A future for all

Despite fears of tracking, high-quality career tech programs are overcoming the voc-ed stigma, writes Dana Goldstein in The Nation.  At Aviation High, a five-year career and/or college prep school in Queens, junior Noel Adames taught her about welding.

A member of ROTC, Noel spends his mornings preparing to become an FAA-certified aircraft mechanic, learning the forty-three skills—from welding to air-conditioner maintenance to electrical wiring—required to service planes and helicopters. He spends his afternoons in traditional academic courses, including one college-level class, and will graduate from Aviation’s five-year program with a New York State Regents diploma. His ambition is to attend the Air Force Academy.

“If you understand how the inside of the plane works, it’s a whole other level of being a pilot,” he says. But if that doesn’t work out, Noel’s FAA certification will qualify him for a union job that pays about $55,000 per year with benefits, and could help him finance a college education.

While the Obama administration is pushing science and math education, it’s not funding hands-on programs to prepare students for STEM careers, Goldstein writes.

On Dewey to Delpit, which I’ve just added to the blogroll, Max Bean writes about the unrealistic expectations at no-excuses, college-for-all charter schools. Here’s part three.

“Ideally, every student not suffering from severe biological handicaps should receive the kind of rigorous academic training that would provide an avenue to college; but, even in ideal circumstances, not all students should actually attend college,” Bean writes. “Moreover, the rigid, uniform format in which college prep is currently being implemented in many inner-city schools is absurd and counterproductive.”


About Joanne


  1. I’m finding the “voc-tech” track the high school currently offers is out of reach for my illiterate autistic child. There are so many slots and it’s competitive. However, they refuse to enroll him with other handicapped children (along the lines of those with DS, for example) because the counsellor said it would be “beneath his intellect” and somehow he doesn’t qualify. OK, so… they will stick him in remedial classes, and he will have no real skills after he gets his useless diploma and no real help to find a job.

    Feeling “left behind” here…

  2. Vo Tec? That has gone almost entirely away over the last few years with budget cuts!

    Whenever a teacher retires (Auto Shop, Video Production, multiple ROP classes here in CA) the district or county just cuts the offering.

    Hopefully the classes will come back some day…

  3. That’s pretty pathetic of the school. Vocational Ed was huge when I attended public school until graduating in 1981. Even in junior high (known as middle school these days) we had industrial arts which consisted of woodshop, metalshop, welding, etc. I learned how to weld with oxy-acetylene, arc, and spot techniques, how to use a band and power saw, how to use woodworking and other tools.

    The education was hardly ‘frowned upon’ (at least back then)….(sigh)

  4. What vocation do they offer that would work for someone who is illiterate?

  5. Ummmm, there are a lot of things a person with a handicap can be trained to do, assuming the proper structure of support is set up. We have an organization here which does that with the handicapped, washing dishes, cleanup, etc (while it might not sound like much to you or I, being able to feel useful is an important goal in anyone’s life).

  6. Bill — I understand that, but that’s a different sort of training entirely than vocational ed.

  7. “Every academic subject at Tech Valley is organized around projects intended to introduce teenagers to potential occupations. A history class worked alongside local attorneys to put Christopher Columbus and other European explorers on mock trial for decimating Native American populations. ”

    For what occupation is this supposed to be preparing people? Community organizer?

  8. Lightly Seasoned – he has a good sense of direction and while he doesn’t read WELL, he can recognize packages and that sort of thing and group items together. Stocking shelves, for example, would be something he could be trained to do. But he can fool people on the tests that he understands what he is reading and comes in barely under proficient on MAP testing etc. in the past.

    So, they just treat him like any other student and assume somehow he will magically make it in the world…

    I am having him “volunteer” at a thrift store in the hopes that he will get some of the people/ interaction/ organizing skills he needs to have a job along those lines. I think he could have been trained to do more specialized work, but it would have taken longer and that should have begun before he was a teen. Schools simply wait too long to help kids get into what they need to be doing…