Recently Dr. John Barge, Supt. of Education for the State of Georgia, visited Dalton and presented his vision for education in Georgia. Dr. Barge’s new initiative, “Making Education Work for all Georgians” seeks to connect pathways for learning to future career options. “We need to give students the opportunity to experience a career, to learn whether or not they want to do it,” John Barge said. “Right now there are no clear connections between the educational program of study and opportunities in the labor market.”
Building on the success the State Board of Education’s improvements to the state’s core curriculum adding needed rigor, the new initiative could provide the missing link between education relevance and student interest. According to Dr. Barge, of the 70 percent of high school graduates who enroll in college, only 33 percent will graduate with a degree. “America has the world’s highest rate of college dropouts,” Barge said.
At a time when future job opportunities will universally require at least one year of college beyond high school, we must strengthen the path that leads from the schoolhouse to the workplace. In a global, high-tech economy, our Nation and our state must continuously improve the educational experience. Our process for learning must integrate the knowledge of the head while incorporating the work of the hand. Experiential learning must take the place of lecturing.
In addition to the strong rigor now available through our curriculum, and the introduction of career pathways that organize a student’s approach to their education, we also must re-invent our local systems in a way that capitalize on the institutional changes coming from the State Board of Education. We must do school differently.
Career and College courses not only need to be available to all students at all schools, we should structure the organization for delivering these courses efficiently and effectively. There should be a CEO of College and Career education that delivers these education courses at all middle and high schools. The current Career Academy should be the central location for expensive college and career classes that require expensive labs such as manufacturing, engineering, or dental hygiene. Even if both school systems remain separate, we could integrate college and career learning across both systems under integrated leadership.
The new “Making Education Work for all Georgians” initiative will only be successful through new and expanded offerings of intern, coop, and apprenticeship opportunities. Business and Industry will have to partner with our education leaders to develop opportunities for students to taste a career before ordering it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. By exposing students earlier to career opportunities, we can transform a passive and expensive education system into a proactive system that delivers a much higher return on investment than today’s system.
For America to once again lead the world in the area of innovation and for us to stop falling behind our global competitors, we have to change. The State Board of Education and Supt. Barge seem to get it. Will we as a community step up and answer the call by instituting the necessary reforms? The time is now …