Santa Rosa City Schools’ push for all students to take college-prep classes is, in my opinion, a simplistic approach to meeting the needs of all high school students, and it could accelerate the high school dropout rate and even increase juvenile delinquency (“SR to require college-prep classes,” April 26).
My concern is based on my many years as a teacher and several years as an educational consultant at a local juvenile hall.
Many of my inmates had dropped out of school, joined gangs, indulged in drugs or petty crimes and ultimately ended up at juvenile hall. However, a popular vocational assessment (Holland’s Self-Directed Search) provided me with possible answers as to why many of these inmates dropped out of school and ended up in juvenile hall.
Over the course of my five years at juvenile hall, I assessed more than 200 male and female inmates. About 75 percent of them had three major vocational interests defined as realistic, social and conventional. The realistic, social and conventional personalities defines vocational types associated with one’s kinesthetic (hands-on) intelligence — jobs such as carpenter, plumber, electrician, etc. In addition, about 75 percent of my female assessments revealed vocational interests that defined a vocational personality drawn to work with individuals in a hands-on social setting, such as hairdresser, dental hygienist, preschool teacher, etc.
Moreover, during the course of my work with juvenile offenders, I noticed a decided positive change in their personalities after we discussed and researched various occupations associated with their vocational interests. In fact, line staff, counselors and teachers noticed an improvement in the inmates’ self-esteem, as well as positive social changes with their behavior, including improved academic performance. I surmised that the positive changes could be because, for one of the few times in their lives, someone was telling them that they could develop skills related to their interests.
The recent discussion concerning development of a college preparatory track is at best shortsighted and doesn’t take into account that some high school students represent multiple intelligences (kinesthetic) and/or vocational personalities (conventional, social, realistic) as a potential reason for their school failure as well as juvenile crime.
Bottom line: Rather than creating only a college-track curriculum, we need more technical programs and, especially, a four-year technical high school to accommodate who exhibit a more hands-on kinesthetic learning style or intelligence. In short, a one-size-fits-all college-prep curriculum cannot accommodate all student’s interests.
David Sortino is the author of “A Guide to How Children Learn” and the director of the Neurofeedback Institute of Sonoma.
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