Tag Archives: CTE

Do NYS Graduation Measures Adequately Prepare Students for Career and/or College?

We all know that the primary purpose of high school is to keep teenagers and parents apart to reduce patricide, matricide and infanticide, that being said …

Over the past month I have blogged a number of times over the current year-long process to review graduate measures, commonly known as high school graduation requirements.

The elephant in the room, the topic that will not be discussed is equity.

Educational funding in New York State is dramatically inequitable,

Despite New York’s equalizing State aid system, there remain tremendous disparities between New York State school districts in fiscal resources available to support education. In 2015-16, approved operating expenditure per pupil ranged from $11,072 for the district at the 10th percentile to $21,135 for the district at the 90th percentile, a 91 percent difference.

 In a class of thirty students the difference between the 10th percentile and the 90th percentile of $300,000 per class!

This deeply corrupt system is embedded in state law. Most funding comes from property taxes (local budgets in the Big Five cities), the differences across the state, as described above, are enormous. The Foundation Aid formula is supposed, to the extent possible, move towards equalizing funding. The completely indecipherable formula contains a “save harmless” guarantee; no district can receive less funding, regardless of changes in enrollment. There are other “formulas” that make sure that the most political powerful sections of the state retain funding. Whatever the result of the graduation measures and final determination by the Board of Regents the dollars will continue to flow through the deeply flawed legislation.

State Senator Shelly Mayer, the chair of the Education Committee, is holding hearings on the Foundation Aid formula across the state. I will be testifying at the December 3rd hearing (I’ll post my testimony)

We frequently see the term, “college and career ready,” the word “career” is simply an add-on.

In an introduction to a new book Marc Tucker writes, “The issue of whether we have a vocational education system worth having is an existential issue. If we don’t solve it, we will have a very large proportion our young adult population either without jobs or with jobs that pay next to nothing or all of the above.”

The book, “Vocational Education and Training for a Global Economy: Lessons from Four Countries In-Depth Case Studies Show Different Approaches to Preparing Young People for an Increasingly Complex Economy.”  explores vocational education in four nations We divide academic, and what we call “career and technical education,” aka vocational education in two discrete types of education, one for the elite and the other for the non-academic. The report abjures,

A first-rate primary and secondary education system that provides a strong academic foundation for all students, whether they want to pursue a primarily academic education or a more applied form of technical education;

A forward-looking, constantly adapting, skills standards system that assures employers that prospective employees have the knowledge and skills they are looking for, focuses the curriculum offered by education and training organizations on that knowledge and gives students of all ages confidence that, if they invest in the knowledge and skills on offer, they will be rewarded in the labor market by the employers;

 Work-based learning that provides opportunities for students to acquire strong, transferrable technical and social skills of the kind spelled out in the skills standards in places that are like those in which they are seeking employment

 While vocational education (CTE) in New York State and the rest of the nation is a lesser alternative to college tracks; in e rest of the world it is an equal pathway. In many of the European Union (EU) nations 50% of students are in what the European call Vocational Education Training (VET), (See detailed report).  A crucial part of the EU VET programs are apprenticeships,  in place by EU regulation and agreements with major employers. Schools in our states and nation scramble to find apprenticeships.

At the community college level completion rates are appalling,

… the National Center for Education Statistics shows that only 13 percent of community college students graduate in two years. Within three years, approximately 22 percent of students graduate, and within four years, the rate stands at 28 percent.

 Are secondary schools adequately preparing students?  Why is it necessary for students entering community colleges to take non-credit class in English, Mathematics and Writing?  Or, are life circumstances for students in poverty so crushing that continuing in school is not an option.

… life circumstances for these demographics, including financial constraints, transportation and child care needs, can hinder goals to finish the educational process and obtain a degree in a traditional timeframe. Therefore, many of the students who show up in reports as “dropouts” did not leave school because they wanted to; rather, they were compelled to by some uncontrollable life event

On the brighter side the CUNY ASAP program is innovative and targeted to the needs of students,

CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) helps students earn associate degrees within three years by providing a range of financial, academic, and personal supports including comprehensive and personalized advisement, career counseling, tutoring, waivers for tuition and mandatory fees, MTA MetroCards, and additional financial assistance to defray the cost of textbooks.

ASAP also offers special class scheduling options to ensure that ASAP students get the classes they need, are in classes with other ASAP students, and attend classes in convenient blocks of time to accommodate their work schedules. As students approach graduation, they receive special supports to help them transfer to 4-year colleges or transition into the workforce, depending on their goals.

 The ASAP program has been closely followed with external evaluations.

  • There are large and significant differences between ASAP and comparison group students in terms of retention, movement through developmental course work, credit accumulation, and graduation rates. ASAP’s current cross-cohort three-year graduation rate is 53% vs. 23% for comparison group students.
  • Students who start ASAP with developmental needs also graduate at high rates: After three years, 48% of ASAP students with developmental needs graduated vs. 21% of comparison group students with developmental needs.
  • Students from underrepresented groups appear to see even greater benefits from ASAP than other students.
  • Most importantly, ASAP students graduate at more than double the rates of non-ASAP students.

 Are the core questions graduation rates and continuing Regents Exams, or should it include the structure of secondary schools and the supports available to students?

The New York State six-year graduation rate is 84.4% and has continued to edge upward; however the increasing graduation rates should not be the goal of the graduation measures year-long process. Are we pushing kids out of high schools, with diplomas, who are not prepared for college or work?

The graduation measure exploration is an opportunity to take a dive, let’s hope there’s water in the pool.

What Should Be the First Educational Initiative of the HRC Administration?

Woke up this morning and checked out my phone: emails, tweets (a different world!), and, scanned the NY Times online. Every day the Times have a graphic, the percentages predicting the presidential election outcome. In July Hillary was in the mid-eighties and by mid-September had dipped to the mid-seventies. This morning Hillary hit 89% – the highest Times election prediction.

The Nate Silver fivethirtyeight blog  predicts Clinton 86.4% and 341 electoral votes (270 needed for victory), and, in the popular vote Clinton leads 49% to 42%.

The Third Presidential Debate will take on Wednesday, October 19th in Las Vegas; Chris Wallace of Fox will be the moderator. The tenor of the debates will not change.

Trump has “legitimatized” racism, misogamy and homophobia, voters may think and not use the “N” word, don’t worry, Trump is the surrogate. For the Trump camp the hope is in the lessons from the Brixit and the Columbia plebiscites, the polls predicted “yes” votes and the “no” prevailed in both cases. Are there Trump votes outside of the reach of the pollsters? Trump will be Trump, hoping that the lesson from Brixit prevails.

With pollsters predicting a big Hillary victory will Trump voters throw in the towel and not bother voting, and/or, will the Hillary voters, anticipating a big Hillary win will also not bother to vote?

Hopefully, I’ll feel relieved on November 9th

A couple of weeks after the election HRC, (G-d willing!!) will begin nominating cabinet members. Who will be the Secretary of Education?  I can give you a list of who will NOT be nominated; I have no idea of the nominee.

The first hundred days are crucial for incoming presidents: setting the tone for the presidency. Bill Clinton chose health care reform and stumbled badly. His presidency never achieved the accomplishments he anticipated.  While Hillary may regain the Senate it is unlikely the Democrats will also seize the House. The Republicans have been successful in thwarting Obama, with relatively little voter negativity.  Plus, history shows that midterm elections usually favor the “out” party. In 2010 and 2014 the Republicans thrashed the Democrats in the midterm elections. HRC will have a two year window to convince the nation that she was the “right” choice.

Reducing poverty and supporting the middle class is at the heart of the HRC agenda; however they are heavy lifts (See Brookings Institute paper here)

… graduating from high school, belonging to a family with at least one full-time worker, and having children while married and after age 21—correlated closely with economic success. We call this the “success sequence.” Individuals who follow it almost never live in poverty.

What can Hillary do in the field of education that does not require legislation or will be bipartisan?

For example: the college student debt crisis is acknowledged by both parties; however, the parties sharply disagree on the path.

How do we help students complete high school with the skills needed to pursue their goals? Raising graduation rates will require not just new kinds of high schools, but investment in children at all stages of life: home visiting, early childhood education, and new efforts in the primary grades.[ Home visiting programs improve parenting and connect families to adequate medical care. The effects continue well into adolescence. Similarly, research suggests that low cost interventions like providing parents with books and texting them reminders to read to their children, can have substantial effects on child literacy skills.

All of the interventions listed above cost dollars and a Republican Congress will not support the legislation. In addition, the policies are local, policies that have to be adopted at the state and local levels. The Obama/Duncan efforts alienated teachers and communities; once again, big, bad Washington telling us what to do and how to do it. The best decisions are usually made by teachers and school leaders supported by superintendents and the education hierarchy. Sadly Washington, or Albany or Tweed issue ukases, the troops salute, and very little changes. Race to the Top, 4.4 billion dollars, over $700 million to New York State: is there any evidence that the dollars changed outcomes?

I would suggest a major initiative: Career and Technical Education, former known as Vocational Education, a policy that can be supported by both parties; the new ESSA law devolves policy initiatives to the state level  Bipartisan federal legislation to encourage state and local educational authorities to create paths to employment would play a major role in reducing poverty.

I was speaking with a middle school principal in an extremely poor neighborhood – he asked his counselor to make every effort to guide his eighth graders to vocational high schools.

“My kids need jobs, their path out of poverty is a job and they need skills, high school has to mean something, they need a purpose to continue in school, spending four years learning academics and a skill, an internship, working as an apprentice will prepare my kids to lift themselves into the middle class.”

Packaged federal programs, like P-TECH, sound nice, receive a great deal of ink, and impact a miniscule number of kids; vocational, or, to use the current term Career and Technical Education (CTE) costs money to start and cost dollars to support. CTE programs must link with industries who are the potential employers as well as unions who will be the colleagues of the new workers.

There is no prep-packaged solution, HRC should not make the same fatal mistake that Obama-Duncan made, the paths, and there are many, must be created at the local level.

Schools have never been good at working beyond the boundaries of school buildings; a first meeting rarely results in a partnership. The most effective partnerships are created locally, by a school leader, Manhattan Day and Night Comprehensive High School works with Deutsche Bank, the fifteen International High Schools (all students have been in the country four years or less) work with the Internationals Network, a 401 that raises dollars to support the schools in the network,  public, not charter schools. Conversely Automotive High School has been on the verge of closing for years.

Manhattan Institute sees hope: two research briefs by Tamar Jacoby look to the future:

 Education 2.0: Employers Hold the Key to Better Career Training Vocational Education  and Keeping New York City on the Cutting Edge of Technical Education.

The European Union has well -established vocational education programs in schools as well as retraining programs for adults (Read a detailed report here)

There are at least a dozen high-profile education topics, from pre-kindergarten, the Common Core, charter schools, testing, teacher college preparation, all worthy of examination by the new administration; however; all are riddled with controversy and are best left to local decision-making. The belief that the best road out of poverty is a job is held across party lines and education and the private sector can partner and the nation will applaud.

The losers, the Republicans, will continue to do what has worked, obstructionism, and HRC needs winners, policies that are so popular that opposing them will alienate the citizenry: I believe Vocational Education, CTE is that issue.

Will School Districts Create and Support Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs? Will Parents Demand the Creation and Support of CTE Programs?

The Board of Regents is a policy board, teachers, principals and superintendents work for elected school boards and mayors. The gap between creating policy and implementing policy is yawning.

The number of CTE seats in New York State have been declining and the seats in New York City drastically reduced. The Bloomberg/Klein administration closed the vast majority of vocational high schools for poor academic performance. For decades vocational high schools were a combination of students seeking career skills and a dumping ground for low performing students. City administrations made no investments, equipment deteriorated, the schools were shunted aside, with the phase out of the local diploma vocational high schools were doomed, there was no way students could earn 44 credits, pass five regents exams and the 10-12 technical credits.

On the national scene the emphasis was on the “college” part of college and career ready. David Conley, Educational Policy Information Center defines career ready as “Individual possesses sufficient foundational knowledge, skills, and general learning strategies necessary to begin studies in a career pathway.”

The US Department of Education supports CTE programs and lays out a detailed plan in “Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Career and Technical Education.”

The Business Council of New York State strongly supports Career and Technical Education programs.

The teachers union advocates for CTE education by hosting a major conference,

Some 400 local and regional educators gathered with business, higher-education and union leaders at a Career and Technical Education Summit at UFT headquarters … to explore ways for schools to build high-quality CTE programs to meet the needs of the city’s future labor force.

UFT leader Mulgrew and business leader Wilde wrote a joint op ed in the Daily News supporting CTE and state actions.

From Washington to Albany, from the business community to the union, all support CTE education, yet, of the 210,000 K-12 classroom teachers in NYS (2011-12) only 2200 teachers are Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers.

For a few years the Board of Regents has been grappling with the paucity of students in CTE programs around the state. The Regents took two actions this week in an attempt to jump start CTE programs.

* A “4 + 1” option – in lieu of passing five regents exams students can substitute another option, including a CTE assessment (see details: http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2014/October2014/Pathways.pdf)

* The certification process for new CTE teachers will be streamlined.

Will the new emphasis encourage school districts to increase CTE seats and encourage students to enroll in CTE programs?

There are three models of CTE programs in the state,

The BOCES Model:
The state runs 37 BOCES centers around the state that provide educational services for several categories of students with disabilities as well as career and technical education programs. The student attends his or her regular district high school and takes the CTE courses at a regional BOCES site – the district pays the BOCES a set amount for each student. This is the “standard model” outside of New York City. In these trying financial times districts do not want to incur additional costs and the CTE option is frequently not encouraged. Coop Tech is a BOCES-type model in New York City – student take academic courses in their home school and CTE courses at Coop Tech on East 96th Street in Manhattan – unfortunately there is only one site. (Read about Coop Tech: http://www.co-optech.org/)

The Stand-Alone Model:
In New York City and a few other cities there are long standing “stand alone” CTE schools that are high performing, The Department did open a High School for the Building Trades and a few a few small high schools (Advertising and Media, Film-Making).

The Strand Model:
Large high school might have a CTE strand in the school, for example Park West High School, a 2000 plus seat comprehensive high school had a 60-student elevator repair program in the school. As the large high schools closed the strands disappeared. Due to complexity of the state approval process the strands were not approved by the state and not eligible for special funding, (The Perkins Act)

New York State approval process for new CTE programs is enormous complex, in fact, onerous.

An approvable program contains a related and continuous series/combination of courses/experiences in a career and technical area and academic and technical knowledge and skills in preparation for further education/training and/or employment in a career. The program is taught by appropriately certified and qualified teachers and is supported by work-based experiences, integrated and/or specialized instruction, a Work-Skills Employability Profile, technical assessments and data on student performance in academic and technical areas.

The state must streamline the approval process.

Will the state actions result in the expansion of CTE programs?

Outside of NYC, yes, if parents demand more seats.

Inside of NYC, CTE programs have to be recreated, the infusion of significant funding to rebuild the programs is crucial.

For example, Coop Tech has to be replicated in each borough; new CTE programs must be coordinated with industries and community colleges, all possible if supported by the mayoral administration.

The Regents can create policy, the business sector can offer political support, the unions can offer whatever is needed, the problems are at the local level, do school districts and cities have the desire and the ability to create and support CTE programs.

I asked a school district, “How many students do you send to CTE programs at BOCES?”

The district, “10.”

Me: “Why only 10?”

The district: “We only have 10 seats on the bus.”

Hopefully, in the future, districts will reply, “We’ll support all kids who wish to avail themselves of CTE BOCES programs,” and New York City will offer a range of CTE programs across the city.

Unfilled jobs because schoosl aren’t graduating qualified students is simply unacceptable.

Multiple Pathways (and Obstacles) to Graduation: How Can We Help the 25% of Students Who Fail to Graduate?

Multiple Pathways to Graduation is a strange term. Twenty years ago the Regents decided to end the dual local or Regents diploma pathways. After debate that dragged on for a few years the Regents decided to terminate the local diploma pathway – all students would have to pass five Regents exams, the alternate pathway, the Regents Competency Test (RCT), an eighth grade level exam would be phased out with a “safety net” for Students with Disabilities (SWD). During the phase-in the passing grade on Regents exams was reduced to 55 and incrementally students had to pass Regents with a grade of 65 – the Regents delayed the full implementation a numerous times – it took a dozen years. We now have one pathway – the Regents diploma – the RCT diploma- the local diploma is gone, the “safety net” (Regents grade of 55) is the only alternative pathway and only applies to SWDs.(See graduation requirements for students with disabilities here)

The adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), standards at a significantly higher level narrow the pathway to graduation. The decision to phase in the impact of CCSS Regents exams, similar to the decision to eliminate the RCT diploma, makes perfect sense.

By adopting the “college and career readiness” metric the Regents have re-created a dual diploma. We define “college and career readiness’ as grades of 75 on the Algebra 1 Regents exam and 80 on the English Regents, and, we have no definition of “career readiness.” About a third of graduates meet the “college and career readiness” bar.

The Regents have been discussing the ill-defined “multiple pathways” for years. (See 2012 discussion items here) The Commissioner has “suggested” that the feds only require high school exit exams in English, Math and Science, and, perhaps we should adopt the fed standards. A year or so ago the Commissioner was enthusiastic about New York State adopting the PARCC consortium exams – national exams in English and Math for all kids in grades 3 – 11, although PARCC has not been mentioned recently as the pushback against the CCSS has increased across the state.

At the July Retreat the Regents will consider a proposal, called “Four Plus One,” to make the Global Studies Regents exam optional and replace the exam with a number of other possible assessments.

While we have absolutely no definition of “career readiness” the Department posits that an “industry-approved CTE assessment” substitute for the Global Regents exam.

What does an “industry-approved assessment” look like?

The California Department of Education CTE Industry-Assessment:

Take a look at the “Engineering and Architecture” assessments: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/ct/sf/documents/enginearchit.pdf

These standards are far above the current Regents standards – far, far more difficult than passing a Global Studies Regents.

In fact, rather than talking about “Four Plus One,” talking about an alternative pathway, the Regents should consider an “industry-approved assessment” as qualifying for a “diploma with advanced designation”
(See diploma requirements here)

At the P-Tech presentation the presenters proudly proclaimed that the program was not a screened program then went on to explain how they screen students. P-Tech has received more hype than any school model in memory. Unfortunately it is not a panacea. The presenters explained how in their upstate county a new hi tech industry was seeking 200 new employees and only six applicants fit the qualifications – the enthusiastic panelists said they were looking for kids who were “knuckle-busters,” kids interesting in working in industry, the gentleman sitting next to me leaned over and said, “He fails to mention the kids also have to pass the Algebra 2 Regents with grades of 75”).

The Brooklyn P-Tech School – visited by President Obama and the model for the other 16 new P-Tech sites has data as described below:

For the 12-13 School Year (January, June and August Regents Exams)
Regents Exam Average Grade
Algebra 1 72
Geometry 57
Algebra 2 47
Living Environment 68
Physics 54

Bottom line: Not a magic bullet.

When we talk about multiple or more accurately alternative pathways to graduate we mean what are we doing for the 25% of kids who do not graduate?

“Four Plus One,” or P-Tech or Industry Assessments will not help these kids. The 25% include SWD who cannot reach the safety net, English language learners, Afro-American and Hispanic males and kids identified in the sixth grade with attendance below 80% … what are we doing for these kids?

The Commissioner and a number of Board members refer to lack of “access and opportunity,” what does that mean? For too many kids there are no chances of “access and opportunity” Rural districts are on the cusp of educational bankruptcy – they can barely provide the courses required for graduation, in the “big five” cities industries have been leaving for two decades, along with jobs, foreclosures, poor health services, which the Governor, the Regents and the Commissioner ignore.

Scattered around the state there are schools and clusters of schools that succeed, shouldn’t we study why these outliers are succeeding? Why is Columbia Secondary School in Harlem highly successful and the vaunted P-Tech stumbling? Why are English language learners in the fifteen International High Schools graduating at rates substantially above English language learners throughout the state? Why are the Expeditionary Learning Schools outperforming other high schools?

Let’s hope the deep dive into Multiple Pathways to Graduation is not a charade – there are no easy answers, dropping a “hard” Regents is not helping kids; let’s not allow “fear of the feds” drive doing what is best for our kids – all of our kids.