What About the Other 80%?

According to the 2011 nationally produced report, “Time is the Enemy”, in the State of Texas only 20 percent of the students entering a college or community college will obtain a degree even if they are allotted double the normal time to complete that degree.

That leaves 80% of the students that graduate high school in the State of Texas without any form of a college degree. According to the 2010-2011 AEIS report produced by the Texas Education Agency there were 280,520 high school graduates in the class of 2010.

      • 7% of 280,520 equals 19,636 students that will obtain an Associate’s Degree-if given double the time.
      • 13% of 280,520 equals 69,798 students that will obtain a Bachelor’s Degree-if given double the time.
      • 80% of 280,520 equals 224,416 students that will not obtain any form of a degree

The above numbers are just based on the graduates from the spring of 2010.If you expand the numbers over a 5 years, then you are talking about over 1.4 million students that are going out into the world with an empty tool box. They don’t have any training or preparation to be ready for the work world.

Excerpts from Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken’s Speeches:

Speech at Texas State Technical College in Waco on May 3, 2012

 What shocked me in coming back into government four years ago was how different the attitude towards vocational and technical education among the political elites was from when I got back from Vietnam in 1969 and became a civilian again. I was asked to serve on the National Advisory Council on Vocational Education and did so from 1970 to 1975. Back then, the United States had the strongest manufacturing sector in the world, and there was a general recognition throughout American society of the value of technical education and the skilled trades. There was a strong emphasis – beginning at the secondary school level and continuing at post-secondary schools like TSTC – on providing opportunities for young people with the aptitude and the interest to get skills training at an early age.

 So much has changed — and it has not all been “positive change.” Over the past decade, we have hollowed out our manufacturing base. From 2001 through 2010, one-third of our U.S. manufacturing jobs that’s five and a half million – were shipped overseas, outsourced or simply went away. When I was growing up, we proudly touted products made in Texas and made in the U.S.A. Sadly, that has become more of an exception than the rule these days.

What happened to our pipeline of skilled workers? Somehow, over the last two decades, certain political elites decided that everyone should be prepared to go to a four-year university. I call it a “one size fits all” approach. So, we got trapped into this “teaching to the test” mindset which was going to make all of our elementary and secondary students, “college ready.” First, there was the TAKS test. Now, there is the so-called STAAR test. So much of our educational system is driven these days by this “teaching to the test” mentality from the third grade through high school.

The problem is that the system is broken – and the average Texan gets it, even if many of the political elites don’t. The time is ripe for major reform of our educational system so that we place greater emphasis on vocational and technical education at the secondary and post-secondary school levels.

Let’s replace the one-size-fits-all TAKS and STAAR tests that we use to evaluate all our students, with two different tests – one that measures college readiness for those that plan to pursue that route such as the ACT or SAT, and one that measures career readiness.

We all learn differently. Some students don’t enjoy or do well in an abstract classroom setting – I have a son like that – but would excel by working with their hands in a skilled trade. That’s why your “hands on” approach to skills training is so important in preparing a student to be job ready.

In his speech last May at TSTC, he identified the problem and provided a solution of “What to Do About the Other 80%.

The answer was also spelled out in his testimony before the House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development June 28, 2012

The next priority for the next legislative session ought to be changing the curriculum and diploma requirements. We need to make substantial reforms to the recommended graduation plan, which has become the de facto standard for most high school students. That plan allows students to take only 10 electives over four years – 16 of the 26 required credits are named. This makes it very difficult for a student to complete an entire Career and Technical Education (CTE) sequence – especially if they wish to be involved in any extracurricular activities. The course work required by the recommended plan actually exceeds the admission requirements of every university in Texas. Why are we requiring high schoolers take classes that even the universities don’t see as necessary? For some, passing Algebra II or Physics poses a tremendous challenge and such classes are simply not where their talents lie.

I want to be clear that I am not advocating a system in which one set of students are treated as college material and another set are discouraged from pursuing post-secondary education. In fact, research from TWC’s Labor Market and Career Information division has found that students who take a coherent sequence of CTE courses do better academically, have higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and better college attendance. Alumni from the Alamo Academies who, upon graduation, take jobs with companies like Toyota or Boeing while also taking classes at a four-year university (often paid for by their employer), are a great example of how vocational and technical education can enhance post-secondary options for young Texans.

Mr. Pauken is the only state level official that has spoken truthfully about the reality of our current system of educating students in the State of Texas. He has provided statistics to support his position and provided a model for what changes must take place in order for Texas and the United States in order continue to be a world leader.

The most compelling statement Mr. Pauken made was that research by the TWC confirmed that students that took a coherent sequence of CTE course did better academically, have higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and better college attendance. It is very difficult to view those results, then continue to force a system that is completely opposite of what the data is telling us on our students.

Also noted in Mr. Pauken speeches were the concerns of many superintendents across the state. The main concern noted by superintendents was the increase in the dropout rate.  A higher dropout rate will begin to be revealed in the near future. Students will be in Chemistry and Physics classes that they have no interest or truly have the skills to be successful in these courses that require higher order processing skills. They do not possess the needed math skills to truly grasp these subjects. Some of these students are classified as special education and being held to the same standard as the regular education students.

It is time to end “one size fits all” education in the State of Texas. The 2010-11 AEIS report noted 4,912,385 students enrolled in Texas schools. That means that there are 5 million different needs to meet. 80 percent of them will not obtain a college degree, so there must a program that meets the needs of the majority of our students and not the minority.

David R. Taylor

25 Year Teacher, Coach and Principal

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3 Responses to What About the Other 80%?

  1. Matt Chalmers says:

    Sorry, but the numbers given in the first two paragraphs don’t compute to me. Okay, so only 20% of those who enter college ever get out with a degree. However, that has nothing to do with 80% of Texas graduates not getting a degree–UNLESS–every graduate of a Texas high school enrolls in college. 80% + 20% = 100% If 100,000 graduated then 20,000 would get a degree and 80,000 would not.
    But what if only 60% of graduates even entered college to begin with? That would make the number of high school graduates who do not attain a degree even higher. 60% x 100,000 is 60,000. 80% of 60,000 is 48,000 added to the 40,000 that did not even enter college is 88,000 not getting a degree.
    I agree with the author that college is not for everyone, but some type of specialized training is a must for anyone who wants to get ahead in life. We need to support our community colleges, technical schools and vocational programs more now than ever before.

    • drext727 says:

      Matt thank you for your comments. I also understand your confusion. When I wrote this, I wrote it from a best case scenario assuming everyone would at least attempt to go to some form of post high school training. As you stated there are lots of students that are not getting any form of a degree.

      I always appreciate good comments.


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