Another Pitch for Vocational Education

Today’s LA Times has an interesting column from one of its Sacramento reporters. I’m not a big LA Times fan, but I included this as another perspective in the larger discussion for vocational education.

An excerpt:

In California, roughly a third of ninth-graders eventually drop out of high school. In L.A., it’s around one-half of blacks and Latinos. A Gates Foundation survey of high school dropouts nationwide found that 88% were getting passing grades. So most must have left school because they were bored.

One major reason they’re bored in California is that classwork doesn’t seem to bear any relationship to whatever they envision as their life’s work. It relates primarily to getting them qualified to enter the state university system, which many either aren’t interested in or consider a pipedream. Only around 20% of ninth-graders ever will graduate from a four-year college.

Meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands of students each year who could be learning middle-class job skills — as future nurses, auto mechanics, computer programmers, home builders. Name it. There are some successful school-business training partnerships, but not nearly enough. There’s a shortage of skilled workers in California, business groups contend.

Our public schools used to offer many vocational education courses — metal shop, drafting, etc. — that have been drastically reduced in recent decades. In 1987, three-fourths of high school students took at least one voc ed class. By 2005, only one-third did.

“Those great shop classes have disappeared,” says state Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), a former teacher who intends to run for state superintendent of public instruction in 2010. “That’s a tragedy. Because those classes motivated students to stay in school.”

E.C. 🙂

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