With a few years of experience, an auto mechanic at a dealership can earn $80,000 a year. But high schools are eliminating auto shop classes, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The equipment is costly, industrial tech (shop) teachers are hard to find and students' schedules are filled with college-prep classes (search). Students assume the only way to make a living is to go to college, but many don't have the motivation or the academic skills to earn a college degree. Only about half of students who enroll in college ever earn a degree; most of those who graduate won't be earning $80,000 a year.

Community colleges are picking up the slack. But students often enter with no hands-on skills: They don't know how to change the oil, or how big a 13 mm wrench is. And many can't read well enough to understand the manual or use the diagnostic data on the computer screen. Qualifying for a skilled trade (search) is more demanding than qualifying for most colleges.

Many slacker students, bored and frustrated by college-prep courses, would work much harder on reading and math if they knew what they had to do to get an $80,000-a-year job. But the snobbery of the times tells students they have to sit in a classroom for 16 years -- with or without learning anything -- to earn a living.

BA, Then GED

A New York City father is being investigated for "educational neglect" for failing to send his daughter to high school. Daniel Lipsman enrolled his daughter in college after she finished eighth grade at P.S. 187. Now 15, Angela Lipsman has a 3.84 average and enough credits for an AA degree. But she's considered truant from high school till she turns 16, and she can't take the GED till she's 17. By then, she's likely to have her BA, reports the New York Daily News.

"It's very demoralizing," said Lipsman, who vowed that he'll "go to prison before my daughter goes to a city high school."

He's a retired teacher.

'Highly Qualified' is a Long Way Away

Only 54 percent of middle and high school teachers were "highly qualified" to teach their subjects in 2000, by the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind (search) law, Associated Press reports:

Nearly half of the nation's middle and high school teachers were not highly qualified to teach their topics in 2000, a report to Congress says.

Federal law defines highly qualified teachers as those who hold a bachelor's degree from a four-year college, have state certification and demonstrate competence in the subject they teach.

The 2002 law requires that by the school year beginning in 2005, there must be highly qualified teachers in every class for core subjects, including English, math, science and history.

Meeting that deadline is "going to be challenging. It's going to be tough," Education Secretary Rod Paige said Tuesday. "But it's necessary, and it's going to be done."

It will not be done. It can't be done. Not unless "highly qualified" is redefined as "having a pulse."

Teacher Pay Rises

The average teacher earns $44,367 a year, according to the American Federation of Teachers (search) annual survey. That's an increase of 2.7 percent. New teachers average $30,719. California tops the list, paying $54,348 to the average teacher; Michigan, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York also are at the top of the list. The cheapest teachers work in South Dakota, earning $31,383.

While the teacher shortage has eased, AFT said math, physics, biology and Spanish teachers remain in short supply.

By the way, while the National Education Association (search) has declared war on No Child Left Behind, AFT is trying to take the middle ground. AFT plans to challenge the criteria used to determine failing schools, but isn't opposed to testing students.

Union Cracks Down on Teacher Who Worked Too Hard

An Ontario teacher faces a reprimand and fine from his union because he tutored students after school. Jack Nahrgang, an award-winning English and history teacher, has admitted violating his union's work-to-rule campaign.

Also in Ontario, the teachers' union is trumpeting an anti-testing poll. Blogger Colby Cosh rephrases the question:

From time to time, the media publish rankings of elementary and secondary schools in the provinces based on student test results. Some people say the rankings offer an objective picture of student achievement in mastering basic skills like reading and mathematics. Some people say that these skills are completely unimportant, and that no one but a teacher should ever, ever, ever have the sheer bleeding audacity to gather data about a teacher's or school's performance. What do you think?

It's true, as the teachers' union leader says, that tests don't measure creativity, initiative, love of kittens, etc. But schools have a responsibility to teach reading and math, and neither the responsibility nor the competence to teach creativity, initiative, love of kittens, etc. Nor is there any evidence that students who can't find the main idea in a paragraph are superior in unmeasurable traits to students who can read.

A Counselor's Fantasy

Check out this cartoon on Number 2 Pencil.

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at JoanneJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

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