Delegates Dave Nutter (R-Montgomery) and Bill Carrico (R-Grayson) are co-patroning HB 1422: Standard diploma; requirements to include one concentration in career and technical education. This is a bill that makes one tiny modification to §22.1-253.13:4D2:
In establishing course and credit requirements for a high school diploma, the Board shall:
Establish the requirements for a standard, modified standard, or advanced studies high school diploma, which shall include one credit in fine, performing, or practical arts and one credit in United States and Virginia history. The requirements for a standard high school diploma shall, however, include (i) one concentration in career and technical education; and (ii) at least two sequential electives chosen from a concentration of courses selected from a variety of options that may be planned to ensure the completion of a focused sequence of elective courses.
This means that every child in the whole of the state would need to take two years of vocational education classes.
Now, I’m a real believer in the value of a technical education in high school. Way too many kids are put on the college track who would be better served by a technical education. For differing reasons, not every kid is cut out for college. I have plenty of peers who, these six years after getting that degree in underwater basket weaving are still making a whole lot less than they’d be making if they’d gone into plumbing at the age of eighteen. But the other side of that coin is that there are lot of kids who aren’t cut out for carpentry, bricklaying, or auto repair. College is the path for them. And making college-bound kids take two years of cosmetology is just as dumb as making career-bound kids take two years of college prep courses.
But that’s just a small objection. There’s the larger objection that I have to the SOLs and NCLB, which is that I think that neither the state nor the federal government should be dictating the minutia of what localities should be teaching. If the local high school in a farming community wants to focus their earth science course of farming and their biology class on animal husbandry, then they should be able to do that. That takes advantage of the local expertise and teaches kids something that will be more relevant to their lives and, ultimately, probably more useful.
Then there’s the slightly larger objection. Fine, the kids take two years of vocational classes. So that’s two years worth of classes that they’re taking now that they’ll no longer take. What are we going to teach them two years less of? English? Math? Science? What can we do without? Under NCLB, are we even allowed to do without them?
And then there’s the major objection: unfunded mandate. (Unless its patrons are preparing an enormous tax hike to fund this. I’m guessing not.) The superintendent of Fluvanna County Schools says that implementing these new classes would cost the school system $200k. Area technical schools have nothing close to the capacity to drastically increase their enrollment. They lack the physical space, the equipment, the teachers. Kids have to be bused to and from the often-distant facilities. Or, alternately, all new technical wings could be built onto every high school in the state. All in all it amounts to an enormous investment. The impact statement on this bill should be good for a laugh.
Del. Nutter and Del. Carrico are right: there’s not nearly enough emphasis on technical education in this state. But this isn’t the solution.
11/29 Update: See Kaveh Sadeghzadeh’s comment about the standards vs. advanced studies diploma. We didn’t have any fancy advanced diplomas when I went to Western Albemarle High School.