Public schools must create K-12 associate’s degree for all students

Thousands of racially diverse early-college students leave high school with an associate’s degree. These students are selected based on high academic achievement and gifted and talented recognition.

However, this opportunity should be available for every child.

The recommended program of study includes advanced honors courses, vocational education, cutting-edge technology, automation, and artificial intelligence. K-12 students are in class for approximately 14,000 hours. Schedules are customized based on individual interest, strengths and needs.

Henry J. Pankey

This novel approach requires a rethinking of what is essential to adequately prepare students for the 21st century. School administrators and guidance counselors would continue to create schedules, but the effective use of the most advanced technology would speed up the process with 100 percent accuracy.

In addition, Americans’ $1.45 trillion of college debt in 2017 requires an immediate solution. This would not require additional funds, but a dramatic adjustment in how we schedule students and teachers’ time.

It is no secret that confidence in public schools is on an ever-increasing downward trend. Religious, private and charter schools’ popularity is moving upward at a rapid pace.

Public schools need an extraordinary and successful product to retain and win back their customers.

Professional educators, parents, students and employers would likely support, appreciate and get excited about a new educational system leading to an associate’s degree. Consequently, a child would only need to attend college two additional years for a degree. Both time and costs would be cut by 50 percent.

When motivated, students rise to meet rigorous academic challenges. An associate’s degree would reward them with more than a higher class rank and remote possibility of earning a scholarship to an elite college.

Although, some parents and students will opt for the traditional high-school diploma, all deserve a choice. It is unrealistic to believe 100 percent of young people will attend college. All our youth need marketable skills for jobs and careers. An associate’s degree would rekindle trust in public schools.

Every year over 1.2 million students drop out of high school. Equally dismal, 35 percent quit college their freshman year. This is unacceptable.

Many school improvement plans and revisions contain duplicate syllabuses under a generic name, longer hours and preparation to pass high-stakes standardized tests. It is time to embrace higher-education rigor and marketable skills for non-college bound students.

Change is uncomfortable and unpredictable. It is necessary to create the possibility that the 14,000 hours students spend during K-12 classroom instruction will result in an associate’s degree. Graduation would ensure that poor, middle class and rich students have an equal opportunity to receive two years of college.

Teachers are wonderful unsung heroes. Americans are proud of our good 19th and20th century schools. They were crown jewels during their time. Now we face new challenges to keep up with the international education revolution and world of work

After 14,000 hours in K-12 schools, our children deserve an associate’s degree; $1.4 trillion of college-student debt is not necessary, sustainable or defensible.

Our children deserve a world-class education without super-sized debt. If not now, when?

Henry J. Pankey is a former Durham Public Schools educator. Reach him at eaglehjp@aol.com