Instead of making our kids college ready, let’s make them ready for life
We constantly hear about all kinds of education reforms: vouchers, Common Core standards, different ways to evaluate teachers. But I’d like to suggest a another reform, one that potentially is more practical than many of the others, one that potentially could provide meaningful careers for our students.
One of our problems in education is our focus on making kids more college-ready. Not that we shouldn’t, of course, especially given how many of our high school graduates take remedial courses in college. But that focus is a one-size-fits-all mistake.
We all know that not every kid is either cut out for college or is interested in going to college. What happens to those kids, what do schools do to prepare them for life after high school?
What should high schools do? I have one suggestion, something Scottsdale schools do on a small scale but could easily apply state-wide.
A recent Arizona Republic story noted how Scottsdale elementary schools partner with 34 businesses to give elementary students exposure to practical skills and careers. It’s a great idea, given that too often we focus our kids’ attention solely on college. So, for example, Tonolea Elementary has a Construction Club, where kids learn to measure and pour concrete, as well as other construction-related skills.
Why couldn’t we expand this partnership idea? Why couldn’t high schools partner with specific trades, creating magnet schools for those trades?
It’s a win-win. Here’s an example.
A consortium of plumbing companies would provide instruction and/or materials for plumbing classes at, say, Gilbert High School. Kids who want to be plumbers would attend classes at Gilbert. In four years, the kids would graduate with the training that would allow them to step right into the plumbing business; the consortium of businesses would have a built-in employment agency, with the ability to select the best and brightest for their companies. The median salary of plumbers in Phoenix is $41,000, with apprentices averaging about $20,000. Not bad for a high school graduate.
Some will say we already have places like this: The East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) is a great example. The problem with that is EVIT can only serve a relatively small number of kids and is a high-cost facility, given the state-of-the-art equipment the school provides in all of its programs.
But if we had trade-magnet schools, kids could attend a traditional high school and still get the training needed to move into a career after graduation. It would motivate kids to do well in school who might otherwise be indifferent to their educations. And it recognizes that not all kids are off to college after commencement.
Some far-sighted school board member or district administrator might pilot something like this at a high school.
It’s worth a try.
Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.