A Fair Trade
When coming into high school I had a choice, to go to my local high school or apply for a vocational school in my county, to which I chose the latter. For my four years I was leaving my friends behind and going into a new environment. I got to meet new people, focus on courses that would correspond with what career field I wanted to go into, and most importantly which I value the most, the major head start I have against other students in college and career readiness. Comparing the curriculum of those students who went to my local high school with those in the high school I attended was like night and day. Students who were in the same courses as me the year prior to high school graduated with about the same amount of courses I took in my freshman and sophomore year, and I was given transferable college credits for some of the courses I had taken. In addition to those credits, I was able to attend a community college for my senior year and transfer credits when I fully attended college which with all credits added up, going in as a freshman I had enough credits that I show up as a sophomore because I have completed so many classes. Friends of mine that went to my local high school didn’t seem to have as much opportunity as me. After seeing the disparity between my two choices I am a firm believer that teaching career focused curriculum and early college options results in a great head start for students entering college.
As stated by Joel Vargas, the author of Blending high school and college can sharpen the focus of each, “Earning a high school diploma is a necessary but insufficient step toward supporting oneself and one’s family”. This is the complete truth. What he is saying is just because you have the high school diploma, doesn’t mean you will be able to hold or obtain a job solely based on that fact. No engineering firm or medical center will hire you just because you graduated high school. There will always be something more that has to be done to prepare for such a position. That is where the blending of high school and college comes in, which I experienced first hand and was very glad I did so, and it wasn’t just my school where the results showed. In the article, early college students were compared to regular high school goers in three different categories, graduation rate, post graduation accolades, and likelihood to persist in higher education. The results were as follows: 90% of early college students graduated high school compared to 78% annually, 30% of early college students earn an associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate with their high school diploma compared to very few nationally, and that early college graduates are more likely to persist in higher education and to earn a degree than those who did not attend early college.
Students dropout of school and this fact will probably never change. The big question behind this though, is why. Why do these students dropout and what can we do to decrease the numbers of student dropouts per year? Give the students a choice. It is highly more likely that a student in a class they are interested in will produce greater results and efforts than a class they are much more dissatisfied with. For example, someone who loves working with computers will most definitely feel more willing to take a class focused around computer software than one where they are not. As stated in College Knowledge by Sarah Hooker and Betsy Brand “High school dropouts report their primary reasons for leaving school were that classes were uninteresting or irrelevant to the world beyond high school”. Each student is different and like what they like so when what they are interested in isn’t an option, it feels like there is no reason to participate. That is where career academies and early college high schools change the game.
Career academies provide a wide arrangement of different fields to be focused in such as engineering, medical, computer science, and construction just to name a few. The layouts for each career academies across schools is obviously different but they each tend to get their job done. Their job being to give the students a learning environment with concentration focused curriculums for different fields and hands on experience. I can say from personal experience that I am not one who loves the cookie cutter schooling format where each kid comes in every year and takes a math class, an english class, etc, and each year just seems to be a higher level repeat of the last. Whereas, in high school, I had courses concentrated towards different parts of the engineering field and many more math courses that would put me ahead of my peers. This isn’t just the fact that I was ahead of the game, but I was enjoying what I was doing and eager and much more willing to do good in these classes, and the results showed.
This isn’t only for me as the career academy approach has engaged and encouraged students for multiple decades and still proves to be working. As we see in “High School Career Academies: A 40-Year Proven Model for Improving College and Career Readiness”, the author, Betsy Brand states “career academies are one of the very few educational models that has developed “National Standards of Practice” to encourage continuous improvement”. This is a great point and what we need to start doing more of. Putting someone in a position that they don’t want to be in or don’t feel comfortable with and giving them an objective will not produce results comparable to those in their comfort zone. Schools need to be willing to work with the students and cater to their needs and interests. Students will be much more willing to work with their schools to the highest potential if the effort they put in is being matched by the schooling system. A fair trade consists of both sides producing efforts to fit each side of the deal and if one side isn’t following through, don’t expect results of the highest degree because that isn’t a fair trade, that is just a scam.
Brand, Betsy. High School Career Academies: A 40-Year Proven Model for Improving College and Career Readiness. files.givewell.org/files/unitedstates/NAF/Betsy%20Brand%20AYPF%20Career%20Academy%20paper.pdf.
Hooker, Sarah, and Betsy Brand. College Knowledge: A Critical Component of College and Career Readiness. 2010, onlinelibrary-wiley com.ezproxy.rowan.edu/doi/epdf/10.1002/yd.364.
Vargas, Joel, et al. Blending High School and College Can Sharpen the Focus of Each. 2017, journals-sagepub-com.ezproxy.rowan.edu/doi/full/10.1177/0031721717739587.