Published on 2012/03/13

High Schools Should Move Under College Umbrella

High Schools Should Move Under College Umbrella
Bringing the 11th and 12th grades under the umbrella of junior and community colleges would be the hallmark of a more efficient, overhauled education system. Photo by Liz West.

What follows is the beginnings of an idea to address problems with the American school system that is resulting in our losing our educational and consequently economic foothold in the Global Community.

The first is that education is no longer seen as an investment that demands pro-activity to producing a return. The second is that not every student is meant for college and that is an okay thing. Strong economies and cultures have those who have vocational skills (and these people often employ other people who are not necessarily innovators and these jobs cannot be exported) and they also have the arts. The third is the continuing problem of financing high schools as it gets more expensive and as the existing ways of financing are not working.

Please know that I understand the political and practical obstacles to this idea. That really isn’t the purpose of the discussion. More interesting would be a discussion based on the unrealistic idea that if we were able to just completely overhaul the system without the political roadblocks, what exactly would we do and what would it look like.

Also, what other radical ideas might help in financing education and demanding returns from students on the investments made in them.

Basically my proposal would be this: The administration, including the financing of education beyond the mandatory age of 16 would be the purview of the university/college system to include community, technical, and junior colleges. Basically, you just don’t “have” to go to school after your 10th grade year.

What would then happen is that these post-secondary institutions would then receive 11th and 12th graders. These students would receive a secondary diploma in something. In two years one can get a college prep diploma. In two years one can get a vocational diploma in many fields and be ready for the work force after two years. Even two years in the arts can prepare you for an Arts school, though that is understandably a much smaller field.

In practicality, the students would be college students, meaning they are only in class like a college student. They can play sports for their college. This would mean that Varsity level sports now becomes entry level college participation, but it opens the door to actually being able to get a scholarship for your athletics once you choose your path.

I disagree with the commentators who believe that this means we must track. I think the students and families make those decisions, not teachers. But to enter a program you must have the grades and recommendations just like you would to enter any college program.

We already see some of this at work already. The magnet school system is a de-facto example of what I am talking about. Kids who drop out and get a GED essentially do the same thing. But imagine a student who is just not cut out for the essentially college prep nature of our public schools knowing that he can get the training to become a mechanic, plumber, salesman, electrician, etc. These are all jobs that cannot be sent overseas and we will need them. These people make really good money as well.

On a practical level too, transitioning these highschoolers to college is a matter of practicality in circumventing the existing system. Advanced education is expensive and cannot be financed well by the public school system. The college system however can handle this. That is what they do. In reality what I am proposing is to call a spade and spade and let the experts do what they are good at. 11th and 12th grade are really times of specialization that does not fit all sizes and colleges are by their nature set up to serve the people who are ready to specialize. Let’s be honest, there is already overlap with the colleges and 11th and 12th grade. There is already high demand for getting college credit for college classes that are taken in high school. You have IB, AP, Dual-Enrollment, KLEP, etc. which have already blurred the line between college and the upper grades of high school.

Not only is college reaching down and now doing what high school used to do, the high schools are adjusting to it. You still have to take four years of math, but many schools to adjust to the fact that not everyone can succeed with an upper level math, are stretching out their math curriculum so that geometry takes two years and algebra II takes two years, so that you can graduate with just a basic algebra. I am not even saying that is wrong, I am just saying that is what is. This is what I mean when I say call a spade a spade.

I say let these classes by taught by the same people, but they are now in a college environment. Right now, a high school teacher can teach sub-100 level classes, which is essentially what this would be. So, all these high school teachers actually get into an environment better suited for them.

In addition, once a student is in the college system, they can advance quickly. Instead of AP english, just take the actual English 101 if you qualify, etc.

I believe that the harsh reality is that some school systems will be forced into making a decision soon. Alabama is one of them. They are running out of money and will need some serious changes. Having the JuCo’ s and ComCo’s take over the upper school may not be a choice the get to make but have to make.

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