Educational Rigor & Relevance: An Interview with Willard Daggett: This Interview with Willard R. Daggett, President of the International Center for Leadership in Education, Focuses on the Reality, Roles and Responsibility of Educational Leadership

By Gaal, John | Techniques, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Educational Rigor & Relevance: An Interview with Willard Daggett: This Interview with Willard R. Daggett, President of the International Center for Leadership in Education, Focuses on the Reality, Roles and Responsibility of Educational Leadership


Gaal, John, Techniques


Q: As Kenneth C. Gray noted in Getting Real: Helping Teens Find Their Future, in the past, a four-year degree nearly assured someone a ticket to professional/managerial employment. However, by 2006, 43 percent of college graduates will face underemployment. Consequently, Gray insists that higher skills and technical work do not imply a need for a college degree, and he describes labor market advantage as the way one looks different from others in the workforce. To what extent should four-year institutions be responsible for preparing graduates for living wage jobs in sustainable sectors of the U.S. economy?

Daggett: Both the K-12 and higher educational systems have always been expected to turn out students who become good citizens and family members. The reality is that these systems must provide students opportunities to compete in the middle class. Nearly 100 percent of the parents of today's students entering college want their children to obtain the skills that lead to sustainability. The Millennium Generation (the children of Gen-Xers) are demanding and have high expectations. They focus on the utility of their courses. In the past, generations rarely questioned their coursework while the system, sought more rigor. Now, national trends tie rigor and relevance.

Q: And what role must educational leaders play in preparing U.S. high school students to make better career decisions without being accused of tracking?

Daggett: The changing American workplace is impacted by fast changing technologies. Leaders must prepare graduates for this rapidly changing world by instilling the concept of lifelong learning in a technological world. In the past, the U.S. school system offered two tracks: college prep and voc-ed. In the 21st century this strategy no longer makes sense. Therefore, in today's world it can no longer be an either/or proposition. It must be a mixture of both. Herein, students receive an applied academics program where vocational skills become the platform in which the academic skills are delivered. Too many college graduates receive degrees but have nowhere to go upon graduation. In the end, all students require academic rigor and relevance.

Q: What recommendations would you offer public officials--who value the benefits of education--when they are concurrently faced with the pressures of cutting budgets and fending off global competition?

Daggett: These officials must perform one-, three- and five-year follow-ups to find out what is happening with their graduates. They may be surprised to discover that the programs that are expensive and not highly valued at the secondary school level have the greatest financial benefits for the students and society (i.e., many students graduating from career and technical education (CTE) programs end up with jobs beyond entry-level status. Whereas, college graduates often find themselves functionally unemployable). Ultimately, it becomes an issue of pay now or pay later.

Q: With evidence--such as that from Achieve--suggesting that the U.S. high school diploma has lost its currency, should states utilize tiered diplomas and/or workplace readiness certifications (i.e., WorkKeys' Gold/Silver/ Bronze level certificates) in the short to midterm in order to serve the needs of U.S. business and industry?

Daggett: This is probably good for the short term, but we really need to focus on rigor and relevance in the long term. There are two problems with differentiated diplomas: they tend to stratify students into have and have-not categories, and they do not hold much value in the eyes of many in the general public. Therefore, differentiated diplomas (e.g., youth apprenticeships) may be seen as second-rate diplomas versus college prep-type diplomas.

Q: In light of the recent remarks by Harvard University's president, what strategies should be implemented to encourage females (and minorities, other than Asians) to take more depth and less breadth in content areas valuable to U. …

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