A Plan For Betsey DeVos

The newly appointed Secretary of Education has been criticized for supporting voucher and charter schools essentially for the wealthy. She has been accused of being a shill for parents who don’t want to pay for private schools. People have been speculating whether Mrs. DeVos has even been in a public school. In order to counter these public assessments, she would do well to consider educational treatments for average and lower achieving students. Charter schools have no proven efficacy for K-8 students. High schools however, require many specialized programs and facilities.

Therefore, imagine if she created a massive expansion of high school career academies and shifted existing federal funds to pay for it. She could make attendance in these career academies voluntary to avoid the label of tracking. She can choose an existing model like Linked Learning at Berkley or the State of California’s Partnership Academies that graduate ninety-five percent of their students, all of whom have an employable skill. Elevated high school graduation rates have conclusively demonstrated reductions in gangs, crime, prostitution and incarceration.

America’s high schools are doing a fine job of college preparation. However, they are doing a miserable job of career preparation. As universities do, career academy high schools can have job placement services on their sites to aid students in finding employment. She can demand school districts perform longitudinal studies to demonstrate high employment rates of graduates. Imagine if employment became the primary criteria for success of high schools in America. Career academies are the method of creating a high skilled workforce in America.

Betsey can require high schools to give multiple diplomas. Imagine a college prep diploma and a career prep diploma. The college prep would mean completion of specified courses and the career prep would mean completion of a four-year sequence of career technical education programs. The graduation rate can be cranked up to the ninety-five percent of career academies. The combination of a very high graduation rate and a high employment rate of graduates will drive down crime and incarceration rates.

She can work with the new president to give tax breaks to employers of career academy graduates. This action will create a semblance of a career preparation system in America. Trump orated that he cared about the average American. Changes in public policy are how he demonstrates that he meant what he said. Community colleges would be available for more advanced occupational education, but the focus must be on the high school where you have a somewhat captive audience.

If Trump can really bring back jobs or create new ones, we must have a skilled workforce to be able to perform those jobs. Career academies are the way to systematically organize the country to build that skilled workforce. The baby boomers are retiring and dying at an enormous rate. New technology requires more training than ever before. Career academies provide nine hundred hours of career specific occupational education. The occupational education provided through career academies is the key to making American workers the best in the world. It can create pride in skills American workers used to be known for. Everyone must recognize that a highly skilled workforce is the essential element in making America great again. It would be ironic if Betsy DeVos took on the challenge of average and low achieving high school students and created a system of occupational education in America.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on Amazon.com

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on Amazon.com
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