Academic journal article Education Next

Making the Trade: Offering Noncollege Options to Students

Academic journal article Education Next

Making the Trade: Offering Noncollege Options to Students

Article excerpt

A couple of years back, I taught a delightful young lady whom I will call "Sandra." She was a student in my Collaborative Team Teaching class, a section of 10th-grade English taught simultaneously by me--the English teacher--and a special education teacher, and comprising both special education and general education students. Sandra was one of the former; although she could read reasonably well, her writing was completely incomprehensible, and her understanding of high-level or abstract concepts was quite limited. Her Individualized Education Program (IEP) revealed a low IQ and a host of diagnosed learning disabilities (and left out some undiagnosed ones, I suspect).

Is it strange to say that, despite this, she was a great student? Though her comments on literature were generally more factual or summary than analytical, Sandra showed far more willingness to participate in class discussions and group work than some of her peers with more "innate" ability. She had discrete skills and interests--fashion, for one, as well as graphic arts and music--which she was eager to apply in her schoolwork. She was sensitive, eager to please, and scrupulously honest: she never once gave me an excuse for not completing an assignment (while her peers favored lengthy tall tales for these occasions, beginning with, "Well, what had happened was...").

During Sandra's senior year, the school was offered the chance to grant a few students a diploma through Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS), a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program in which students work in an internship or apprenticeship setting outside of school, with the principal's approval. Every teacher agreed that Sandra was an obvious candidate, and she soon began to shadow a cosmetology professional after school. It was an excellent placement: Sandra was interested in the skills she was learning and would have something "in place" that could enable her to support herself come graduation.

Our school, however, would effectively receive a penalty for this placement, in the opportunity cost of earning no "points" on our progress report. Points are only awarded for students who earn a Regents diploma--by passing five Regents exams (a near-impossible outcome for Sandra) and obtaining 44 credits--the benchmark for "college readiness. …

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