October 26, 2007

Promoting the role of Career and Technical Education

Source: NYSUT News Wire

With its ability to engage many students who might otherwise drop out of school, Career and Technical Education has a definite part to play in eliminating the achievement gap, a national expert on CTE told participants in a workshop at NYSUT's gap symposium.

"The most often cited reason kids give for dropping out is that they're bored," said James Stone III, who directs the Louisville, Ky.-based National Research Center for Career and Technical Education.

Stone said the students who are statistically best poised for success, either in college or the workplace, are those who take both academic and CTE courses in high school, although only about 30 percent actually do.

"It shouldn't be 'either or,'" he said, "it should be both." That's becoming more difficult for students to do, Stone said, with a nationwide move to higher standards and the need for more academic credits.

Citing study after study, Stone said that despite the increased emphasis on academic subjects, student scores around the country have remained generally flat in reading, math and science over the past three decades.

"There is a huge disconnect around the rhetoric of the need for math and the workplace reality," Stone said. While 94 percent of workers say they use math on the job, he said, it is generally "basic math" only - middle and early high school level - with fewer than 5 percent making any extensive use of algebra, trigonometry, calculus or geometry.

CTE, on the other hand, provides a "math-rich context" that is ideal for weaving mathematics into any CTE curriculum, but it's an opportunity that is often missed by teachers, he said.

The Louisville-based center recently completed what Stone said was a successful test of a model for enhancing mathematics instruction in high school CTE courses by emphasizing the math that is already embedded in the CTE curriculum.

Details of the study are available at the group's Web site, www.nccte.org.