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Redesigning the High School Experience

Indian girl youth2 resizedYear after year, ERCA survey results provide rich details on what today’s students think about their interests and goals. Recent research focused on career and technical education, for instance, has demonstrated that today’s high school students see there is much more to their future’s than just a bachelor’s degree from a liberal arts college.

As these students continue to speak, and speak loudly, we are now seeing policymakers listening to them. Last week, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed legislation that would restructure the high school experience in Virginia, giving students more options for transitioning from high school directly into career.

McAuliffe noted, as reported in The Washington Post, “Our high schools don’t work the way they should any more. They were built for the Industrial Revolution. We now live in a 21st-century economy. Our students deserve much better and I know that our high schools can do so much more than they’ve done.”

The Commonwealth of Virginia should be applauded for realizing there is not one single path that every student should follow to be a success. Yes, some students will benefit greatly from earning a four-year college degree, and even graduate school after that. Others will find tremendous value in securing a two-year degree focused on their career passions. And others, as McAuliffe notes, can get much from a high-school experience that focuses on what they need to know and be able to do to transition right into a 21st century workplace.

As Virginia works out the details of this high school redesign, many states will likely be watching it, seeking to adjust their own pathways to meet the needs of the community, employers, and the students themselves.

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