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It’s time to let high schools focus on career education

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Posted: Saturday, April 7, 2012 12:00 am

Bashing schools and the education system has been a national sport for so long, it's hard, sometimes, to spot improvements worth celebrating.

But there was one in Wednesday's edition.

A new state bill, AB 1330, is making its way through the Legislature. It would allow school districts to substitute one career-focused high school class for an art or language course. Those courses are part of graduation requirements narrowly focused on getting every student ready to attend college.

Lodi Unified School District trustee Ron Heberle sees AB 1330 as a good first step towards modifying the "all college prep" approach.

"We know there's a low percentage of kids who go to college," he said. "It's like 20 percent. I've been hearing, even before I was on the board, how damaging the all-college prep model is. ... it's drowning the kids."

On Wednesday, the board asked several students what they think and the kids spoke right out.

"Some people would rather work on a class they'll excel in instead of wasting time in something they don't enjoy," said Homero Herrera, 18, a senior at Tokay High School. Right now he's taking an art class and learning shading, but doesn't see the connection to his life. "Art is not something that's in my future."

"You don't need an art class to be a nurse," said Jenna Rohde, 16, a sophomore at Tokay High School. "This could help students in a real career. It widens their options."

Instead of requiring either art or another year of language to graduate from high school, the new bill would allow students to take a wide range of career-focused classes. Family and consumer education, industrial arts, graphic design, art and history of floral design, Web design, computer repair, fire science, sports medicine and medical assisting are just a few of them.

Heberle said local business leaders he talks are hungry for change.

And he's encouraged that the federal and state governments are working to give the Common Core Standards a more career-oriented focus. But Heberle is frustrated that the all-college-prep model is going to take years to make over.

"It's an experiment with kids that went wrong. It's got to stop," he said.

We think this is an important story and promise to keep an eye on it.

We encourage our readers to bring this problem to the attention of state and federal lawmakers.

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