Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Career Pathway or "Tracking" Revisited?

This clipping about Georgia's decision to have 9th graders choose a career has me worried.  This might be another education trend that causes as much harm as good, if career-focus is not balanced with life-long-learning-focus.

Georgia to Require Students to Pick Career Path Georgia is about to start requiring its 9th graders to pick a career path and follow a class schedule that's at least partially tailored to it, in response to House Bill 186. The objective is to raise career and college readiness. Students will pick a potential job to pursue in one of 17 broad career categories. Teachers would start talking to students about potential career opportunities, starting as early as 5th grade. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/12/11)   (summary courtesy of ECS e-clips)

I recall in the 1970's and 80's some schools used tracking to decide in middle school which students were fit for college and which should pursue a "vocational" track instead.  Tracking proved to be misguided at best., inequitable, and even discriminatory in some cases. Factors such as parent's socioeconomic status or career choice, or the child's academic progress at one point in time, could easily influence a guidance counselor's advice about a child's "fitness" for a track.

I agree with Marc Hayes, an Internet company owner quoted in the article that 9th graders have no idea what career would best for them and that the job market will be different by the time they enter it. But I have a bigger concern that focusing on one path will close doors and limit options in a world that has all but eliminated the concept of a life-long career. The right approach would promote a focus for "career readiness" while sending the message that your chosen career may not exist in ten years and you need life-long learning "readiness" to take on whatever the world needs.

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