Informing Educational Stakeholders

It’s incredible, but the reality is the significant stakeholders in public education in America have not read basic education research. They don’t know how many of their high school students go on to graduate from college or how this compares regionally or nationally. They don’t know how many students drop out of high school or how this compares regionally or nationally. They don’t know what happens to dropouts when they leave school. They don’t know about juvenile or adult crime rates. The police are in the business of making themselves look good by arresting criminals, not by sharing their crime data with the educational establishment. The stakeholders don’t know what portion of prisoners in their region or in America are high school dropouts. They don’t know the recidivism rate. They don’t know the proportion of jobs in America that require a college degree. They don’t know the reading level necessary to work in America. They don’t know the math level required to work in America. They don’t know about high school career technical education. They don’t know about high school student’s taking a four-year sequence of career technical education courses. They don’t know about soft employment skills. They don’t know anything about high school career academies or the research about career academies.

The ignorance of the significant stakeholders about our high schools is the cause of the high school dropout epidemic and school to prison pipeline. Board presentations are brief are generally about curriculum or sports, and are not taken seriously. These board presentations do not reach the broader group of educational stakeholders who are key to making change. I have become absolutely convinced that the best path to educating all educational stakeholders about what happens to our youth after they school and about career academies as the solution must be done through a documentary film. The film can then be copied and used throughout the community.

I envision the film being developed into two phases. The first would explain the present problems of today’s high school. The second part would be an explanation of the proposed solution—career academies. The film will be used with school boards, principals, counselors, teachers, mayors, city councils, chambers of commerce, churches, parent organizations, and community organizations. All of these groups are stakeholders in public education. As a documentary film, it would educate the stakeholders as to the enormity of the problem and propose the solution.

In defining the problem of high schools in America, it must be made clear that there is no educational program for average or low performing high school students. The college prep curriculum has effectively become the only curriculum. High school counselors routinely place students into elective courses in a haphazard manner. This leads to very few students obtaining a four-year sequence of career technical education. This means millions of kids leave high school every year with no way to make a living.

The reality of today’s high schools has disastrous results. America drops out about one million kids year. That is ten million kids over ten years and twenty million over a twenty year period. The point is the high schools are systematically disposing of millions of kids who have limited academic skills and typically obtain no employment skills in high school. In addition, they have an attitude that the schools have mistreated them by demeaning them by forcing them to take high-level college prep courses. Young people’s failure in this college prep curriculum leaves them prey to dropping out, gangs, prostitution, drug use, drug selling, crime, and prison. Seventy percent of the two and a half million imprisoned in America are high school dropouts, as are seventy percent of the additional four and a half million on parole and probation. Earlier, I said the results of the present high school curriculum are disastrous these numbers make that perfectly clear.

It is time for the educational establishment to take responsibility for these dismal results. It’s time to stop blaming poverty for these miserable results. Somehow, there has been a disconnect between these criminal justice issues and the high schools. No one in our society is willing to step up and blame the high schools for what happens to their students. It is not poverty that causes these terrible outcomes; it is our high school’s lack of an appropriate curriculum. The appropriate curriculum for the supermajority of students is a sequence of career technical education courses. Today’s high schools have a high academic culture that cannot be modified to offer a sequence of career technical education courses. A totally new structure must be created that honors career technical education. This new structure is called a career academy. All students in a career academy complete a four-year sequence of career technical education courses. The result of this four-year sequence of career technical education courses is employable young people. The research shows that putting youth to work largely prevents crime and imprisonment.

A documentary film explaining the problem of high schools in America and the career academy solution can have the effect of reconstructing our high schools to save millions of young people from lives of crime and imprisonment. It is time to face the reality that the majority of the educational stakeholders do not read books or educational research and the best method of reaching them is a documentary film.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

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

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