Schools are supposed to create students that are college and career ready. What does this mean? How can education make such a blanket statement? It is especially concerning since roughly 70% of the careers our students will be employed have not be created yet! The Center for Education and the Workforce’s website states “35 percent of the job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, 30 percent of the job openings will require some college or an associate’s degree and 36 percent of the job openings will not require education beyond high school.” This data shows that there is diversity in education obtainment and careers, yet our schools struggle to allow for this diversity. Students have to master similar skill sets and ALL take the same standardized test. Teachers are all judged on how this diverse group of students performs on these standardized tests. This is all done in the name of being “College and Career, READY!”
The main focus of schools curriculum is to teach content standards. Teachers spend hours creating lesson plans on how to address these standards to mastery. Most of these standards are subject specific like being able to recognize irrational numbers or explain the chemistry involved in photosynthesis. How do these skills connect to ALL careers? especially the ones that just only require a high school diploma? Standardized test like SAT, ACT and the newer Smarter Balanced and PARCC frequently describe themselves as being College and Career readiness assessments. Maybe college and a few careers but surely not many careers. These test solely assess learned standards. Is this what most careers are looking for?
Ben Davies states that most careers are looking for skills in: communication, teamwork, self-motivation, project management, flexibility, interpersonal communications, and organization. The recent changes towards the Common Core State Standards does reflect Ben’s sentiments as the standards are reflecting more work habit skills and less content knowledge. Does this show up on the assessments? Not YET. (This could be the topic of a later post)
Education needs to offer students many pathways to develop skill sets for college and careers, focusing teaching the valuable work habits with less emphasis on content. Students need to have choices based on their interests so that they can find success. Why have math, science, history, and language arts? Lets have students build and create things that use all the knowledge obtained in these 4 classes.
Schools aren’t failing, schools just don’t have the flexible offerings that exist in our society. Society has the high school graduate jobs: retail workers, customer service employees, etc. Schools need to teach how to communicate clearly and work with others. Show up to work on time, work the technology tools and maintain an organized space. Society has community college graduate jobs: Office manages, lab techs, etc. Schools need to offer classes that show how to run an office and manage others, make detailed measurements and write up lab reports. Finally, Society has the bachelors degree jobs: Engineers, sales manages, business professionals. Schools need to have offerings that allow for understanding of how these jobs work too.
Schools need to offer pathways, tell students the career possibilities at the end of the path and then let the students choose!