Most people seem to agree that public education should in some way prepare kids to be productive members of society. In fact, many of the schools with which I’m familiar actually have similar wording as a part of their mission statement, and I see that the initial direction of the re-authorization of ESEA at the federal level, includes language about graduating students that are college and career ready.
I too, think it makes sense to graduate students who are career or college ready but believe our current system is not designed to deliver this order. Below are 5 major barriers to schools actually delivering on the expectations that students graduate career ready.
1. In most, if not all states, the current financial system is based around time not learning. In fact, the very issue of funding is often predicated upon a randomly selected day or time-frame upon which the student count and the amount of time they are being served is quantified to calculate funding for the year.
2. There is a disconnect between what is measured in schools and what is required in the work place. The current accountability systems in schools are designed to measure isolated academic skills, and generally speaking, they are based on producing a single right answer. However, persons in the work force are called upon to access, analyze and apply information to solve both predictable and unpredictable real world problems.
3. Well-designed systems to keep schools operating like well-oiled machines may actually hinder innovation and stifle efforts to authentically engage students in their learning. For example, at the high school level, students have a prescribed number of Carnegie Units they must earn in isolated content areas if they want to graduate with a diploma. Furthermore, because schools are required to hire teachers with specific certifications matched to these content areas, common wisdom has lead to mass delivery to groups of students as the most efficient (although perhaps, not necessarily the most effective) delivery method. (For an interesting perspective on an alternative delivery method that can be initiated within the confines of the existing system, check out this panel discussion on Project Based Learning.)
4. Educational decisions are sometimes made for reasons other than sound educational practice. For example, the need for custodial daycare causes schools to make educational design decisions around the need to ‘house’ all kids during what has become standard school operating hours/days, rather than designing the system around learning needs. (For an interesting discussion on 4-Day School Week’s, check out these resources.)
5. Even if kids are lucky enough to have adults in the school system help them access career decision making tools to refine their career choice, their class schedules look pretty much like they would without any knowledge about what career path they’d like to pursue.