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.”