A new report published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education this week questions whether there is too much emphasis placed on college preparation, and not enough emphasis placed on preparing students for the workforce. A college education, the report says, is not the pathway to success for all students and shouldn't be presented as such. Career training, the report said, should actually start as early as middle school.
The release of the report, titled "Pathways to Prosperity," coincided with Baltimore celebrating, Career and Technology Education" month, a national event that promotes high-school students earning certifications in workforce programs before they graduate. In Baltimore, more than 6,000 students have career concentrations. Some showcased their skills in an event at North Avenue.
Critics of the study and education advocates fear that more emphasis the college vs. career track could have negative implications for students from disadvantaged populations--fearing that capable students in poor districts would be unfairly sent down the wrong track, presumably discouraged from pursuing college.
City schools CEO Andres Alonso headed to D.C. to present to the authors of the study, as well as other school leaders, where he said that in Baltimore, Career and Technology Education, or CTE, has emerged as a strong alternative to Advanced Placement courses, which offer students college-level courses in high school.
He told the group, that, "in the communities I served the parents are not asking about tracks, they are asking about their kids’ readiness to do well in the real world," especially in neighborhoods where the old commercial and industrial infrastructure has disappeared.
In a more extensive explanation, Alonso took a pretty strong stance in favor of the study's assertions. I thought his thoughts as a superintendent of an urban, predominantly black and low-income district, should be known:
"The discussion about career readiness/pathways versus college readiness/standards is specious. CTE programs have become more rigorous, and actually screen out many students who would benefit from them, and new high school exit criteria ensures that all students have to focus on academics, so the old dichotomy between a college ready track and a career track is an old paradigm that needs to be rethought.
The conversation needs to change to what do we need to provide so students are engaged, learn in ways that prepared them for college (if they want to go in that direction) or skilled careers; and how do we change the systemic dynamics in cities – especially those involving struggling neighborhoods – so that government and business are partnering with schools and higher education programs to support students in their learning. How do we get to a system of apprenticeship that rather than create a track, expands on the ability of students to make choices?
It’s not an either/or question, but a both/and question, in terms of what is needed."