Education continues after high school

Darrick Buettner is the coordinator of the International Baccalaureate program at Lecanto High School.­GB_4Education continues after high school

“We’re at a point where going to college shouldn’t be an automatic decision for all students coming out of high school” — Rob Port, newspaper columnist.

Re-post of Article published in the Citrus Chronicle on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 –

Currently, the push is underway for all high school students to be college ready upon graduation. I staunchly defend the right for all students to have the opportunity to go to college. With the cost of college rising, is going to college immediately after high school always the best option for all students?

A report, American Dream 2.0 — funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — found 46 percent of those who enter a U.S. college fail to graduate within six years. That’s 46 percent! Many start college, take out loans and then fail to get the degree, but still are saddled with loan payments.

Mario Lozoya, director of government relations for Toyota of Texas, in San Antonia, notes not everyone in high school wants to go to college, but each graduate still needs a high-quality education, according to an article on the KUTX Texas website. He said Toyota needs more of them.

“Over 80 percent of our employees require a high school diploma or less, but still need the cognitive skills of science, engineering, technology and math to be successful,” said Lozoya.

Good jobs are currently available that do not require a four-year college education. Unfortunately, with the push to make every student college-ready, emphasis on career and technical education gets pushed aside. By focusing only on getting students ready for college, we are hurting both students who prefer a non-traditional track and businesses that need qualified employees, but cannot find them.

Recognizing this growing disconnect, state Rep. Jimmie T. Smith started a task force on career and technical education in 2010, and then expanded the task force with school board member Thomas Kennedy in late 2012, with a specific mission: for all students to graduate high school and have post-secondary career options that include job-ready skills or continued studies that develop job-ready skills and lead to workforce opportunities.

For this reason, Rep. Smith has introduced House Bill (HB) 133. The intent of this bill is to gain knowledge of what skills specific businesses need and then provide regional flexibility to school districts to allow them to prepare students for the workforce, while simultaneously giving them the rigorous education necessary so these students can further their education in the future if they desire.

So far, this task force has heard from Dr. James Stone, the director of National Research Center for Career and Technical Education at the University of Louisville; has visited the Health Academy at Crystal River High School to see successful career education in practice; and has solicited input from all sectors of Hernando and Citrus County.

Citrus County has jobs available. We need to make sure our school system has necessary flexibility from the Florida Department of Education to make sure we can give high school students the opportunity to get these jobs and still further their education in the future.

If you would like to add to this task force discussion, please do not hesitate to contact either Thomas Kennedy at the school board or Rep. Jimmie T. Smith.

Darrick Buettner is the coordinator of the International Baccalaureate program at Lecanto High School and a member of the CTE Task Force.­

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