By Briana Vannozzi
What does it mean to be college and career ready? For starters, Rowan University professor Dr. Eric Milou says we need to reframe that entire question.
“Those two things should not be in the same sentence, because college ready does not equal career ready first of all,” he said.
Dr. Milou and other educators worry about what they call a “one-size-fits all college track” being emphasized in most high schools in and outside New Jersey.
“The mathematics you need to go into a career, vocational, carpenter, plumber — which are great careers — is completely different than the math you need to go to college. Which is completely different than the math you need to go into a STEM career in college. We have to have that discussion rather than saying college and career ready,” he said.
He’s talking about creating more options. Math curriculum in particular is a big part of the equation. For the 90 to 95 percent of students who won’t pursue careers in the STEM — or science, technology, engineering and mathematics field — taking a course in calculus might not set you up for life, but perhaps a class in probability and statistics will.
“I graduated in 1983 — we had a strong vocational program in high school from electrical shop, to wood shop, to metal, to automotive, technology, cosmetology, everything. Now, I don’t see that,” said Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo.
DeAngelo knows a thing about that. He’s also the head of the local IBEW in Trenton.
“My daughter’s graduation ceremony they talked about those going to college, those going to the military, for those that are going into the workforce, they’re not talking about technical trades. If you look around us, the buildings that we’re in, the infrastructure that we’re in, if we didn’t have technical trades and trades to go to school for and learn about, we’d be sitting in the middle of a field with no power and no light,” he said.
Enter the debate on Common Core. While Dr. Milou supports it, he also feels the curriculum is failing to support high school students.
“It does not talk about multiple pathways for kids to be successful in their careers. It only shows one pathway and that pathway is the pathway to calculus, which only about five to 10 percent of kids need or even required in college. What about the pathway for the other kids?,” he said.
Many educators like Milou suggest a shift in the content being taught to students with higher levels of learning in the skills they will need.
“Do we not need to look at this system, rather than just blame the system?” he said.
Much of the debate about readiness centers around not only reforming our education system, but the stigma attached to alternate routes.