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Florida's HB 7087: Career Prep for All Middle School Students
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Should all middle school children spend class time for vocational education? Some Florida state legislators think so.

Prior federal attempts to set up vocational activity for all students was called School-to-Work. Today at the state level, similar plans fall under headings like Career and Technical Education (CTE), Smaller Learning Communities (SLC), and "high school redesign/renewal."

On March 21, 2006, Florida Representatives passed House Bill 7087 with an 85 to 35 vote. Among its workforce training plans, the education-related bill includes career education mandates for middle school students.

The May 12th bill amendments — approved 39 to 1 in the Florida Senate — contain the requirement of "One course in career and education planning to be completed in 7th or 8th grade." The course "must include career exploration." Each student is required to complete a "personalized academic and career plan" — similar in concept to the individual education plan (IEP) that has been used for students with special needs.

The bill also includes workforce training goals embedded in high school reforms: Smaller Learning Communities with occupational clusters; school-within-a-school career academies; academic curriculum integrated with a career curriculum; occupational completion points; internships, externships, on-the-job training; "instruction resulting in competency, certification, or credentials in workplace skills"; industry certification; and more.

Cornering kids into careers 
In the Miami Herald's "Lawmakers to seventh-graders: Start planning your careers now," (4-9-2006) Florida school administrators cite problems with engaging middle school kids with career activity. Broward School Superintendent Frank Till explained, "Kids at that age really don't get locked into what they want to be . . . They have more of what I call dream careers. . . . A high percentage of our boys wanted to be professional athletes and a high percentage of our girls wanted to be models and actresses."

Principal Rebecca C. Dahl of Fort Lauderdale's Sunrise Middle School, commented, "I think it's too early because the children just at this age don't have a lot of clues on what they want to do when they get out of high school." (Miami Herald, 4-9-2006)

Furthermore, according to the Miami Herald, "Some principals worry that kids would have to give up a class like band or art if they're forced to take a course in careers." Pioneer Middle school principal Lina Arnold commented, "How will we know if they want to be an artist if they never get to take an art class?"

Merging the vocational with academics and emphasizing attitude/value/behavior goals is practiced in:

Countryper capita income*
Cuba$3,300 (2005 est)
China$6,300 (2005 est)
Russia$10,700 (2005 est)

*Source: The World Fact Book, CIA, updated 4-20-2006.

". . . in the communist ideology . . . education is tied directly to job — control of the job being the critical control point in an authoritarian state."

— Eugene Maxwell Boyce (Professor of Educational Administration, Univ. of Georgia), The Coming Revolution in Education, 1983.

Recycling old school reforms 
Transforming U.S. education into workforce training was precipitated with the 1989 Convention on Vocational and Technical Education adopted by the UNESCO General Conference. In the U.S., the idea to merge vocational and academic education was addressed in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Amendments as well as in the 1994 federal law called the School-to-Work Opportunities Act.

School-to-Work's Title I cited:

  • "career awareness and career exploration and counseling (beginning at the earliest possible age, but not later than the 7th grade)"

  • "initial selection by interested students of a career major not later than the beginning of the 11th grade"

  • "a program of instruction and curriculum that integrates academic and vocational learning" (P.L. 103-239, Sec. 102)

Florida's HB 7087 would bring the state's education laws into closer alignment with the old global/federal initiatives to convert education to workforce training.

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