Are We Seeing a Resurgence of Career & Technical Education?
PBS News Hour
published a story titled "After decades of pushing bachelor's degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople"; you can read it
. It states that California is spending $5 million on a campaign to revive the reputation of vocational education, and $200 million to improve the delivery of it. The Peoria Journal Star published a story titled "Illinois can do better in career and technical education"; you can read it
. This story relates how "Teachers who use SkillsUSA concepts embed industry standards into classroom projects."
Recently I was talking to a person who was a dispatcher for a large trucking firm. The firm wanted to add 100 new trucks but could not find persons interested in becoming truck drivers. He told me that drivers in his company earn between $65,000 and $125,000 per year. He also said many of the drivers are older and large percentage will be retiring within the next few years. They are having a tough time trying to fill the roles of the retiring drivers.
It seems to me that public education has been on a path for "College and Career" for all students. In reality, most think this really means college and not career. Just today I read in Jim Broadway's Illinois School News Service that HR 789 urges the Lake County High School Technology Campus to change its name to Lake County College and Career Center. Broadway describes the reason for the change is to "change the mentality of career and technical education and encourage attending students to pursue careers or college after graduation."
We all know that the jobs that students will work in the decades ahead will be very different from the jobs of today. But one thing that is certain is that not all jobs will require a four-year college degree. Many will be technical or will require specific hands-on skills that do not require a college degree.
As I get older I reflect back on ideas I had when I was an acting school superintendent. One of those thoughts was that all high school graduates should graduate with the skills to either succeed in college level academic work or to pass industry based standards for entrance to a career/vocation. All Career and Technical Education courses should capstone with industry based licensure. Public education should make this promise to our parents and to the public.
Have You Looked at the ROI (Return On Investment) for Your District's Technology Purposes?
This might seem like an odd question to those of you who know my support for using technology to enhance instruction and engage students in their own learning. Several years ago when districts were first getting into using technology in the classroom, I found many districts purchasing smart boards. In almost every classroom I have visited that have smart boards the device is used almost exclusively by the teacher. This certainly has some very positive benefits and I am sure it does help with instructio but if only the teacher is using it, how does it engage students?
I was in a high school recently in which the school allows students to use smart phones whenever the students desire. While I was visiting classrooms I asked several students about their use of smart phones, both for curriculum purposes and for private use. Many students I talked to admit using their phones for both purposes but also expressed a feeling of trust and responsibility about using the device. The students were very complimentary of the teachers and how the teachers set rules and expectations for the use of the phones and, for the most part, the students use the phones as directed. They did admit to using social media often and most times without the teacher's knowledge or permission. However, they also understood the real value for the phone in school was to help with their own engagement in the subject matter.
In many schools that I visit students either have 1:1 access of a device or can readily access a device. In the 1:1 situations I take note of the amount of time the students are actually using the device. An unofficial estimated count of actual use is less than 50%. I noticed even when teachers are lecturing many students do not even take notes on the device.
To calculate ROI for technology purposes we certainly would want to judge the amount of time students are using the device, but we would also want to calculate the student growth gains as a result of using the device. This is very hard to calculate and I doubt whether an accurate methodology even exists to determine the ROI.
The one aspect I do think is correct about using technology is that students who use technology for educational purposes are more engaged than those who do not use technology. This is especially true if the teacher is using strategies such as small group work, collaboration and student reflection on their own learning.
Tips of the Week
A veteran school administrator recently communicated to me that almost all teachers she had dealt with in the past who were dismissed, put on remediation or professional development plans, lacked people skills. They did not lack content knowledge; they lacked skills relating to student discipline, getting students engaged in the lessons, dealing with parents, and other issues relating to people skills. Maybe we should spend more professional development time with teachers on these skills.