Joe College. For me (and you?), a chance to grow up socially and poke around intellectually. For kids who grow up living in poverty, it's probably the most plausible ticket out. If. If they can get through.
A small but influential group of economists and educators is pushing another pathway: for some students, no college at all. It’s time, they say, to develop credible alternatives for students unlikely to be successful pursuing a higher degree, or who may not be ready to do so.
Whether everyone in college needs to be there is not a new question; the subject has been hashed out in books and dissertations for years. But the economic crisis has sharpened that focus, as financially struggling states cut aid to higher education.
We should help teachers preparing to teach in No Excuses schools become more aware of the issue.
Right now these schools have what I think is an appropriate "College Or Bust" mentality. The basic message for kids and parents is: traditional schools are telling you that your "College Prep" curriculum will (obviously) get your ready for college; but they're totally wrong. Your school is probably way, way, way, way too easy. That's why ours is, in relative terms, hard. Not just for the heck of it. And if we can help you change to working really hard, then there's a very good chance college will be a good fit for you.
But the Big Picture answer, at the macro scale, isn't College For All.
A guy involved with pilot schools approached me some months ago. He wanted to create a rigorous in-district pilot school that was a bridge to the construction trades. He approached top brass but they weren't interested. Seemed like a good idea to me.