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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Joe Graba, Former head of Minnesota Technical College System
and founding partner of Education|Evolving

April 24, 2015

Employers key in changing bias against career-technical education

Overview

With a 50-year-plus career in almost all aspects of Minnesota education, Education|Evolving's Joe Graba discusses the challenge of improving career technical education (CTE) as a key component of improving education overall. In particular, he suggests that cultural bias favoring academic education over career technical education is getting in the way of assuring an adequately trained workforce in Minnesota. Because of their need for a dependable supply of qualified workers, employers must play a key role in changing such cultural bias. They must help students and parents appreciate technical education's advantages in salary potential, abundant job opportunities, and savings in training time and tuition.

 

Graba contends it is unrealistic to expect that significant educational improvement can occur without changes in delivery systems of education. Improvements are more likely via significant disruptions in traditional education. One helpful disruption, he suggested, is to upgrade the teachers' role from that of being too closely directed by government regulation and school administrators to being more autonomous and fully in charge of the education process.

For the complete interview summary see: Graba interview

 

Response Summary: Readers rated these statements about the topic and about points discussed during the meeting, on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

  

1. Topic is of value. The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

 

2. Further study warranted. It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

 

3. Bias toward academics an impediment. Cultural bias favoring academic education over career technical education is getting in the way of assuring an adequately trained work force in Minnesota.

 

4. Employers must help change this bias. Because of their need for a good supply of qualified workers, employers must play a key role in changing such cultural bias.

 

5. Recognize advantages of technical education. Students and parents should value a technical education's advantage in salary potential, abundant job opportunities, and savings in training time and tuition.

 

6. Significant disruption required. Improvements in education outcomes are more likely via significant disruptions in traditional education, rather than incremental change.

 

7. Allow more teacher autonomy. One helpful disruption would be to upgrade the teachers' role from that of being directed by government regulation and higher-paid administrators to being fully in charge of the classroom themselves.

 

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

0%

0%

0%

33%

67%

9

2. Further study warranted.

0%

0%

0%

67%

33%

9

3. Bias toward academics an impediment.

0%

0%

0%

67%

33%

9

4. Employers must help change this bias.

0%

0%

0%

56%

44%

9

5. Recognize advantages of technical education.

0%

0%

0%

67%

33%

9

6. Significant disruption required.

11%

0%

22%

33%

33%

9

7. Allow more teacher autonomy.

0%

11%

11%

56%

22%

9


Individual Responses:

Bert LeMunyon  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)

 5. Recognize advantages of technical education. These options need to be explained to students and parents while the students are still in high school.

 

7. Allow more teacher autonomy. I don't think this will work as long as the teachers unions are involved

 

Laura Gilbert  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

 1. Topic is of value. Yes. Joe is a wealth of experience and insight.

 

2. Further study warranted. Yes. I'm particularly interested in further perspectives on the sticking points that may prevent employers from moving toward more acceptance of non-BA credentials, without feeling like they are sacrificing quality or moving backwards.

 

3. Bias toward academics an impediment. I believe this is one of the stronger roadblocks although not the only one.  A challenge I see is that the message for decades (and that still continues) is less "cultural bias" than actual data on the financial advantages over a lifetime for those holding academic credentials. The problem is the data is based on a model of financial and social success that has shifted, particularly in light of student debt.

 

4. Employers must help change this bias. This is indeed key. When enough employers shift hiring practices to include "equal" opportunities and rewards for equal performers who don't hold a degree, the data will begin to shift and families will begin to trust that it might be safe to NOT go the now-traditional four-year-college route.

 

5. Recognize advantages of technical education. But they won't, and can't, until the charts comparing lifetime earnings by degree look different.

 

6. Significant disruption required. Absolutely. With the coming workforce shortage, businesses may face a crisis strong enough to make change imperative.

 

7. Allow more teacher autonomy. The challenge here, in my humble opinion, is in defining "fully in charge" as well as "teacher". Given current legislation that expands the opportunity for "community experts" to take on the role of K-12 teacher, it would be important to make sure those that were put fully in charge of a classroom had the skills and motivation in doing so. Similar to the technical versus academic issue described earlier, some highly skilled teachers aren't necessarily interested in also taking on a broader role, while other individuals may be more inclined to become teachers if that broader role is a real option.

 

R. C. Angevine  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)

 3. Bias toward academics an impediment. I agree.  We need the students of today to be preparing for all different sorts of careers if we are to continue growth in the US.

 

4. Employers must help change this bias. They need to demonstrate their needs and the benefits to their future employees.  They must become part of the solution.

 

6. Significant disruption required. Not sure about this.

 

7. Allow more teacher autonomy. Do feel that teachers need to be more involved in the solution.

 

Scott Halstead  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)

 4. Employers must help change this bias. Employers apply a lot of pressure seeking financial assistance from government as they expand. They need to look at the education system, develop relationships with the schools, promote their job opportunities and offer attractive financial rewards.

 

5. Recognize advantages of technical education. Businesses need to value their employees at a much higher level than at present.

 

7. Allow more teacher autonomy. For those teachers that have demonstrated the capability to work independently at a high level.

 

In the northern metro area, we have many small cities with consolidated school districts.  Many of the school districts serve all or portions of communities.  The schools and communities often don't work well together.  I'm sure this harms the communities in attracting new businesses and having school systems responsive to the needs of business.

 

Dr. Nathan J. Johnson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (0)  (2.5)

 1. Topic is of value. I spent 34 years in education as a secondary "academic" as well as "vocational" teacher, Vocational Local Program Center director, Adult Vocational Education Program director, assistant technical college director, technical college president, and K-12 superintendent of schools. I would be in favor of giving some teachers "more latitude" in the curriculum development/offering direction. In the small and large school districts that I served I feel that most teachers had plenty of input/action in their classrooms, curriculum, and teaching strategies.

 

2. Further study warranted. Interviews are fine, but action is needed for change to occur.

 

3. Bias toward academics an impediment. The focus should be on career education at the K-12 level. By exposure to a variety of career options in all curricular cluster areas students would have a better idea of at least a "cluster area” by the time the are ready to enter into higher education. Then based upon their perceived career goal they get the kind of higher education that is appropriate for their career choice. That could be "vocational" or "academic" or both. When I was president of Moorhead Technical College we had a lot of students who came for technical training after they had received a bachelor's degree.

 

4. Employers must help change this bias. Employers are an excellent resource for determining workforce needs and trends.

 

5. Recognize advantages of technical education. More and more this is the case, especially with the media emphasis on STEM.

 

6. Significant disruption required. Institutional culture is slow to change in education of business, unless there is a catastrophic reason.

 

7. Allow more teacher autonomy. I think most teachers have a lot of independence in the classroom. Teachers, like every other profession, fall along a bell curve and may not be ready to, or want to "be fully in charge."

 

You may find it helpful to survey [or] interview retired educators from a variety of positions for their input.

 

Vici Oshiro  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

 3. Bias toward academics an impediment. But we need the academics too.

 

6. Significant disruption required. But [I would be] reluctant to accept massive change to charter schools as the answer.

 

7. Allow more teacher autonomy. If we can figure out the accountability issue and pay teachers more, maybe we can engineer to disruption.

 

Yes, to giving teachers more authority.  But who is going to establish the goals and objectives?  We don't want each teacher or even each school establishing a different framework.

 

Chuck Lutz  (9)  (8)  (8)  (9)  (9)  (7)  (8)

 

James Cammarato  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

 1. Vocational technical apprenticeships must be integrated into the high school curriculum (even adding a 13th year as some think tanks have suggested), alongside an evolving college preparatory curriculum. Getting students involved before high school graduation is an essential mindset change for future success.

 

2. Local government must adapt a mindset of creating sustainable business communities.

 

Paul Hauge  (8)  (7)  (8)  (9)  (9)  (7)  (8)

 

Wayne Jennings  (10)  (10)  (10)  (8)  (10)  (10)  (8)

 Graba has led efforts at change for decades and hence knows the near impossibility [of] significant systemic change. I and other high school principals lamented the loss of “shop” classes in favor of more academics. Those decisions were made by academically biased policy makers who didn’t get the realities of schooling, meaning the great diversity of student interests and talents.

 

We’ve created a weird drive in students and parents that “college” was the necessary (and only) next step. What happened is that kids went to college and found themselves sitting in classes not unlike the academic classes they had endured in high school. Many couldn’t cut it and most found them irrelevant despite the greater freedom of movement on campus and dropped out.  Meanwhile, in the shadows, the technical colleges became among the most innovative postsecondary education institutions, especially where they weren’t dominated by their forced marriage, academic community college partner.

 

As for teacher-led schools, I, as a teacher, and my innovative colleagues would have given anything to participate. That was/is the great hope with charter schools—freedom from local bureaucracy, rules, uniform expectations, always playing “Captain, may I” and getting the answer, “no.” Fortunately, highly innovative charter schools, though a small number, developed and operate—often needing to fly under the radar for fear of running afoul of some growing, always growing, state regulation.
 

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The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (Executive Director), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (Chair), Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman

 

 

 


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The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.
 

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