Career-oriented courses can ground learning in real-life interests, making learning engaging and relevant. U.S. schools, however, have an ugly history of using vocational—now called career and technical—courses as low-track classes for students of color and others deemed “not college material.” It doesn’t have to be this way.
Seaside High School shows us an alternative, where career pathway courses are paired with rigorous college-prep coursework for all students, fluidly melding college readiness and career preparation. Students whose first language is other than English and students with special needs are an important part of this commitment to inclusion.
By linking strong academic content with relevant applications, Seaside engages its students in deep, meaningful learning experiences. For example, when faced with disappointing test scores in math, the school resisted creating a lower-track class with lowered expectations. Instead, the school’s educators created team-taught classes combining coding and robotics, with students heterogeneously grouped.
The school, as part of the New Tech Network, works to help underrepresented and low SES students navigate the technological landscape, emphasizing project-based learning. Seaside—which serves a student population that is two-thirds Latinx and three-quarters free- or reduced-price lunch—does not have low-track courses. Instead, the school offers over 15 Advanced Placement (AP) courses on campus and has doubled AP enrollment over the last two years. In the four core content areas, all students take courses that are University of California eligible.
Inclusion into the general education curriculum is the norm at Seaside. All teachers are made aware of IEP designations and accommodations/modifications. Even students with more severe special needs merge with the general population for part of the school day. These students also participate in Community-Based Instruction, where students are taught transferrable skills that will help them transition to successful post-secondary life.
Finally, Seaside provides exemplary culturally relevant learning through a variety of courses that promote the holistic education of its diverse student body. In addition to maintaining consistent professional development for its teaching staff in meeting the needs of a diverse student body, Seaside has an array of elective courses in areas such as ethnic studies, civics, writing, and justice.