Prince George’s Education Leaders Talk the Future of High Schools on National Panel

Several Maryland leaders in education policy engaged in a conversation on the future of high school education and workforce development on a national panel

Prince George’s County leaders in education policy, workforce development, and higher education participated in a national virtual panel addressing college and career readiness cohosted by The 74 and the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). The panel had a target audience of state and local policymakers.

Panelists included:

  • Maryland state Sen. Alonzo Washington;
  • Dr. Julius Davis of Bowie State University;
  • Dr. Daria Valentine, principal of the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College;
  • Dr. Jean-Paul Cadet of Prince George’s County Public Schools; and
  • Sidney Foster, a sophomore at the academy.

High schools of the future and Maryland’s “Blueprint”

The panel sought to address the seemingly simple question, “How can high schools better meet the needs of students looking toward their futures?” However, as participants described, “high schools of the future” are comprehensive and sometimes complex. This model of schooling promotes college and career pathways through strategies including dual enrollment, career and technical education (CTE), and preparing for future jobs.

Taylor Maag, Director of Workforce Development Policy at PPI, opened the panel, noting that successful such programs require robust state-local partnerships. She also pointed out, however, that federal policy has a vital role in implementing and scaling up these kinds of projects.

Dr. Daria Valentine discussed the innovative model of the Academy of Health Sciences (AHS) that prioritizes student career readiness. In 2011, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) and Prince George’s Community College opened Maryland’s first Middle College High School in Largo — AHS. AHS focuses on preparing students to enter a college program in the Health Sciences or Education fields. By the end of their fourth year, the Academy’s students will receive a high school diploma and an Associate Degree in General Studies, with a concentration in the Health Sciences or an Associate of Arts in Teaching. The program admits 150 students a year.

Dr. Jean-Paul Cadet highlighted the importance of CTE for workforce development and post-K-12 readiness. He noted that PGCPS’s CTE program offers 36 pathways for career readiness and skills training, from JROTC to mechanics. PGCPS’ CTE program’s vision is to:

To empower students to confidently and successfully transition into postsecondary and career opportunities to become positive, productive, and contributing members of their community and the global workforce.

Senator Alonzo Washington of Prince George’s County specifically talked about the work of the Kirwan Commission and the importance of career readiness in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (“The Blueprint”). He said that The Blueprint is seen as the “next level” of education policy-making for the entire country, and he noted the financial commitment set by law. Career readiness, including CTE, is one of the five pillars of The Blueprint.

The panel also discussed the Blueprint pillar to hire and retain a diverse, high-quality school workforce. Dr. Julia Davis explained the findings of a recent Bowie University report that Maryland schools are struggling to hire Black male teachers. He talked about his university’s partnership with PGCPS to develop a pipeline to get Black students, especially Black men, interested in careers in public education.