Wednesday, April 6, 2011

College should be a goal for Kuna school district

Kuna school board members had an interesting discussion last month regarding long-term goals they have for the district. Unfortunately, they didn’t come to any solid conclusions or set any concrete goals.
What I see occurring is a clear-cut fork in the road: One leads toward increased professional-technical education in Kuna, and the other leads toward increased emphasis on post-secondary education.
Put more simply: Either train Kuna kids better to get a job right out of high school or push them to go on to college.
I’m not sure Kuna can do both, and I’m not sold on the idea that the Kuna school district should become a job-training center.
What I am sold on, though, is pushing more kids to go on to college.
I agree that not every student should go on to higher education. I also agree that there are many jobs out there that do not require a college degree. Can a student with just a high school diploma go out in the world and make a living? Of course. Can a graduate without a college degree become a success? Of course, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. And it’s only going to get harder for those without a college degree.
According to the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, “Without education and training beyond high school, Idaho students will not qualify for two out of three new jobs, will earn about half that of college graduates, will vote less and need more welfare assistance.”
You could make the argument that, based on the number of new jobs requiring education beyond high school, about 67 percent of Kuna High School graduates should be going on to some form of post-secondary education in order to compete for those new jobs.


Angie said...
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Scott McIntosh said...

Angie, Thanks for the comment. I think the argument you are making is that Kuna is already doing both and doing a good job at both.

What I heard at the school board meeting the other night was that Kuna doesn't know how many Kuna students go on to college, so we don't really know right now if Kuna is doing a good job at sending grads onto college.

Board members expressed a desire to better prepare students for college and even to get more Kuna grads into Ivy League schools. I support those desires.

As stated, there really are no hard numbers available right now to quantify Kuna's success at sending graduates to college. Anecdotally, it seems to me that there is a good percentage of Kuna students who should go on to college, may have a desire to go to college but end up not going. I think there's an opportunity there to get more of these Kuna students to go on to college and to prepare them to succeed in college. Idaho currently ranks 50th in the nation in college retention from freshman to sophomore year, so it would seem that some improvements are needed in this area.

As far as job training, what I gathered from the board discussion was that in these times of limited resources, it was not going to be possible to increase professional-technical education. I have no doubt that Kuna is offering some great opportunities for students right now, but I think the question lies with expanding those opportunities.

I would argue that given the choice of increasing the number of students going on to college or increasing professional technical education, I would side with increasing the number of graduates going on to college, primarily because a college degree is going to be more and more necessary for our graduates who want to land better-paying jobs in the future.

What to do with professional-technical education? Don't eliminate that, obviously, but Kuna should come up with a cost-effective way to deliver that type of education to students who want it.

I appreciate you recognizing that the editorial comes from having our students' best interests at heart. That's the intent.

Scott McIntosh