The Rush Back Toward Career Pathways

I missed this Liz Bowie story on Maryland’s effort to scale up career and technical education. Bowie does a nice job balancing the tensions and trade-offs, and lots of people I respect are behind the Maryland plan, but this still makes me nervous:

At the end of the 10th grade, students would have to qualify for the career or academic paths by passing a test or some other measure that showed they were prepared for basic, entry-level college classes. The Kirwan plan estimates about 65% of students in the state would meet that bar by 2030, boosted by other parts of the education package, such as more pre-kindergarten and intensive support for students at schools with high poverty rates.

Is this just another form of tracking? Even assuming everything goes as planned, what happens to the 35 percent who don’t meet the bar for either pathway?

I’m working on a paper on this very topic right now, and we’re finding that states aren’t paying close enough attention to determine whether their college and career pathways are equally rigorous and accessible for all students. We’ll have more to say on this soon!

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

One Reply to “The Rush Back Toward Career Pathways”

  1. Here’s another issue: Employers face increasingly severe talent shortages, because K12 performance has stagnated while the capabilities of technologies are exponentially improving and driving disruptive changes in business models. Hence many are initially enthusiastic supporters of improved CTE/Career Pathways programs.

    Yet what do too many of them experience in practice? Constant demands (some more polite than others) from a steady stream of districts and schools that companies “partner” with them on CTE programs which use very different processes and rules, and are often of widely varying quality. At the extreme, I’ve even seen districts demand to evaluate (and potentially require changes in) the way high performing private sector companies train and evaluate their employees as a condition of being able to work with a CTE program! Coming from people who continue to deliver poor and stagnant student achievement results (and suffer no consequences for their failures), these demands don’t always go down so well…

    In sum, in too many cases, the typical K12 approach to companies regarding “partnering” on CTE turns many of them off, and makes many private sector leaders even more cynical about K12.

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