In my last post, I wrote in support of smaller class sizes as a means to a more important end, which is the delivery of a rigorous, relevant curriculum for our students.
I refer to curriculum as the entire learning experience that takes place daily in school, as opposed to simply the learning standards set by the state. You can have one government class consist entirely of lectures, while another government class, teaching to the same standards, consists of educational role-playing activities, document-based discussions, essay writing, research projects and debates.
These sorts of educational activities serve a more relevant goal for society than the ability to identify a correct answer among four choices on a standardized test.
I’m interested in potential education reforms that get to the heart of what education is for: the preparation of an adult population equipped to build on past generations’ achievements in the workforce and in civic life.
In January, the Sacramento Bee briefly mentioned a potential education reform bill that, instead of discussing class size as an end in and of itself, takes an important educational goal as its starting point: job preparedness.
California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is planning to introduce a bill to give businesses an incentive to invest in California schools and help build a vocational track on par with the college prep track.
To better prepare students for careers, not just pass tests, Steinberg wants to promote active partnerships between schools and businesses that provide both an academic education and job skills.
Participating businesses would help develop the curriculum for career pathway programs, and would provide internships or mentorships that lead to high-wage jobs for participating students, Steinberg said.
This potential bill is a good example of how we should be discussing and reforming education. Instead of beginning the conversation with student-to-teacher ratios, this bill (we await more details) would bring business leaders, with their knowledge of what they need in their workforce, into contact with schools, which can develop a vocational curriculum to meet those ends.
San Diego has an important high-tech industry, an emerging green energy industry and a world-famous craft beer industry (although I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that we shouldn’t develop a beer track for high school students). Our schools should play a role in helping to produce homegrown talent to strengthen these industries while creating high-wage jobs.
In support of that goal, we should be able to work with the business sector to determine what students need to learn, and then we can focus on the staffing, student-to-teacher ratios, assessments, etc., that will help us achieve those goals.
Oscar Ramos is a contributor to Voice of San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @OscarRamosSD or email email@example.com.