Found in Education: Vocational education in high school

I've been reading a great deal around vocational education in secondary education.  It's a difficult issue.  More people are applying to college.  College is extremely expensive.  Space in college is competitive.  College completion rates remain low.  At the same time, society has essentially decided that everyone should have a college degree to make a living wage.  Some have proposed that high schools should prepare students for jobs rather than just college.  


California recently announced that $1.5 billion has been set aside over the next five years  for what they call career pathways programs. These high school vocational programs are gaining in popularity.  The idea is that students will graduate high school with an actual skill such as using 3d printers, being medical lab assistant or trained in a construction trade. And the state isn't the only one putting money behind these programs. The Irvine foundation has funded research, lobbied for and even funded training programs for the Linked Learning programs which tout that they get students college and career ready.


The question that and I and others have is an issue of an equity.  If we make the argument that college is not for everyone and that high schools need to offer alternatives so that all students leave the secondary education system as employable community members then should all high schools offer these vocational programs in addition to the college prep programs? In which case we are talking about the tracking programs which were dismantled in the 80s and 90s because of equity issues. Furthermore, if we don't offer such programs in all areas, only in the ones serving disadvantaged students, aren't we essentially tracking anyways?  Many of these vocational programs are being implemented in schools serving disadvantaged students such as those in Oakland Unified School District.  Linked Learning is not being implemented in the Bay Area's wealthy suburbs such as Palo Alto or Los Altos.  


What is the solution to the vocation/college debate?  I don't know.  I do not believe the current vocation idea is quite right but neither is trying to send all our students to college, at least not without more support than we currently offer.

Found in Education (F.I.E.) is a weekly blog post on education policy, teaching tips, products, and stories related to education that I find over the week.  See something I should know about? Please send your ideas.  Comment here or leave me a message on Facebook, on Twitter, on Pinterest, or at the store.

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