Is New York State preparing students to benefit from the $1T Infrastructure Law?

On Monday President Biden signed the $1 Trillion Infrastructure bill into law; that’s 1.0 x ten to the twelth power – twelve zeros. The dollars will flow into every state for the next decade and create millions and millions of jobs. From highways, bridges, ports  to broadband the projects will span the nation, New York City is considering rebuilding the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a transportation tunnel under the Hudson, the decisions will take a few years to determine and plan

Hovering over the plan is a unique problem: Does the nation have enough skilled workers to execute the projects?

My neighborhood bakery is closing three days a week, it can’t find staff. Last week was my first philharmonic concert, we usually consume a post-concert snack, the restaurant, across the street from Lincoln Center was closing, “sorry,” the manager told us, and “…we’re short staff.”

How are our schools responding?  Are we increasing Career and Technical Education (CTE) seats?  Are college teacher preparation programs training more CTE teachers?  Is the State Education Department (SED) adding more CTE seats? Is the SED “acknowledging” the problem?

John McWhorter is a Columbia University professor of linguistics and a New York Times columnist, author is a new book; “Woke Racism” and has been all over the news. In a recent interview McWhorter was asked for national policy recommendations, he responded with: end the punitive drug laws and increase student opportunities in CTE programs.

I was speaking with a middle school principal in a very high poverty neighborhood; he tries to get as many of his student as possible to apply to CTE high schools.  “My kids need jobs, they are victims of multigenerational poverty; the next step after high school must be a job.”

For decades upon decades we heralded the advantages of college, schools were divided into college bound cohorts and “others.”  CTE programs, called vocational education, was for the left behind, and, the New York State CTE regulations are unchanged, unwieldy and unsuccessful.

How many students in New York State receive high school diplomas with “CTE endorsements”?  The SED website isn’t helpful.  Can a parent go to a site and find CTE programs in their neighborhood, specifics about the programs and an application procedure?   Not that I’m aware of …..

The NYS Board of Regents and the State Education Department is beginning  a lengthy process to review “Graduation Measures,” and a major overhaul of academic standards (yes, again) called the Next Generation Standards.

Read “Graduation Measures” here

Read Standards and Assessment Workgroup” here

Are we repeating the Common Core State Standards disaster?  Hopefully not; however, dropping these massive changes at the end of a long, long day is not a great start.

In an August blog I compared the European approach, in many countries half of kids are in what we would call CTE programs, with a seamless flow from school to work, Read here

Chiefs for Change, a national organization, addresses the issue in a paper, “Let’s Get to Work,” and examines changes in a number of cities that can be models (Read Report here) The Report begins,

In today’s world, good jobs follow good education. Yet as technological innovation and a shifting economy bring rapid changes to the workplace, America has fallen far behind in preparing students for the future. It’s a problem that threatens individual young people and the American economy, and it marks an under-recognized front in the battle for equity of educational opportunity.

And continues,

Stuck in a false and outmoded choice between career preparation and rigorous academics, the United States has shunned the kind of coherent, intensive preparation that most students in Germany, Finland, and Switzerland have. The cost to individual students and families, and to the nation’s economy, is enormous. Improving the quality and reach of career and technical education (CTE) must be one of the new top priorities for the nation’s schools,

Some of the report’s key recommendations urge states and districts to:

  • Build a truly seamless transition for all students into postsecondary education and career training,
  • Improve the quality and rigor of CTE pathways and courses,
  • Expand work-based learning, such as internships and apprenticeships,
  • Expand and improve support for students and families,
  • Ensure equity for all students,

Is NYS learning from other states and upgrading their CTE program?

We’ll see …

SED has resumed holding “Graduation Measures” meetings across the state, probably thousands of comments, a two-year cycle leading to decisions, Should the Regents Exams still be required for graduation? Are the Safety Nets sufficient? Can projects replace Regents and still maintain high standards? Should course sequences be retained? Changed?  All important decisions, Should the process take two years?

The phasing in of the Next Generation Standards and the new testing regimen, changing standards in all grades and all subjects is a sea change that will impact instruction in every school. When the dust clears will we have a more impactful state education system?

NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is called the Nations’ Report Card, New York State, to be polite, scores have been mediocre; ultimately what doe NAEP scores mean?

CTE graduates can step into jobs in an economy with increasing demands; we have an obligation to prepare our students.

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