The White House has announced $100 million in grants to encourage high schools to train students for a tech-future.
Companies are already putting their stamp on some of the country’s high schools.
Take P-Tech. The Brooklyn high school is a collaboration between New York City’s education department, the City University of New York, the NYC College of Technology, and IBM. Kids graduate in six years with Associates Degrees—in computers systems or electromechanical engineering. Oh, and the promise of being first in line for an IBM job.
President Barack Obama made a special appearance at the school last month. “Across the country, companies like Verizon and Microsoft and ConEd and Cisco, they saw what IBM was doing and said, this is a good idea, we can do this too.”
The newly announced grants require high schools to partner with colleges and local employers. A fine idea if done right. “The place that business can do the most is by providing opportunities for internships or apprenticeships,” says Betsy Brand, the head of the American Youth Policy Forum. But high schools should not be used as tax-payer funded training programs for specific jobs.
“I’d be curious to see whether there are protections designed to avoid these schools becoming the sort of low-track dumping grounds that vocational education has become,” says Kevin Welner, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and the head of the National Education Policy Center. Done poorly, he says, high school job training can push kids on to tracks that leave them unprepared for college—or better jobs.