In order to ensure success for our students, we need to set high expectations and provide a high level of supports to meet those expectations. This all starts with graduation requirements. We should be modeling the standards set by school districts such as Chicago Unified. They'll be requiring all graduating students to have "either acceptance to college or a gap-year program, a trade apprenticeship, military enlistment or a job offer" with the requirements being "waived for students with 'extenuating circumstances'". Beyond education, the focus of our school district should be to prepare our students for life beyond our schools. This starts with college and career readiness.
First and foremost, we need to provide college as an option for our students. In today's economy, a college degree is almost essential to a successful future and we want to prepare our students for all career choices. Whether a student should or shouldn't go to college is up to the individual, but we need to ensure we did everything in our power for them to have access to higher education. We can do this by:
Matching our graduation requirements with the UC and CSU A-G Requirements. Currently, we have students graduating our high schools, yet are still ineligible for a college education. Shouldn't a WCCUSD diploma qualify for you a four year university? By matching our graduation requirements with the UC/CSU A-G requirements, we would ensure 100% of our graduates have a chance of going to a four year university. Some argue that doing so would be setting our students up for failure. I say the failure would be on us for not preparing them for such requirements.
Providing college peer mentorship. We put a lot of work on our college counselors when we have 1 for every 800 students or only 2 for an entire school. By providing our college counselors with a group of students to act as college peer mentors, they can reach more overall students, work on bigger projects, and ensure every student has multiple opportunities for 1:1 college counseling. I've seen this program work many times where a college counselor will train a group of 10-20 students and they work as a team to ensure all students are aware of deadlines, scholarships, testing, etc.
More overall awareness. The district should sponsor multiple college fairs at each school site. We've seen things like college week or a few college fairs at some of our schools, but every school site should have the opportunity and the resources to host such events. Most colleges will send an ambassador for free and all that's needed is a phone call. By providing more overall awareness, students can be exposed to be more college options, scholarship opportunities, and available resources.
Some careers require a college education, and some don't. We need to prepare our students for all options of the modern workforce. Two places we should be focusing on is in exposure to career options and skill building. Here are some of my suggestions.
More career fairs and career days. Currently, some of our schools have annual career days and the district sponsors an annual building and construction trades fair. These are great starts, but we should hosting these at all of our school sites. By having annual career days in all of our schools (not just high schools), we can ensure all of our students are exposed to a wide variety of career options. We should also be sponsoring multiple career fairs that rotate throughout the district on an annual basis. Rather than having just one building and construction trades fair, we could sponsor fairs on tech, public service, entertainment, athletics, culinary arts, etc. Rather than having one fair in one location, we can do one month Richmond, one month El Cerrito, one month San Pablo, etc that way student's don't have to go out of their way to attend. Students should be able to see career options beyond what they would normally see everyday.
More field trips to job sites. I've been on a few field trips with students to job sites, and it's no question that this has great value. By exposing our students to different job sites, we can expose them to more career options and widen their hopes and expectations for life after high school. We want to our ensure our students options aren't limited.
Expanding career technical education. Currently the district has a few CTE programs, and I'd like to expand and fund more. One that I would like to highlight is the Information and Technology Academy/ Tech Futures. This is a career technical program that some of our high school's have where students learn skills from website design and app development, to graphic design and video game development. The idea is to give students the skills they need to find entry level jobs right after high school. It's programs like ITA, Future Teachers Club, and other Regional Occupation Programs that we should be investing in.
Providing more internshipship opportunities. Aside from using the classroom as a way to prepare our students for the workforce, we should be looking for opportunities outside of the classroom. If we truly want our schools to be full service community schools, we need to expand our partnerships with community businesses and organizations. By strengthening these partnerships, we can then create internship opportunities to give our students work skills. If a 10th grader is thinking about going into law, we should call a local law firm. If a 9th grader wants to become a police officer, we should call one of our many city's police departments. By providing internships while attending school, our students will be a few steps ahead when they enter the workforce.