Vocational Classes Fall Out of Favor

Lewis Chappel roams the halls of Hollywood High School as a dinosaur – an old-fashioned shop teacher in a newfangled education system.

“I see my program dying. I see other programs dying,” said Chappel.

In high schools across the country vocational classes (search) — auto shop, wood shop, metal shop — are being phased out.

The push to is now on academics: The federal "No Child Left Behind" law even holds schools accountable for academic performance.

The problem, say critics, is that 38 percent of kids don’t go to college — and a high percentage of them may end up being mechanics, carpenters and machinists.

“I think the schools have an obligation to prepare them for those opportunities as well as, where appropriate, to move on to more classic liberal arts education,” said Jim Stone, director of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education.

But to offer hands-on training, schools need to get their hands on more money. These days, learning to fix a car means using very expensive diagnostic computers that schools simply can’t afford, which is a big reason why, over the past 15 years, California high schools have dropped more than half of their vocational classes.

The superintendent of the California Department of Education, Jack O'Connell, who says he supports vocational education, argues that technical students can also benefit from a good dose of academics.

“We can't have students who can't solve basic algebra in these classes, because they're not going to be able to be problem solvers when our cars don't run,” said Jack O’Connell.

As the number of vocational education classes have gone down, the high school dropout rate across the country has gone up. Experts don't yet know if there's a correlation, but they do know schools today are geared more for the college-bound than the blue collar-bound.

Click on the video box at the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Trace Gallagher.