A study of career and technical education that views CTE as being one of the most promising approaches for preparing students for the future says that New York City is at the forefront of a national revolution in career education.
Previously known as “vocational education,” CTE is becoming an increasingly popular form of education, with the number of schools exclusively dedicated to it tripling since 2004 in New York City to reach almost 50 schools of the 400 high schools in the area. An additional 75 schools contain CTE programs, and in all, 40% of high school students in NYC are enrolled in at least one CTE course with close to 10% attending a dedicated CTE school.
In addition, New York innovations such as company-sponsored early college high schools that offer students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma while also earning an associate’s degree are being replicated across the country.
While data pertaining to the outcomes of students who attend dedicated CTE schools are still limited, the evidence suggests better attendance rates and students being more likely to graduate. Students also appear to maintain higher scores on standardized exams than students who attend schools with no CTE programs.
The authors of the report, “The New CTE: New York City as Laboratory for America,” go on to discuss five challenges facing New York educators as they try to implement CTE programs.
First is the issue of preparing students for careers and college while letting students keep their options open. Because the CTE programs are integrated into academic course offerings, teachers are having a hard time finding the time to teach students everything they need to know between academic requirements and work-based learning requirements. CTE educators support the tougher standards that require students pass the same New York Regents exams as their peers while also learning an occupational skill.
The authors then discussed difficulties engaging businesses and industries to partner with CTE schools, help plan the curriculum, mentor students, and provide opportunities for internships. While state regulations require CTE programs to have an industry partner, keeping that partnership takes time and effort that is difficult to maintain on both sides because schools lack the necessary staff members and companies do not understand the time commitments they are agreeing to.
In addition, the report suggests that a bridge between secondary and post-secondary education or training is necessary in order to help students who may otherwise become lost in the shuffle. While the CTE schools in New York City offer a model to follow, many schools do not have the time necessary to handle creating these relationships without additional resources.
Possibly the most important challenge is to create opportunities for students to work, since the point of the CTE program is to provide work-based learning experiences. However, according to a 2015 survey conducted by PwC, only 1,575 students, totaling less than 2% of all CTE students in New York and less than 5% of seniors, had completed an internship in 2014.
Lastly, the authors suggest CTE programs need to embrace industry-recognized occupational credentials. While the New York State Education Department now allows students to substitute an industry-approved skills test for one of the five required Regents exams, only 14 technical assessments have been approved by Albany so far. Complaints from educators suggest that state standards are inflexible and out of date and that they do not measure the right things or reflect emerging technology.