Writing: The fortieth part of literacy?

Drawing of man and student is on cover of Literacy handbook for CTE teachersThe students who filled my English 101 classes over the years have been in the career and technical education arena.

Many of them are very smart folks, but they don’t know how to apply their smarts to writing.

While looking this week for resources for teaching such students, I discovered an teacher handbook called How Do You Expect Me To Teach Reading and Writing? which appears to be prepared for North Carolina CTE teachers.

Of the 82 pages in the handbook, only pages 15 and 16 are devoted exclusively to teaching writing.

Some of the literacy strategies discussed in section 4 of the handbook could be used in teaching topics related to writing; however, I didn’t see any strategies for actually teaching writing.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think it’s off balance to devote just 1/40 of a handbook about teaching reading and writing to teaching writing?

Rural school-community-economy development resources

Curved arrows labeled Education, Economy, and Community chase one another in front of a green triangle.In rural communities, schools cannot be considered separate from economic development and community development. The vitality and policies of any one of the three impacts the other two.

Over the last eight years, the relationships of schools with their communities has been a recurring theme in my blogging. While I was digging out some of my writing on the topic for #RuralEdChat on Twitter, I decided I ought to post a list of resources that others might find helpful. I began with my own writing, but I am starting to add resources from other individuals and organizations, adding annotations to draw attention to an unusual insight or feature.

What’s happening in rural America?

Hollowing Out the Middle, dustjacketThe changing face of rural schools The number of students in rural schools in America is growing, becoming more diverse, and a significant number of those students are poor.

The rural brain brain Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas study of rural America showed a hollowing out: a loss of its most talented young people at the same time the rural economy has been transformed for those who stay.

Will new blood cure rural brain drain? The net migration rates suggest not enough people are immigrating to rural areas to offset the losses caused by young people moving away for college and jobs.

Who is to blame for rural brain drain?

Schools are complicit in rural brain drain Researchers found rural schools and their communities groom their brightest students for jobs and lifestyles not available locally, while giving almost no support to students who remain in the local area.

How could rural schools aid in community development?

Communities as school revenue streams Thinking of school as “a self-sustaining revenue facility” is a way to address school budgetary problems as well as wider community problems around medical care, food access, and community programming.

How could rural schools aid in economic development?

Beating the brain drain Changes to the education system can help alleviate the rural brain drain in small-town America, experts say.

Could schools grow a local economy? Greenville (NY) High School created what is, in effect, a small business incubator within its facility, giving a business rent in exchange for hands-on work experience for its high school students.

Entrepreneurship as rural economic key Creating their own jobs is a way for rural students to remain in rural communities. The Internet makes it possible for them to get advanced training, often for little or no cost.

Add skill applications to high school courses When teachers insert the question, “What you can do with this skill?” in coursework across the curriculum, they encourage students to graduate high school with entrepreneurial mindsets.

Teens see challenges, build solutions, even make money Examples of teens who have looked around them and found problems they wanted to solve.

How can rural schools and communities collaborate?

The challenge of providing challenges to adolescents Schools, businesses, and communities need to give teens opportunities to work alongside adults, to contribute to their communities, and to develop and apply real skills.

Integrating life with school for adult high schoolers Adding non-academic services helps dropouts get on track to diplomas and jobs.

Expand learning at shrinking playground Let’s require students to apply classroom knowledge to real world writing situations and offer hands-on learning of salable skills. [corrected link 2017-01-26]

This school grows its future teachers A two-course program allows students considering a teaching career to find out what being a teacher entails. The program not only develops teachers, but helps prepare future school board members and business leaders knowledgeable about how to support schools.

Teen after school programs that do more than distract Communities have initiated a variety of programs modeled after adult continuing education courses, apprenticeships, internships, and businesses to give their young people opportunities to do work that’s valuable in their home communities while developing skills and a work ethic.

Helping teens get ready for work Many first jobs aren’t fun. Students need to be taught how to adjust their attitudes and their jobs to make them opportunities to find challenge, enjoyment, concentration, and deep involvement.

What about the “no college for me” kids?

Support for Rural Vo-Tech Kids Articulation agreements may handicap the career and technical education students’ chances of success as compared to the chances of their academically oriented peers.

Ideas for businesses that require no college Six ideas for businesses serving the business market that require no post-high school training.

Skill acquisition without schooling The internet allows someone with determination to learn skills for a good-paying job without the expenses of a college degree.

Building narratives and community from school outward  Place-based, scholarly research by rural students can have direct, positive impact on local economic development.

Who is working on the three-pronged rural problem?

Rural schools as community centers A grassroots movement in Canada that opposes rural school closures and consolidations is attempting to convince the government that in a rural landscape, education cannot be regarded as separate from health, economic development, or tourism.

The Rural School and Community Trust has compiled Tools to fight rural school consolidation.

The Center for Rural Affairs (cfra.org) developed a series of articles on why rural schools need to be kept alive. The articles are available as a 6-page pdf document.

The Orton Family Foundation empowers people to shape the future of their communities by collective, collaborative activities focusing on their unique strengths.

CTE students: Lazy, stupid, irresponsible?

The local school district mailed its annual back-to-school publication to residents last week.

I took particular note of the information about student attendance at BOCES, our regional vocational education provider.

Attendance in BOCES’ Career and Technical Education programs, New Visions programs, Unique Placement programs and Career Academy are privileges that cost our school district substantial amount of funding. To attend these programs, students must annually complete an application and sign a contract for consideration to be approved for attendance. Students displaying poor attendance, poor behavior and/or poor academics thus violating their contract are subject to removal from these programs anytime.

I read that as:

  • Vocational kids are a drain on local resources.
  • Vocational kids are irresponsible.
  • Vocational kids are stupid.
  • Vocational kids should be punished for not being academically apt.
  • Parents shouldn’t expect their vocational program student to get any help from the home school.

If you were the parent of a kid who’d rather tinker with an engine than read Emily Dickinson, would you get the message that the local school didn’t want your kid?

Or am I over-reacting?

More on concurrent enrollment’s value for students

Some months ago, I wrote about concurrent enrollment programs, high school courses that allow students to earn college credits for the work they do at their home high school¹.

In my local school district, students can take courses through Tompkins Cortland Community College. TC3’s Concurrent Enrollment Coordinator, Rhonda Kowalski-Oltz,  told met that on average, students from participating schools earn 10.3 credit hours. (The minimum full-time load student load at TC3 is 12 credit hours per semester, the average course load for a full-time matriculated student is 14-16 credit hours per semester.)

This spring, Kowalski-Oltz, said,  20 concurrently enrolled students will complete associate degrees  (either AA or AS²)  at TC3. All are transferring into four-year colleges as either juniors or second semester sophomores—a huge cost savings for them.

The associate degree advantage

The students who get AA or AS degrees, either when they complete high school or later, may get another benefit as well.

A 2014 Community College Research Center study found students who get a transfer-oriented associate degree before transferring to a four-year institution were 20-percentage points more likely to get their bachelor’s degree within four to six years than those who didn’t complete their AA or AS first.

The CCRC study’s authors say reasons for achievement advantage AA and AS degree holders have may result from the efficiency of transfer-oriented programs in avoiding credit loss upon transfer. It might also result from more subtle factors such as the perception that students who earned an associate degree have the skills and attitudes needed to complete a bachelor’s degree.

As long as students choose courses or sequences with an eye to what will be accepted at the school to which they plan to transfer, dual enrollment courses appear ideal for students planning to continue their education to the bachelor’s level or beyond.

The non-campus advantage for colleges

Dual enrollment also appears to be good for community colleges that accept the penny-pinching, bachelor’s degree seeking students.

I think it’s safe to say TC3 wouldn’t have operated the concurrent enrollment program for so long if it weren’t profitable.

If the students taking college courses at their high schools were enrolled on campus, they would have paid tuition, of course, but the college would also have had to provide instructors, classrooms and laboratories, heat and lights, auxiliary services, and parking places.

If the students had taken distance learning classes, they would have paid tuition. But then college would also have the attrition problems attendant upon distance classes in addition to the cost of instructors, technology, and support services for both instructors and students.

Between 2003 and 2013 the number of high school students participating in dual credit programs at TC3 increased from 2,879 to 8,448, according to Inside Counts, a publication of TC3’s Institutional Research Department, fall 2013 issue. The publication goes on to say this:

The impact [of concurrent enrollments] on TC3, while mostly invisible on the main campus, has been huge in terms of enrollment numbers (Figure 2). As regular credit enrollment declined from a peak in 2010, concurrent enrollment increased to fill much of the gap. In 2003-2004 concurrent students made up approximately 12 percent of the total FTEs (Full Time Equivalent unit equal to 30 credits) in TC#’s budget. By 2012-13 it was up to close to 21 percent of the College’s FTEs.

Winner for baccalaureate-bound

On the whole, dual enrollments look like a good deal for both the high school student seeking an affordable four-year degree and a community college looking for a way to attract students who can bolster its degree-granting success.

Unresolved question

The question that still bugs me is the question of fairness.

Are career-oriented students getting an equivalent degree of help preparing for the workplace as their baccalaureate-seeking peers are getting in preparing for college?

Do the Career-Technical Education (CTE) students get comparable support for a vocationally-oriented associate degree program as students going into more academically-oriented programs?

Do the articulation agreements between CTE programs and community colleges actually reduce the cost of an associate degree for students?

Are taxpayers, especially those in rural and less-desirable urban areas, well-served by programs that help their best students become the next generation of taxpayers someplace else?

I don’t have any answers, but I have some suspicions.


¹In some cases high school students take college courses on a college campus for dual credit, but typically they take courses at their high school.

² AA and AS degrees are designed for students planning to transfer credits to a four-year institution.  A third type of two-year degree (an AAS, for example) marks the conclusion of students’ vocational education prior to their entering the workforce.