By Bill May
Journal Record Staff Reporter
American high school students don't perform any better than
they do because no one expects them to.
This is not going to change until school boards, faculty and
administration officials, schools and employers in each community
demand a higher quality high school graduate, according to Dr.
James E. Bottoms, director of the High Schools That Work
Setting higher standards and demanding more will help prepare
students better for both college and the jobs market, which
should be the objective of both common high schools and
vocational-technical schools, he said.
"I've never heard any employer anywhere in the United States
tell an employee that: `You've been on the reduced or free lunch
program at high school, therefore, I won't expect as much out of
you at work.' Instead, those students must perform on the job the
same as students who weren't on these assistance programs,"
Bottoms told a group of educators in Oklahoma City. "Yet, schools
which have a high rate of students on free and reduced-cost
lunches are allowed to have lower standards for their students
than other schools.
"What this tells the students is that they don't have to work,
they don't have to read outside the classroom, they don't have to
complete their homework. We are not challenging our students,
giving them something to strive for."
Until this changes, Bottoms said, employers will continue to
say students are not prepared for the job market.
Bottoms became director of the high school challenge program
at its inception in 1987 and has seen it grow significantly while
at the same time improve curriculum, he said. The High Schools
That Work program is sponsored by the Southern Regional Education
Board and the State Vocational Education Consortium.
Eighteen months ago the program was in 38 schools, and today
it's in 300 participating high schools in 19 states, he said.
"This doesn't mean that the faculty, the boards and the
administration have just adopted our program and think they are
doing good," he said. "They must prove to us that they are
actively working to improve. Within 12 months of signing on, they
must present to us a plan that has been signed off on by at least
75 percent of the faculty, that's been developed by the
community, the teachers, the vo-techs and the common schools. If
they don't, we yank the name.
"This is not just some sort of `name it, claim it' thing. They
must be involved and be actively trying to improve to continue
using the name of High Schools That Work."
The High Schools That Work program blends academic and
vocational education to raise achievement of career-bound
students in math, science and communication, he said.
During the seminar at Francis Tuttle Vocational-Technical
School, 12777 N. Rockwell Ave., Bottoms made a pitch for the
program's adoption in central Oklahoma and urged a more
cooperative approach between faculty of common schools and
A teacher exchange, allowing teachers to work with and observe
others in action, is key to developing a better joint program
which will improve the quality of graduates, Bottoms said.
A survey of faculty, students and employers throughout the 19
states showed that each group views high school graduates in the
same light _ they are not prepared for the job market.
"In fact, only 14 percent of the vocational-technical teachers
would recommend 80 percent of their students to an employer,"
Bottoms said. "That's because there was some sort of deficiency
in their education."
Most students involved in vocational and technical classes
were seldom assigned homework. …