- Kansas is considering new pathways that students can take to build credits to earn a high school diploma, according to a report from the Kansas News Service. Apprenticeships, work experience and even projects completed outside the classroom could be a way future learners gain credit.
- Local districts can opt into these alternative credit requirements today, but few do. However, the state’s Graduation Requirements Task Force has drafted a proposal changing how high school classes are categorized, organizing them by skills and not subjects. For example, students could earn credit for STEM courses and not just science and math classes. Real-world experiences, such as a community service project, could also be required for graduation.
- The last amendment to graduation requirements in Kansas came 20 years ago when a fine arts requirement was added. Any new changes would apply to the state’s current 8th graders.
To Steve VanMatre, it’s never too early to bring career and technical education courses into schools, even at the elementary level.
The superintendent of the Tuloso Midway Independent School District in Texas said all students should have the option to take vocational courses along with early college classes — and districts should marry the two to benefit all students.
“I had my valedictorian learning how to use a wrench and carpentry skills,” said VanMatre, a former superintendent of the Premont Independent School District in Texas. “At the end of the day, he used his academic and entrepreneur skills and his ability to build things to start his own business.”
CTE courses can be as varied as students’ interests, from robotics and STEM courses, to those that can help learners prepare for a career as an assistant nurse or welder. Some districts have also launched programs to help grow their own teachers, training students while they’re still in high school or offering apprenticeships to help them toward a nursing, teaching, computer science or business degree.
Advocates argue that exposing students to vocational and CTE courses while in school can broaden their options. Not every learner is going to college or going to start a business. Students’ interests can also change. What someone believes they will pursue in high school can abruptly shift when they enter college. Graduates may also find themselves on a vocational path that speaks to their passions and skills.
These are some of the reasons that VanMatre said he pushes for students to consider CTE classes no matter where they believe their path will take them.
“Who knows when they’re 18 if they’re going to need wiring, welding or carpentry skills,” he said. “Even if you’re not employed in that particular field, those are the life skills that will come in handy for the rest of your life.”