Shifting the (K-12) Focus from Completion to Preparation

Last month, during a Career Readiness Network meeting, one item of discussion that came up revolved around whether post-secondary institutions are truly helping students to be successful. Or, for many, are they just a waste of time and money? What good is it if a student takes classes – whether at a university or their local community college – if they are taking 3, 4 and 5 remedial courses … before they even earn a single credit? What is the value of a student getting halfway down the road to some sort of credentialing (whether it be a certificate, an associate’s degree or more), only for them to drop out of a program they will never complete …. with a debt level that becomes an albatross around their neck?

And then, there are the exceptions to the rule. This March 2017 Detroit Free Press article highlights one Higher Ed institution, Sinclair Community College out of Dayton, Ohio, that apparently is. Rather than trying to get students IN the door only to see them fail, they’ve shifted their focus to completion rather than simply access. As a result, the percentage of students who have graduated, are still enrolled, or have transferred to another college/university has skyrocketed from around 33% to 79%.

This led me to think, what might this change in focus look like for K-12 Education?

Where did the change occur? Why in career exploration, of course. Students “do career services first thing.” School officials now have conversations with students about what they want to do as a career and help develop a customized plan for EVERY student to help them get there. For those who aren’t sure what they want to do, they join one of six big career communities until they figure it out.

This led me to think, what might this change in focus look like for K-12 Education? Instead of just trying to get students OUT the door (graduation), could a shift in focus from simply completion to preparation (intentional exploration) be the key? What if students were not only given time to investigate their interests, but were provided opportunities to see if there was a potential fit? What if, by the time students graduated, they better understood themselves and what they wanted to do for a living? And, what if they knew all the options available to them – and, as a result – the best pathway to get there?  How many hours of worry and thousands of dollars in debt might be spared for our young people?

Kent ISD’s Career Readiness Dept. firmly believes there are MULTIPLE pathways to a successful career (and we have the lesson to prove it). We don’t believe every student needs to get a four-year degree (or more).  Neither do we think every student is created for the skilled trades. What we DO believe is that every student SHOULD be able to figure out who they are, and where and how they fit into the world of work. And we also believe that it is our collective job – parents, educators, and business and community members alike – to help students in this journey to success.

Life holds a variety of options and pathways; students should explore as many of them as they can while they can to see what works for them. But, how will they know unless we tell them; and how will they see unless we SHOW them? With your help, we have begun the work toward making that the norm, rather than the exception.

Questions or comments? Share them in the section at the beginning of this article.

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