Preparing Students for Higher Ed or The Real World?

The title of this post shouldn’t be a question. Additionally, it shouldn’t contain an “OR”!

The photo above is of a sign hanging in a classroom at a well-respected university. The school itself doesn’t matter, because I am sure there are too many like it, in colleges and universities throughout the nation.

As K-12 schools, we are challenged to build the necessary skills students will need to be successful in the “real-world.” However, by now we know that our approach is often in conflict with what students need to be successful in higher ed. Notice, the set of skills is not the same for both. But it should be!

As a middle school principal, I constantly hear about how we need to do certain things differently, or in some cases, not provide certain supports, in order to “prepare our students for high school.” I usually respond by reminding people that our primary purpose is to educate our students in our curricular areas, and build the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace. In response, I often hear how we are setting kids up for failure. But why should we have to do things that are not in the best interest of student learning, just because high schools or colleges do them? I refuse to budge from making sure we are doing what’s best for students, regardless of what anyone else is doing.

So why do many high schools have different views on what’s educationally appropriate and necessary? Of course — It’s because of what colleges and universities deem educationally appropriate and necessary. But what if they’re wrong? What if many of our post-secondary institutions, who are notoriously slow to change, are not doing what’s best for students? What if they are still refusing to embrace the power of leveraging technology in and out of the classroom to engage students in a type of learning necessary to compete in the real-world? What if the professors in our universities have been out of real-world practice and have only been doing research and teaching college courses? What about the fact that many university professors are/were knowledgeable in their fields, but frankly are just poor teachers? Should they be setting the example for K-12 schools to follow?

To be honest, I’m tired. I’m tired and frustrated with higher ed dictating what high schools should be doing, and down the line. There are too many decisions influenced by higher ed that shouldn’t be. Grading practices would be the first one I’d like to throw out the window. But there are others.

Whether you are at the elementary, middle or high school level: How are you, or your school, negatively influenced by practices of schools at the level above you?