Vocational Students Graduate at Higher Rates

February 27, 2014

dehotosdreamcatchersWith an unemployment rate of over 40% in Harlem, the kind of career and technical schools discussed in this article are definitely something to be considered as an option.

High school students enrolled at the city’s career and technical schools have a better chance of graduating than students in traditional public schools, which researchers say could bode well for the future of the city’s workforce.

Students at career and technical education schools—known as CTE schools, or vocational schools—graduate at higher rates than traditional public school students, according to a report by the Community Service Society of New York coming out tomorrow.

And students at newer, more specialized CTE schools—like the much-publicized Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, in Brooklyn—are graduating at an even higher rate. Students who attend CTE schools that opened in 2003 or later are 18% more likely to graduate than other public school students.

The results convince education researchers that with more resources, the city’s CTE schools could be a destination for students who are interested in more specialized fields.

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“This is a great way to make New York City competitive,” said Lazar Treschan, director of youth policy at the Community Service Society and a lead author of the report. “This is a way where we’re really using public resources to improve the supply of labor in New York City.”

Mr. Treschan said the report should also serve to dispel the stigma that has built up around vocational schools as repositories for drop-outs and troubled students.

There are currently about 27,000 CTE schools of various sizes in the city, representing 8% of the total school system.

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, said the report’s results speak to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s desire to see more New York students employed in emerging industries like technology.

“It’s only going to be possible to meet the mayor’s goals of hiring New York City graduates if there is a very strong emphasis on career and technical education that engages employers in both the educational process–the credentialing–and professional development of the teachers,” Ms. Wylde said.

Low-income and minority students stand to gain the most, the report found. While the graduation rate for both black and Latino boys at traditional public schools is just 52%, in CTE high schools they graduate at rates of 63% and 66%, respectively. And their graduation rates in new CTE schools, even when controlling for the most important differences among students, such as their eighth grade state-test scores, are even higher.

In 2008, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a program to expand the number of CTE schools in the city. The plan stalled when city resources dried up during the recession. But Mayor Bill de Blasio said during last year’s mayoral campaign that he would bring more focus to vocational schools. As public advocate he released a plan to strengthen and improve CTE schools, arguing that the current system was leaving graduates ill-prepared to enter college or the workforce.

Much of the educational debate right now is focused on testing and assessments. Mr. Treschan said that this new report may draw attention to alternative forms of education.

“It’s an assessment-driven environment,” he said. “CTE is not just about testing—it’s about these careers and using skills in the classroom in other ways.”

Photo credit: Students above pictured from the Dream Foundation, Columbia University and Harlem World Magazine publishing project in the Harlem Youth Publishing Empowerment program (H.Y. P. E.).

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