An inclusive education

Kayla Bourgeois holds up her diploma during Texas City High School's 2011 graduation ceremony. 

Photo by Kevin M. Cox

TEXAS CITY — Cynthia Lusignolo can’t help but think about her children when she looks at Texas’ high school graduation requirements.

The Texas City school superintendent’s two older children, Sean and Emily, both received college degrees in 2007. Sean owns a welding and fabrication business, while Emily trains commercial pilots.

What concerns Lusignolo is that Texas’ current graduation requirements are written for students who plan on attending college, while seeming to ignore the needs of pupils who are going to go on to careers that don’t require a college education.

“Which of (my children) is more valuable to our society and which of these career choices is more worthy of our respect?” she asked. “Naturally, we would say they are both equally valuable and worthy of our respect, but our current Texas accountability system places far greater emphasis on her choices than on his, and our educational system is designed to support her in her pursuit of achieving her dreams, while it steers him and thousands of other men and women away from his.”

Current graduation requirements, commonly called the 4-by-4 plan, require students to earn 26 credits, with four each in English, math, science and social studies.

Pupils also must have two credits of a foreign language, one each of physical education and fine arts and a half-credit in communications applications.

That plan leaves only 5.5 credits for electives, which Lusignolo said is not enough.

“It leaves very little room in their schedule to explore a skilled trade,” she said. “We have kids with natural talents for trades, and they are having to postpone their trade education until after high school.”

Lusignolo would like to see a graduation plan similar to one drawn up by the Galveston County Schools Consortium that allows students to have a freer schedule.

The group’s plan would require four credits in English, three in math, two in science and three in social studies, along with two credits in a foreign language, one in fine arts and 1.5 in physical education. That leaves 9.5 credits for electives.

“This would give students the opportunity to select from four or five different areas of specialization based upon their post high school interests,” Lusignolo said.

The superintendent also would like to see a shift in how the population looks at blue-collar workers.

Lusignolo told of a conversation she had with another educator whose son was about to receive an electrician’s license.

“He said, ‘You know, he’s really very bright, but he just wasn’t motivated so he ...’ and I stopped him right there and I said, ‘You don’t have to apologize for your son’s career choice as an electrician,’ she said.

“There’s no shame in becoming an electrician instead of becoming a college-educated white collar worker. It’s time for us to stop apologizing for our young people who want to pursue a career in a skilled trade. Our accountability system needs to reflect our support of them in the same way it reflects our support of our college-bound students.” 

(11) comments

Jose' Boix

I like the approach to enhance a route via the technical/vocational path for our high school students.
While I'm from the old-days/old-school, I recall that we had several paths for students to "graduate" and become successful citizens. Some of these paths were; electro-mechanical, commerce and business schools and finally the "Normal" school to train teachers!
While those were the days of no computers - pencil/paper did work - we can look back and be rewarded with the knowledge that most of us survived the 21st Century and adapted to the "high tech" devices and controls - like the ones industry has!

Tamala Robinson

Thank you for this article. I agree 100% that Texas educational system should take a long and hard look at what is needed in at least 40% of the workforce today. Blue collar workers are in demand that have the necessary job skill that employers are searching for. Not all students are going to get a 4 years degree and we need auto mechanics, cosmetology, welding and more implemented into the high school curriculum. I was a VOE student and the skills that I learned in high school have helped me with my career in the legal field today.

Tonya Creel

I could not agree more with the superintendent. As a college professor, I see students who may not be college material, but who would thrive in a trade of some sort. Unfortunately, we make people feel badly for choosing a trade over a college degree. The world requires all kinds of people, each with their own special skill set. I can only hope that more people will realize that there is no shame in not earning a college degree. One simply needs to become a productive member of society and take whichever route is most conducive to his/her talents.

Paul Hyatt

Many of us did well coming out of HS and going straight into the work force. While I will admit that a college degree would have given me more opportunities in life, I can not complain about where I ened up before I retired almost 2 years ago. Trades are an honorable way to make a living which is far better then doing nothing in life.

Gary Miller

My parents scrimped and saved to pay for college for me.
Before graduating from TCISD I told them I wasn't going to college. They wanted to know why. Because the jobs a degree would provide don't suit my chosen lifestyle.
After 33 years working shift work at Union Carbide and fishing or playing golf every day I wasn't working the day shift I retired at 50 years old. Most of the kids in my graduation class that went to college aren't retiring before 65 or 70.
I remember comparing my W 2 with an A&M grad engineer. His gross was half mine and he had to work the day shift while I was out fishing.
My parents college fund became a retirement account when my younger siblings also turned down college.

Gary Miller

TC is surrounded by industry. One of the nations highest job densities in America.
Most TC paychecks are for "craft" rather than "degree" employment.
If our ISD schools taught the needed skills the local labor market would be covered by local talent.
Reading, math and language are needed by all job classifications. Art, sociality, music and cooking are needed by a rare few.
I'd require at least one full credit each on the Constitution, History, finance and biology. What I'd call citizenship credits.
Teaching sports has more intertainment than employment value.

Steve Bock

First of all let me say that Texas City was very lucky to find a superintendent who is looking out for all of the students. I had 4 children 3 of which on and got a degree in accounting and one that went thru the automotive program at La Marque ISD. La Marque was alway winning first in state contest. There are others who went thru the program and have a Marine automotive shop in La Marque and are doing great. My son that went thru the program at La Marque has done very well from taking the program. La Marque also had a welding program as well as Texas CIty.

Gary Miller

It should pointed out that college can be a trap for many young people. A couple of years before dropping out are expencive. Without a "degree" job and late starting a "craft" job makes two years of college loans hard to pay back.
How much, time and money, are they willing to pay to learn college isn't for them?
If they are in college to avoid working they may even worse off.

Lars Faltskog

I think the "take home" here lies in the title of the article. I happen to think that our state is on the right track by having at least 3 graduation programs: core/minimum, recommended, and distinguished.

I think there should be a 4th program that is a more rudimentary step from "core". That is, geometry is a "tall" order for some, and so is chemistry. Take away those two class requirements. Replace chemistry with some other less involved science. Replace geometry with a "math spirit and use" type class.

Maybe P.E. and health should be waived so that more classes/time can be spent with cosmetology, welding, etc. As much as I support intellectualism and advanced education - it isn't for everybody.

Gary Miller

What the student "wants"?
That mindset is ruining America.
Understanding the difference between want and need was what created the American dream.
Society funds education because an educated labor force is "needed". Adding "wanted" things adds cost and cuts quality.
The bureaucracy is glad to add wanted things. It's a way to add cost and bureaucrats.

Lars Faltskog

I am of the camp that champions the individual's desire to develop his/her talents. Therefore, I, for one, have no problem with the "desire" or "want" component of this article.

It is basic human nature to be accepted and to 'perfect' one's god-given trade. For some, it is engineering. For others, it is fashion. Then, there are the educators, artists (visual vs. performing). If most of what is available in a school does not relate to a child's "wants" and "desires" he/she willl not want to learn.

This is what some social behaviorist circles call "field sensitive". That is, if you don't like the material, if you don't like the instructor - you will not do so well. As the saying goes - "it is what it is". Yes, we should design our schooling to meet the "wants", "needs", and "desires" of the student. They are the clients. Not the funders, not the parents, nor the instructors.

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