"We've developed a cult that has permeated society that unless the child is going on to college that they're somewhat mentally deficient," said Raglin. "Parents wouldn't come in and be opposed to their child going that direction if they didn't have the preconceived idea inculcated in them that unless you're going to college, you've got something wrong with you. The vocational program has become a dumping ground where you send kids you think don't have it."
Board member Robin Rector agreed.
"There are always going to be those out there that say a kid is only successful if you go to college," Rector said. "We have to change that culture. The jobs aren't there for kids coming out of college and the value of that diploma isn't what it was 5 to 10 years ago."
West Virginia ranks among the bottom in the nation for its college-going rates. Only 59 percent of West Virginia high school graduates went to college in 2010. That's below the national average of almost 64 percent. For every 100 ninth graders in the state, only 72 graduate from high school, according to the Higher Education Policy Commission. Only 43 of those students enter college.
On a statewide level, there has been a major push to increase the graduation rate, with state officials encouraging local districts to tout the benefits of a college education.
Duerring said the county is focusing on both vocational education and college-readiness. He brushed off board member Jim Crawford's argument that the county's approach to post-high school graduation was "going in the wrong direction."
"We're not headed in the wrong direction," said Duerring. "Parents get nervous if you pigeonhole their kid and say they're going to be an electrician. ... We're giving kids options."
Reach Amy Julia Harris at amy.har...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.