Thursday, August 2, 2018
How German Schools Produce a More Relevant Diploma
Many school reformers are obsessed with comparing our standards and practices with other advanced countries. So a trip to Germany by a group of teachers described here by Education Week may give us valuable insights about what really works in K-12 education.
The American teachers learned about how a large proportion of students in Germany go through extensive vocational training and actual on-the-job experience while in high school.
Germany has long been recognized for having a superior vocational and technical training program that starts in high school. Many credit that vocational and apprenticeship training with Germany's dominance in many manufacturing areas. German machinists, auto technicians, and tradespersons are considered by many to be the best in the world. In the U. S. politicians often try to blame unfair trade deals for crippling American manufacturing, but industry experts would point to our weak vocational training programs as the main culprit.
For years the education reform movement in the U. S. has been obsessed with attempting to prepare all students for college to the determent of vocational education. In Louisiana, when Paul Pastorek, Bobby Jindal, and John White with the support of LABI set us on a course of Common Core and test prep, they just about killed the vocational programs in Louisiana schools. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, forcing White to lower the Geometry EOC test to only 11.8% correct answers for passing. Algebra and English test scores are also extremely low. Obsessive test prep and college for all has failed, resulting in many students getting empty diplomas.
John White belatedly realized after several years of strict college prep "for all" policy that the Louisiana legislature had passed a career diploma law just a few years before he took over education. I personally had worked with local superintendents and legislators to help pass this law (Act 246) in the 2009 legislative session. Between former Superintendent Pastorek and now White, the career diploma law had been ignored and vocational education had been starved. So White belatedly started the Jump Start program about 8 years too late, after vocational and distributive education had been just about stamped out. Since there are now very few viable vocational programs in our high schools, White has pushed to establish cooperative programs with community colleges throughout the state. One of the big problems in implementing this system is that some high schools are not close enough to a community college or technical college to allow high school students to attend for part of the school day.
All of a sudden, business leaders are complaining that our high schools are not producing the kind of highly trained workers they need most. Schools are producing almost no skilled carpenters, electricians, plumbers, AC specialists, or even practical nurses and caregivers for our aging population. But by golly we are still trying to teach everybody Geometry with a passing score of only 11.8% on the EOC test! It is ironic, that it was the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) that had teamed up with the "know nothing" reformers to push Common Core and college prep at the expense of Vocational. Those same non-educators are still claiming that John White and his pitiful standards are a success.
Posted by Michael Deshotels