All In: Readying Students for College and Career
Sitting in a coffee shop early one morning, I watched people navigate the streets of downtown Arlington, Va., on their way to work. I had an hour before I needed to report as a panelist at a forum for educators and business leaders. I built in extra time that morning to avoid rush hour traffic tangles, so I had time to answer emails and review meeting materials. However, I spent much of that early-morning hour people watching through the window. It was a bit like being in an Edward Hopper painting. Watching dozens of people crisscross the streets heading in different directions reminded me of the unique path each person follows to get to their career destination.
Our work and careers are important. Most of us spend a good share of our pre-retirement time involved in those endeavors.
One of the fundamental responsibilities of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is to prepare our students for the world of work. Since the world is changing rapidly, it is important that we periodically review our strategies and programs to ensure that they are relevant for today’s students and tomorrow’s workforce.
For decades, MCPS and school districts across the country believed that the best success for students comes from attending a highly competitive four-year college. That belief system has served many students well over the years. However, with today’s economy and the changing needs of business and industry, we also need to provide other pathways to ensure all students have viable options for success.
Upon high school graduation, all students must have a solid educational foundation so they have options and choices for post-secondary education and careers. We must offer a full range of college and career readiness programs in our high schools so each child can find a path to success.
College and career readiness are complicated and intertwined. Adding to the complexity, the way we define college has changed—and will likely continue to change. College is no longer easily defined as enrollment at a two- or four-year higher education institution with the completion of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Rather, it includes a wide range of post-high school learning and training. It might be a one-year IT certificate program; it might be completion of a culinary program; it might be ongoing training through an employer as technology and systems change. MCPS must offer a full range of programs so that when students graduate, they have a solid foundation that includes options and choices for post-secondary education and careers.
To help our school system and students succeed in this changing landscape, MCPS contracted with the Education Strategy Group (EGS) to rigorously review our career readiness efforts, identifying strengths and gaps, and suggesting recommendations for improvement. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the report and watch the September 12 report presentation to the Board of Education.
The report, Preparing All Students for Economic & Career Success, recognizes that MCPS has consistently had high expectations for students in preparing for college after high school. However, it also advises that it is time for us to pay more attention to career readiness and provides recommendations on how to better serve our students.
Board members, staff, and business and community leaders have expressed strong support for exploring the recommendations presented in the report and are eager to move forward on those that strengthen our programs and make sense for Montgomery County.
MCPS must design programs and provide experiences that support student learning and success, including both the content and relational skills that are necessary for each student’s future success. It is no longer an either-or world. We must prepare every student for college and career. It will not be easy, but we can do no less.
Good Read/Good Listen
As we all know, learning doesn’t stop when you become an adult. I am constantly learning about new ideas and exploring new perspectives. I do this through books, articles and podcasts. Each blog, I will share a few of the most interesting ones with you. Some have made me ask questions, some have irritated me; others have made me smile or frown. I hope they make you think critically and open doors to new information and ideas.
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Daniel Pink, 2006
Be a Mr. Jensen, Clint Pulver