The Pandemic Offers an Opportunity to Rethink K-16 Education

Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, The Superintendents Association, recently wrote a piece for the National Student Clearinghouse, claiming that the pandemic provides an opportunity to rethink the education system and to move toward exposing K-12 students to “opportunities and pathways that are available other than just a college degree.”

“The reality is that after all is said and done only about 40 percent of students wind up with a four-year college degree,” he said. “The question is what happens to the other 60 percent.” Domenech said those students are often “ill prepared to do anything else, because the opportunity wasn’t created in K-12.”

One solution that could stretch beyond the pandemic: Increase dual enrollment. “We’ve seen a significant growth of dual enrollment programs where students can begin taking community college credits while they’re still in high school,” Domenech said, adding that some students can graduate high school with an associate’s degree already.

Another option: Boost apprenticeships. There had been a surge in youth apprenticeship programs in high schools, Domenech said, but the pandemic has taken a toll on their growth. Getting students into the workplace for skill-based learning has “pretty much been put on hold,” he said.

While apprenticeship and dual enrollment programs are picking up speed, “in most cases in most school systems this is not the status quo,” he said. But “there’s a greater willingness to collaborate and work together, basically building towards a K-16 system rather than just K-12.” 

The Clearinghouse is playing a pivotal role in the development of the Learning and Employment Record (LER), a digital record of learning and work, that can facilitate collaboration between K-12, higher education, and the business community. The LER provides verifiable information about a person’s achievements in education or training processes, whether, in the classroom or workplace, that can be shared among learners, learning institutions, and employers.

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