13.5.09

GETTING THE FOUNDATIONS RIGHT. The thesis of the day is nailed to Newmark's Door.
This is consistent with my conviction: education, particularly education and a good environment before age 5, as James Heckman has emphasized, should be our focus.
The Habits of Effective People matter. Professor Newmark obtains reinforcement from this abstract (the paper is not yet available even for money).
I emphasize a human capital path, noting in particular, that far too many young individuals attend college without attaining any degree, and I discuss the important role community colleges can play in enhancing the human capital of low-wage workers. In the final part of the paper, I discuss educational reforms at the high school level that target at-risk populations, including a return to vocational education and the rise in charter schools, both of which might offer important opportunities for students to excel in school.
Getting those vocational tracks right matters. This article has been Instalanched. Although the Instapundit points to a paragraph that emphasizes reality's steep grading curve, he misses a more important message deeper in the article.

Among career and technical education instructors and administrators in Tennessee, many proclaim the same message: What we are offering today is not the same shop classes your parents took.

"Essentially, vocational education had a stigma that it was for students that couldn't do," said Knox County Career and Technical Education Director Don Lawson.

Now, the name has been changed from "vocational" to "career and tech" in an attempt to mitigate past stigma and better reflect current offerings, according to Ralph Barnett, assistant commissioner of career and technical education for the state of Tennessee.

More CTE classes now cater to students who are interested in going to college, as well as students who aren't.

For example, at Oak Ridge High School, the health sciences program attracts students who are interested in a wide range of health-related careers, from pharmacy technician work to medicine and dentistry. In the clinical internship class, students get the chance to rotate through field placements.

Regular readers will know what's wrong with that. The schools reported on appear to be getting it. (Face it, you can't send Tennessee's sub-literates to Warren to work in a Chrysler plant any more. It was no accident that they went to Warren and not West Allis to work at Harnischfeger.)

Beginning with next year's high school freshmen, all students will share a set of graduation requirements, including four years of mathematics and taking three classes in an area of concentration, whether it's within career and technical education or another field, like art or science.

According to Barnett, students who complete a three-class career and tech concentration graduate at higher rates than students overall, so the hope is that by making an area of concentration a requirement for high school students, more will stay in school.

A common bag of tricks, and skilled blue-collar or college options. Imagine that.

For all that career and technical education has been expanded, educators are still trying to accommodate students looking to find a job right out of high school.

One aspect of that is training students in high-demand skills like carpentry, welding and cosmetology.

According to Loudon County CTE director Tom Hankinson, high school training in these areas can make a big difference.

A carpentry student "concentrator" who has taken three courses in the subject area should be ready to take and pass a National Center for Construction Education and Research assessment.

Passing that test can mean increased wages and job opportunities in an otherwise bleak market.

Carpentry and welding are demanding trades. Those skills are useful for patternmakers.

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