There are New Possibilities to Our Perennial Problems: Let's Get Radical!
As vocational faculty we continually adjust our curriculum to the latest standards in industry to ensure that our courses are up to date. In addition, we vocational faculty must strive to keep up with the latest developments on our own campus, meet with our advisory boards to respond to their concerns, try to follow current legislation, and find and keep funding mechanisms. Are there new possibilities to our perennial problems?
I say "yes" and that we, the out-of-the-box thinkers that we are, must this next year come up with some new solutions to our old problems. There are the annual issues of whether the Perkins funding will be renewed or change format.
We always write letters to our federal representatives pleading with them to continue funding, but what if this year we help them come up with new ideas on how to support not only high school vocational programs but also community college programs?
This year's latest version of the Perkins funding has some twists that do not necessarily benefit community colleges, so we must act now. At the state level there is a similar concern. Senator Scott's new funding bill SB 361 does not specifically address vocational funding but does provide a method for perhaps better community college funding. Can we influence legislation for our programs by becoming part of the budget planning process? What if we don't wait until it's too late in the game, but instead meet with college leaders now and work with our local senates to ensure our campus vocational education needs are addressed?
The Legislature has also given the vocational faculty its support and its grief! As always there was a flood of bills that could have impacted on our vocational programs, but I am happy to say that for the most part the ones that benefit us passed and those of concern failed. Many of the bills that passed were of no great concern as they just clarified current law. SB 293 (Workforce Training Act) and SB 1552 (Economic and Workforce Development Program) passed and include funding for our vocational programs-check them out. SB 1309 passed and will help our nursing students and programs. One bill that passed and is of concern is AB 2488 (Hancock), which requires "a sequence of academic and skill instruction leading to an employer-endorsed skill certificate and vocational degree or certificate" for both high school and community colleges. The key role of the faculty in curriculum is overlooked, so what can we do? Again, work with your local advisory committees and high school faculty to ensure that we lead the discussion so that our higher education needs are not lost in this process. Remember that the Academic senate received a grant under SB 70 that focuses on improving the linkages and career-technical pathways between high schools and california community colleges. This grant will provide us with an opportunity to meet with high school faculty to collaborate and develop articulation agreements. Jane Patton is taking the lead on this and you can contact her for more information at jane_patton [at] wvmccd.cc.ca.us.
The System Office Strategic Plan Goal Area C, which affects many vocational programs, is under discussion. Area C3 concerns curriculum and program development and approval processes, and Area C4 addresses regional collaboration through multi-agency networks. Our Academic senate representatives are trying to be a firm guiding hand in these discussions, but there are many competing interests at work as the strategic Plan is implemented, and we have our concerns. We will share more details with you as we are able. Hopefully by plenary time we can have a discussion about these issues and do some creative thinking.
Last but not least, the Board of Governors has approved raising the associate degree requirements as recommended by the Academic Senate to transferable English and intermediate algebra (note that the Academic Senate is encouraging the availability of alternative classes with the same level and rigor). This is where we need to find some "radical solutions." As vocational faculty we believe all of our students need higher education, not just a vocational certificate. If we believed they only needed vocational training, we would have only vocational schools with no links to higher education. We work at institutes of higher education and our industry tells us that our students benefit from a broader world view and increased critical thinking skills that come from taking vocational and general education classes. So how do we step up to the plate and help our vocational students achieve these new standards? We know our students can meet these new standards, yet there have been those who have stated that our vocational students can't do this! this is like saying that our African American or hmong students cannot do it! All instructors, including those at a UC or CSU, have students who struggle with basic skills-the struggle is not limited to just vocational programs. All faculty need to engage in serious discussion on how we are going to help our students as a whole achieve success and an associate degree. This means one-on-one conversations between vocational faculty and math, English, and counseling faculty. We can come up with solutions for success for our students, but we must take the lead on this issue.
So senate leaders, I am asking you to put on your "radical" hats and help us have discussions to seek out "radical" solutions to our perennial challenges. In particular, I invite you to our breakout sessions on vocational funding and implementing the new associate degree math/English requirements at the fall plenary session in Newport Beach. Team work is one of our best assets as community college faculty, so let's show the rest of the higher education systems how it's done!
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