What leads to higher attendance, lower drop-out rates, and more students applying to college?

High schools in California are merging traditional college prep high school coursework with hands on vocational opportunities, and initial studies on such pilot programs show very promising results.  Attendance at these schools is higher, drop out rates are lower, and more of the graduates from such vocational schools are applying to college.  Most encouragingly, twice as many at-risk students are completing core classes in these schools as compared to traditional high schools.

What is it about these schools that is grabbing – and keeping – students’ attention?

When asked what they most want out of education, most students respond that they want more real world applications for what they are learning.  Sure they can memorize a tedious equation, but when they know why they are doing so, the memorization becomes much less tedious.

 Vocational schools give students the opportunity to put their hard earned knowledge to good use.  In the medical magnet they get hands-on use of real medical equipment that lets them measure their peers’ vital stats.  In green energy classes, students get to make their own bio-diesel.  In engineering classes they can design and build a bicycle-driven ambulance which might have very real – and very important – applications in third world countries that lack access to cars.

It’s hard to motivate people.  As a tutor, I find that it’s easy to teach those that come motivated, but nearly impossible to help those that don’t.  These vocational schools help boost students’ motivation, so it would do us all good if this trend toward making schooling more real-world relevant catches on in a big way.  Watch here. 

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A few years ago, in an attempt to manage the volume of information I was expected to learn as a medical student, I read the book “Make it Stick”.  This book details the new science around how we convert short term memory to long term memory, and how to make studying super efficient.  It teaches […]

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