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Book details
  • SubGenre:Educational Policy & Reform / General
  • Language:English
  • Pages:548
  • Format:Paperback
  • Paperback ISBN:9781098311216

Cataclysmic Failure: American High Schools

by James C. Wilson Ed.D. View author's profile page

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Synopsis for Cataclysmic Failure: American High Schools Dr. James C. Wilson's new book, Cataclysmic Failure: American High Schools, dissects the devastating problems in one of America's foremost institutions: the high school. Dr. Wilson's ideas transcend today's role of the American high school. Dr. Wilson is one of the few scholars in America who perceives the direct causation of poor performing high schools to crime, gangs, prostitution, and incarceration. After thoroughly clarifying the problem, Dr. Wilson proposes a well-researched solution: high school career academies. High school career academies increase student attendance, increase the rate of students completing a career technical education program, and increase graduation rates, while simultaneously reducing dropout rates, crime rates, and incarceration rates.
Cataclysmic Failure: American High Schools Summary Cataclysmic Failure by James C. Wilson is a powerful new book that can constructively impact American society. Wilson's individual conclusions about high schools impact on our society are fascinating, but taken together are chillingly compelling. He makes a persuasive case that high school career academies can alter the trajectory of the supermajority of our young people in a positive direction. Wilson explains how we can utilize our high schools as a positive change agent to save millions of our youth. Today's high school dropouts represent 70 percent of the 2.5 million in prison in America. High school career academies have demonstrated high graduation rates and high employability rates that will prevent youth from becoming involved in crime. High school career academies permanently break this school to prison pipeline. In addition to preventing crime, the need for technical employment skills is even more important now in light of the reality of automation of jobs. This book's ideas must be used to revolutionize American high schools. High school career academies can change America by putting our youth to work and not in prison. This book is beyond revolutionary. It is a futuristic model for America.
About the author
Cataclysmic Failure: America's High Schools About the Author James C. Wilson, Ed.D. I evolved from a fresh-faced young man finishing his doctorate in education naively believing I could make a difference to an angry veteran educator. This evolution occurred over years of fighting for high school vocational education within a large urban school district. I met monthly with directors of counseling and special education to get them to support high school vocational education. I also met frequently with secondary directors, high school principals, high school counselors, directors of research, and superintendents of the school district. It took me time to understand that these leaders within the school district had no power to change the system. They were just putting out fires on a day-by-day basis. They were truly not educational leaders, but just managing the status quo. Governors, the state legislature, state school boards, state education superintendents, in conjunction with local school boards have established this status quo. These elected officials and boards are well meaning people who have absolutely no idea of what they are doing. Local superintendents, directors, and principals have been left with very little opportunity to reform their high schools. This is the reality of high school education all over America. There was a time when I had a chance to actually make a difference. I wrote the district's high school integration plan in response to a court order. The plan was busing students to a variety of career magnets located all over the district. The career magnets featured a four-year sequence of career technical education programs capped by a two-hour course for seniors. This 900-hour career technical education program was efficacious for the students and the students and teachers loved it. Over a period of several years, board members, superintendents, and principals changed and career magnets were killed by a thousand cuts. My youthful enthusiasm for the educational system was destroyed. Later in my career, I read research demonstrating the enormous impact high school career academies have on reducing the high school dropout rate. Needless to say, I was mesmerized. I read everything available about this new concept of high school career academies. It was clear to me that this new form of organizing high schools was excellent on its own merit. Yes, career academies could be used to integrate high schools, but they have merit on their own in providing technical and soft employment skills and in reducing the dropout rate. The undisputed large-scale research finding of career academies causing a substantial reduction in high school dropouts should have had the whole country cheering. The research was what we should have done in my high school career magnets. I must admit I was too busy building and maintaining the career magnets to rethink traditional educational evaluation, which was based exclusively on test scores. Career academies hadn't been shown to increase test scores. Career academies retained students who otherwise would have dropped out and this caused a skewing of test scores. What I didn't see then was that testing was an inappropriate criterion to evaluate high schools. At the time, I had seen poor educational research that didn't adequately describe particular intervention programs. I thought there was a need to accurately describe the high school career academy so they could be evaluated properly. This led me to write a book with a serious rubric describing a high school career academy in detail. No one in the country had developed a high school career academy rubric with measurable objectives that would enable a researcher to evaluate the program or compare one program with another. The book is titled Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? and is available on This book writing academic exercise, while valuable, did not diminish my anger at the American educational system that had no systematic program to help the kids who need it the most and used a simplistic and inappropriate evaluation criteria to determine high school success. It seemed that I was the only person in the country that made the connection between high school career academies preparing students for employment thus reducing the high school dropout rate that in turn, reduces crime. The understanding of this connection is extremely important to American education and to our society at large. The inaction of America's educational system to reform high schools into career academies made it clear that America's high schools are a cataclysmic failure. Therefore, I wrote a blog, to address all the different issues around high school career academies. The blogs with many additions, revisions, and edits became the genesis of this book.
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