How about Linking High School to more Workforce instead of more Academia?

Dual Credit

The success of dual credit in California and Texas cannot be discounted. It is a high school-based program where a student can take college credit classes (online or through a high school teacher certified to teach dual enrollment) while simultaneously meeting high school curriculum requirements (e.g. College level English = High School English Core requirement). The program is funded by state legislatures and delivered via community colleges to expose students to college at an earlier age and thus, help increase high school graduation and college persistence (completion/graduation). As a Generation X'er, I must add this was not a program offered to my generation as my family could not afford to have me take college courses. Yup, back then you could only take classes as an 'early admit' student during the summer and it was not free.

Thus, I think it is a great, free opportunity and one intended to give students exposure to college earlier, specifically low-income or those students who would be first-generation (their parents did not attend college). However, it is important to note studies indicate "...many states showed big disparities in credential completion rates between lower and higher income students." The majority of students do benefit from taking post-secondary education courses, as is evident in California but not all are accessing this route. I do think it is good for students to gain extra academic classes and get those core credits early, my concern is about the lack of exposure to real-life, current workforce experiences.

While I understand a parent wanting to reduce their personal, family cost to send their child to college, I do wonder: Is it okay for a student to graduate with an associate's at age 17/18? This means a student enters a 4-year college (they cannot attend a 2-year as they have already earned their 60 credit hours) as a junior, two years younger than their counterparts. For a moment, let's consider what the social/emotional implications this may mean for some young adults. To paraphrase a conversation from my friend and researcher, Dr. Fidel Santamaria, the overwhelming factor for students who did not persist while he was a teacher's assistant at CalTech (The California Institute of Technology) was the young age of students. Skipping grade levels does not guarantee success when you account for different support systems or a new environment (e.g. out-of-state school).

Hands-on, AI and IT Learning

Let's reflect about how current high school student's childhood, in terms of physical, social and technological looked like from their perspective. They played virtual reality video games with folks across the world; they had their own phone as early as 5th grade to text, browse the internet or chat via various applications; and, they typically communicated with digital messages and not necessarily face-to-face or a phone call. In essence, these students, call them Gen Z'er's if you like, grew up in a hyper-connected world. So here is my question: why then, do we teach our students core curriculum classes through mediums that they are not accustomed to--- online with minimal hands-on engagement or face-to-face with traditional, lecture-type classes? (More on this topic in a later post).

The Workforce

Many students need to work part-time while they are in high school, either to help themselves or their immediate family. Why not let them work up until their sophomore year, if they are eligible? This way, their income does not negatively impact their potential financial aid grant reward. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) now requires parents/caregivers provide information two years prior to a student's graduation year. For example, a student planning on attending college Fall 2020 was able to submit their application beginning October 1, 2019 using only their parent/caregiver 2018 taxes, two years prior. You are not allowed to use your 2019 taxes.

What to do the last two years of highs school? The student can volunteer or obtain a non-paid internships that is linked with their field of study. In my opinion, not only does this expose a student to current workforce trends, it helps them continue to persist and graduate high school. And, at the same time this experience can lead to a potential part-time job aligned with their major/field of study where they can earn experience and wages while they attend college (local or out of state).

Why not give all business sectors the opportunity to mentor our students? According to industry, today's youth lack the necessary skill sets to work (the above table gives an example of future labor shortages for the technology, media and telecommunications sector). So, why not provide externships and/or experiential learning beginning in 9th grade? Keep in mind the time with the highest percentage of high school dropouts occurs between 8th and 9th grade. Knowing this, let's incentivize the 'Why' a student should stick around and graduate high school. If a student can experience the type of field they will study before they actually begin to gain credentials leading to the field of study, then perhaps they can be as excited about higher education and the workforceas they are about multi-tasking on their cell phone or playing awesome, virtual reality video games with other cultures across the world.

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