

It is always refreshing to engage with my fellow educators on matters important to public education and our profession. In my initial post, I emphasized that the vocational track of the past should be kept in the past. Today’s high school graduates need the skills that give them the flexibility to navigate between immediately entering the work place, going to a vocational school, or heading off for a degree at college.

Noah Zeichner, in his follow-up post, aptly described the Finnish system that aligns the curriculum between vocational and academic programs in secondary schools. This alignment, along with career guidance, allows students to make conscious decisions as to the path they desire. This is very different from the United States, where we are rightly concerned that vocational paths have traditionally reflected social and economic strata embedded in class and race.

A look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook shows that most of today’s and tomorrow’s jobs are in the medical and software industries. As I noted in my original post, these jobs require a diverse skill set that also is needed for entry into college. Regardless of the path these students take, we need to take heed of Renee Moore’s admonition to ensure that students are not merely eligible to take these paths, they are ready.

My dad taught a work-to-school class in high school for over 30 years. He worked with students who, for whatever reason, struggled with academics or with their behavior in high school. The purpose of this vocational class was to ensure a transition to a post-high school life that led away from delinquency and trouble with the law. That’s the traditional vocational world that needs to give way to today’s reality.

Mark Sass has been teaching high school social sciences for 16 years, for the past 12 years at Legacy High School in Broomfield, Colo.

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