In his column “Mandated college prep hurts” (Insight, May 6), Dan Walters prescribes an education system for California that would return the state to the days of tracking “gifted and college-bound” students into challenging academic courses and a segregated track of “technical classes for those suited by interest and aptitude for skilled trades.”
Walters draws his conclusions from a Public Policy Institute of California report that highlights challenges faced by San Diego Unified and other districts that require all students to take coursework that meets the minimum requirements for applying to state colleges and universities. While failing to note the report’s recommendation that districts help struggling students meet this minimum requirement, more concerning is the suggestion to reinstitute the inequitable practice of tracking and a lack of understanding about the real needs of employers.
Tracking perpetuated historic inequities that shunted kids into a college-bound path or a less-challenging vocational path, based not on a student’s actual potential or interest, but all too often on the basis of skin color and social class. While tolerance for tracking is rightly rejected today as a civil justice principle, any attempt to return to that inequitable past should also be rejected as an economic imperative.
As our economy becomes increasingly information- and technology-based, the majority of jobs now and those expected in the future require at least some postsecondary training or advanced degrees. In “Closing the Gap: Meeting California’s Need for College Graduates,” PPIC projects that by 2025, California will need to produce an additional 1 million career-ready college graduates to meet employers’ needs. Today, only 40 percent of California’s 2.2 million young adults hold an associate’s degree or higher, and many don’t have the skills needed to succeed in college or the workforce.
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That is why integrating college preparation and high-quality career technical education are important and essential components of Linked Learning. This approach gives students professional experiences and training to reinforce skills needed to thrive in a career and provides academic rigor and support so that all students will be prepared for a full range of postsecondary opportunities.
Leading companies in California need employees with solid technical skills and postsecondary education.
All students deserve to be prepared for college and career so they can chose the future path that is right for them – and California will have the workforce needed to power our economy into the next century.
David Rattray is executive vice president of education and workforce at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and UNITE-LA, the school-to-career partnership of L.A. He also serves as the co-chair of the Linked Learning Alliance board of directors. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.