If the Elephant-in-the-Classroom approach is to work, it will need unprecedented support from private industry. Companies need to contribute monies to the local school system, ear-marked for career training and apprenticeships. They will also need to coordinate with schools to develop working models.
I suspect that even the conservative business community will not object to an increase in taxes for career studies, if necessary. One nice thing about career work is that it is less of a political football. Whereas liberals and Tea Party folks are on opposite sides of debates about school financing and curriculum content, they will all agree that making a soufflé requires mostly the same steps and skills that it always has, and won’t be arguing about curriculum materials –– or recipe books.
The “Year Up” crash course program developed for disadvantaged students, some of whom have only GED degrees, shows that private industry has its heart in the right place. These programs provide six months of intensive training followed by six months of internships with Fortune 500 companies including J.P. Morgan Chase and American Express. Students are given stipends of a few hundred dollars per week. The funds could be docked if students don’t adapt to the social codes and norms of the workplace, such as showing up late for work. “Year Up,” CBS 60 Minutes, January 26, 2014.
An outstanding example of support from business is the Ford Motor Company Next Generation Learning Communities that have set out to establish career academies at the high school level with the goal of helping all students become college and career ready. Next Generation is real-world and performance-based. It redesigns secondary schools to permit career study programs for all students and encourages community involvement in student projects. This looks like a winner! Fordngl.com.
Endowed institutions such as the Gates Foundation could make a major impact by investing money in career education. In the past, they have emphasized teacher training and Common Core Benchmarks rather than altering the one-size-fits-all –– all kids are the same –– strategy of our government.
It’s true that increases in school board budgets have not always led to effective change, but with the Elephant-in-the-Classroom concept we’re talking about career development that directly affects future employees. I believe private industry will stand up and be counted!
On the college readiness side, we already have gifted programs, including public charter schools for the gifted, advanced placement programs, International Baccalaureate programs, and the challenging pre-Cambridge programs (creaming that recruits a good number of the collegiate strivers). Industry really needs to push career education.