Will easing diploma standards decrease the dropout rate? - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Will easing diploma standards decrease the dropout rate?

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Could learning to make stuff and fix what's broken be a big part of the formula for keeping kids in school?

Dan Patrick, Chairman of the Texas Senate Education committee is convinced expanding vocational training in Texas High schools can put a major dent in the drop out rate.

"It's about lifting up career and putting it on the same level as college," said Patrick.

As part of that plan Patrick is pushing big changes in what a student must achieve to earn a diploma.

As the law stands now each Texas high school student must pass four years of English, math, social studies and science

Patrick's proposal would require just three years of each core subject - a path designed for students set on joining the job force rather than heading to college.

Ideally, these "career" bound students would re-direct time and energy to different kinds of classrooms where kids learn valuable, wage paying skills.

"We've devalued blue collar work in this country. We have to focus on getting a student ready for career as well as college," said Patrick.

Critics complain that by lowering core academic demands for graduation Patrick's plan will weaken the overall product of Texas public schools.

Others suggest creation of the "career path" diploma smacks of low expectation and even racism.

Bob Wimpelberg, former dean of the University of Houston's school of Education, firmly disagrees and views Patrick's proposal as pragmatic and potentially productive.

"We are leaving a huge number of jobs on the table because we don't have kids qualifying for them, because their only options are drop out of school or take a four year baccalaureate pathway. We've got to find the in between. Our kids need it and our economy needs it," said Wimpelberg who now heads All Kids Alliance.

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