Instruction that blends technical education and college prep curricula might improve the nation's dismal graduation rates and reduce the number of graduates unprepared for college or a career, according to a report released Monday.
Traditionally, college prep classes have been taught differently and separately from technical education, said Gene Bottoms, the senior vice president of the Southern Regional Educational Board and author of the report.
But the hands-on skills found in technical education should be employed in college prep classes, and similarly, the academic rigor in college prep courses should be infused into technical education.
"The report is based on the belief that many students who are currently detached from serious academic studies can be engaged in intellectual studies by joining rigorous academic content with real problems, projects and activities," Dr. Bottoms said during a news conference Monday. "This means rejecting remedial instruction and paper and pencil drills."
This is demonstrated by some of the blended classes offered in Kentucky, such as construction geometry, he said. The class has the rigor of a college prep class with the practicality of technical education.
"Too many students leave high school unprepared for the pursuit of further job training, technical college or the university," Dr. Bottoms said. "We have too many students prepared for unskilled jobs, and too few students prepared for high-skill, high-demand and high-wage jobs."
High school reform efforts usually overlook the value of technical education, choosing instead to focus resources on college prep classes, he said. Additionally, the emphasis is on high-stakes exit exams and preparation for those exams, which turns off at-risk students.
But the numbers bear out the success of combining college-prep and hands-on practical learning, Dr. Bottoms said. More than 90 percent of these students pursue postsecondary education, and more than 90 percent return for a second year.
"Those are numbers we do not see an awful lot of," he said.
Augusta Technical College President Terry Elam hadn't seen the report Monday, but he wasn't surprised to hear about the push for more hands-on technical learning. Four-year universities, including liberal arts institutions, are moving toward project-based instruction, he said.
"We don't just study AC/DC and not ever plug something up," Mr. Elam said.
More than ever, students need an education beyond high school, said Lois Adams-Rodgers, deputy executive director for the Council of Chief State School Officers, a group that worked with the Southern Regional Educational Board on the report.
"Improving career and technical ed can help us find solutions to one of the most daunting tasks our nation faces -- helping many more students graduate from high school," Dr. Adams-Rodgers said.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: The Southern Regional Education Board released a report Monday that urged combining college prep and technical classes.
WHY: The author of the report says too many high school students graduate unprepared for job training or further education.