Endorsements Aren’t the Answer

I’m one of those teachers who drinks the koolaid on a regular basis. I jump on board with lots of new fangled ideas, especially when they include words like research based and data driven. If you’ve spent any time reading my blog at all, you know that. So when I first heard about endorsements–sort of majors for high school students–I was excited. Kids need a path planned for what comes after high school before they leave school. When you have a goal, you can have a plan, and with checklists and timelines and something to measure, plans lead to goal success. 

This year I’m wary of where endorsements are taking us. That’s where this post is coming from. I’m open to discussion here, so please join in if you have an opinion. Endorsements are new and new is always tough. But what I’m seeing feels a little more worrisome than the uncomfortability brought by change. 

THE POST:

In an effort to make sure all students are college or career bound upon graduation, Texas has adopted an endorsement program of study. On the surface, it seems like endorsements are a great plan for student success. 

However, endorsements get it wrong. Yes, ALL students should have a plan in mind when they leave high school. No, endorsements are not the answer. Endorsements are things. They’re like band aids for a giant problem. A true plan for what comes after high school comes from relationship with a kid. It comes from a counselor who spends true time with a student, who maybe works through Myers Briggs with them and a mentor teacher or two or three who helps a kid through the rocky teen years. It takes a team of people at the school paying attention and staying on top of grades and family issues.  Endorsements don’t do that. 

Working with a student, really working with them, guiding them in a direction that leads to success after high school is an essential component to a school that works. 

If a student plans on a career in any of the trades or education paths offered through CTE centers, they should take that path because those classes are fantastic, and they give kids a foundation for success in a career outside of or alongside college. It’s FANTASTIC that Texas politicians finally understood that college bound only education was a huge failure to so many students. 

However, high school is not ONLY about a plan for the future. And when education is so pigeonholed, so precise, so completely focused on what comes next, it ends up as disasterous test-based only education has been.

I’m a student media adviser. When kids leave my program, they’re definitely ready for a successful future as a mass comm student. They’re ready for ALL successful paths after high school. Because high school media isn’t about a career or college major. It’s about community, the school community a student works and lives in. I have students who are doctors, lawyers, teachers, pharmacists, engineers, actors, directors, city workers, stay at home moms, computer programmers, social media directors, office managers, writers, journalists, photographers,  cinematographers, DJs, professors, ad account managers…the list goes on and on. I’ve done this for 22 years. I have A LOT of kids who have gone through my program. 😊

However, with endorsements, suddenly kids are telling me they can’t take my classes because they’re going to be doctors and they’re taking only STEM classes or they really have to focus on what they want to do after graduation. Kids are FREAKING out because they have no idea what they’re going to do and they feel pressured to choose a path and stick to it at 14 years old. That’s NOT what high school about. It cannot be what high school is about. 

The real answer is to give counselors and teachers more time to nurture student success after high school and to teach students how to plan for success. Endorsements don’t do that.

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6 responses to “Endorsements Aren’t the Answer

  1. Jennifer Campagna

    Thankfully they had the multi-disciplinary option, and we did not have to decide on an specific endorsement because nothing seemed to fit. But she is taking classes in the public service endorsement as electives. Since they need 8 classes each semester. My first impressions are that I don’t care for endorsements. My child has no idea at this time what she wants to be. And it would be pretty hard if she doesn’t decide til senior year which endorsement she wants, she can’t go back and get them then. I just see it is stressful and confusing .

    • That’s what I’m hearing. Maybe it will even out as we get used to the change. I hate the push for kids to figure out their futures so early. Maybe someone will help us all understand that that’s not the purpose of endorsements at all. 😊

  2. Restricting students to a narrow field of study when they are high school age limits their potential. In most fields, colleges want well rounded students. One of my former students told me he was admitted to UT Southwestern Med School not only because of his MCAT and his undergrad grades. There were other applicants who had similar scores who didn’t get in. The interviewers told him that one of the things that set him apart was his knowledge of history.

    • That’s interesting! I hope I’m misunderstanding the thought behind endorsements. I hope the narrow field of study is a misinterpretation of the idea. We will see. It’s worrisome.

  3. I’ve been opposed to endorsements from the beginning. From a brain development point of view, kids in middle school and at least through 10th grade – and I could argue through 12th grade – should be exposed to as many things as possible. They should be jacks of all trades and masters of none.

    From a practical life POV, it is rare between leaving high school and retiring (because of time constraints if you have a busy job and family life) that you can just take a class because it interests you and has no value to you beyond your enjoyment in learning the subject. So, another argument that we should have our high school aged kids take a bigger variety of classes.

    I was driving home from the school run yesterday thinking about the electives my classmates and I took and how we had more chances to take electives. Not just b/c of fewer core requirements – and those changes are probably good – but also b/c our school day could be longer if we so chose. We could take up to two extra classes each grading period. That’s just how our school was set up. Bizarre, I know, but that wasn’t the only bizarre thing our school did. Different time, different place, but I’m sad my kids can’t take more electives just because.

    • Good points. I agree the fact that we have more core requirements is a good thing. I don’t understand some of the choices the state has made where core is concerned (no tech requirement needed because students “know” technology, world history OR world geography instead of AND) but a strong base is important. With the endorsement change I think the politicians’ hearts were in the right place. It will be interesting to see what happens moving forward. I LOVED taking classes because I could. Those days were so fun. Coursera and iTunes U offer a taste of that life, but it’s not the same.

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