College or Career? The False Choice

I’ve posted this entry over at EdWeek on the Teaching Ahead blog series about the current debate over whether schools should be preparing all students for college, or should some be prepared to go directly into the workplace, or to other training?

My take as a parent and teacher, learning from the past and looking to the future, is that is a false choice. It’s not either/or—for a number of reasons. Come join me and some of our Collaboratory colleagues for the discussion this week.

UPDATE:  The discussion over at Teaching Ahead is heating up! Come share your thoughts.

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  • BillIvey

    Interesting comments…

    … following a great article. I highly recommend people head this way!

  • jenniferbarnett

    I second that…

    Yes, Bill. Great conversation on a very important topic. Head on over to see….

  • marsharatzel

    Great article

    I think you’ve written something that is true….that’s it’s not an either or situation.

    But what I would love to understand is this….if we allow different paths for students, how will we avoid tracking that is bad and locks people into somewhere they may not want or need to stay.

    In my school, students can opt in 6th grade into the Plus math classes.  Notice I said opt in…it’s not a testing-admission kind of thing.  The classes go at a faster pace and do more deepening of concepts and more application kinds of lessons.

    What happens at 7th grade when students must opt in or out of the Plus class.  Some have decided that it was too much work, too hard, too demanding and enroll in the regular classes.  But for those students who didn’t opt into the Plus class in 6th grade, the reality is that they are behind.  We’ve created a set of activities they could do over the summer and even tried to create a summer school class to help them jump from Regular into Plus, but there wasn’t enough enrollment to make the course.

    The same things happens again when 7th graders enroll for 8th grade.  While there is the ability to move back and forth and support structures are in place, it would be the exceptional student who could actually do this.

    So the student who opts into the regular math class in 6th grade has pretty much, de facto, chosen their HS math path too.  I might argue that who you are as a student in 6th grade is very different than who you are as a 9th grader.  I don’t understand how this flexibility in practice really works…it’s my stumbling block.

    I believe in this in theory but don’t really get how it works out in the real-world doing.

    • ReneeMoore

      Personalized Learning


      You’re right, in theory the idea of students being able to choose and move sounds right, but in practice….

      As you point out, everything is currently determined by grade levels, and students have to make certain choices (or we have to make them for the students) by certain grades, or else….  I suspect we are going to have to do a lot of rethinking and redesigning of how we deliver content to students and finally break away from our rigid grade level structures in order to create more truly personalized learning. This is a HUGE hurdle and shift in how we do education, and I certainly haven’t figured out the logistics. However, I don’t see how we can continue down the path we’re going and provide a truly equitable education without such a shift.

      • marsharatzel


        You said, “….rigid grade level structures in order to create more truly personalized learning. This is a HUGE hurdle and shift in how we do education, and I certainly haven’t figured out the logistics”.  Do you perceive people would be willing to let time no long be a constant?  By that I mean…..let students take however long it takes until they’ve mastered a concept.

        It certainly would put more responsibility on the student because their progress would be directly linked to their levels of proficiency.  I hear so many 8th grade students say (and I am remembering that’s the spring fever time of the year)…..”Oh I’ll start trying when I’m in HS.  In middle school, they have to pass you along no matter what grade you get.  In HS, you have to repeat a course if you don’t pass…..I don’t want that to happen, but it’s no big deal in middle school.”

        Suddenly if we were all on the credit system, I could imagine lots more students putting effort into it.  Because really….if they don’t have that self-esteem to want to do well, why wouldn’t they adopt the attitude that I hear so much?