July - Aug Issue
July 02, 2014

CTE: Expanding the pathway for college and careers

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Rachel Bennet of North Warren is a CTE student at the WSWHE BOCES Southern Adirondack Education Center.
Caption: Rachel Bennet of North Warren is a CTE student at the WSWHE BOCES Southern Adirondack Education Center.

If policymakers are really serious about boosting the state's graduation rate and student success, they might be wise to focus on three simple letters: CTE.

That's the premise behind a new NYSUT report calling for Career and Technical Education to be expanded, strengthened and promoted statewide.

CTE student panelists reinforced those recommendations when they told the Regents Board how CTE has changed their lives — and proven to be a strong path to graduation, good-paying careers and college.

The students explained how CTE programs offered them something different from traditional tracks. Some came from specialty CTE high schools in New York City, while others attended BOCES programs — but all called for CTE programs to be significantly expanded and offered much sooner so more students benefit.

Ramon Williams credited his CTE study at Williamsburg High School of Architecture and Design with helping him earn a scholarship to study engineering at Franklin and Marshall College. Western New York's Robert Schumschack said his machining coursework at Orleans/Niagara BOCES gave him the opportunity to get a $50,000-a-year job in a machine shop — right out of high school. And Chelsea Tutt, a junior at Ulster BOCES, said studying welding gave her a chance to use her artistic ability for something practical and learn a skill she will always use.

The students put a face on many of the highlights in the new NYSUT report — "Career and Technical Education 2014: Unlocking new futures for New York's high school graduates" — prepared by a workgroup of CTE educators around the state.

The report's recommendations, backed by national research and consistent with the union's Representative Assembly resolutions in 2011, 2012 and 2013, examined issues that would strengthen and advance CTE as a pathway for more New York students.

The report was shared with the Regents prior to their May meeting. NYSUT has also provided the report to state lawmakers, who are considering legislation to increase funding for CTE programs, change the BOCES aid formula and possibly create a CTE diploma.

"CTE is an essential, and too often undervalued, pathway for New York students," said NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino. "Research has clearly shown access to CTE can help students graduate and give them all the skill sets they need for college and the ever-changing demands of the working world."

CTE is especially effective with students who traditionally have the lowest graduation rates. A February 2014 study by the Community Service Society in New York City found CTE schools are producing strong results with a sizable segment of the student population — those just below proficiency level when they finish middle school.

The report also found that African-American and Latino students, and males in particular, have remarkably higher graduation rates in CTE schools. The graduation rate for both African-American and Latino males outside of CTE schools is just 52 percent; in CTE high schools, they graduate at a rate of 63 percent and 66 percent, respectively. The report also questions why English language learners are tremendously underserved by CTE.

The Regents are considering a number of changes to encourage more students to pursue CTE, such as expanding integrated courses and allowing a CTE exam to be used as one of the Regents exams needed to graduate. The NYSUT report, however, recommends a more systematic approach. Recommendations include:

• updating CTE's program identity and its benefit for all students. "The idea that CTE programs represent a second class education is a legacy from a generation ago when low-performing students were tracked into often low-skill vocational education programs," the report said. "CTE programs must be promoted to students and parents as a high-quality, first-tier pathway to college and careers;"

• studying the feasibility of developing regional technical high schools;

• promoting early and equitable access to quality CTE programs, with increased collaboration between middle and high school programs. (Currently, students traditionally attend BOCES CTE during their junior and senior years in high school — many times for half-day programs.);

• working strategically with business, promoting industry-based competitions;

• expanding teacher pipelines, credentialing and professional learning: Creating a teacher certification endorsement that recognizes and rewards teachers with business and industry experience;

• improving data-driven decision-making to link workforce needs with program development; and

• providing sustainable federal and state funding to support CTE as a viable pathway.


NYSUT is looking for CTE educators to conduct workshops at NYSUT's statewide BOCES Conference, Oct. 17-18. If interested, contact mperry@nysutmail.org.


For more information, NYSUT's CTE report is available at www.nysut.org/research.