95% grad rate for career-tech students

California’s career academy students are more likely to graduate and complete college-prep courses required by state universities, according to a new Berkeley report on “partnership academies.”

These programs create a small school with a vocational focus for students in grades 10 through 12.  Business partners provide mentors and internships and sponsor field trips. At least half the students must be high-risk for dropping out due to low grades, poor attendance and other factors.

Despite this, 95 percent of seniors in California Partnership Academies graduate, compared with 85 percent of seniors statewide. Fifty-seven percent of academy graduates complete the courses required by the state university systems, compared with 36 percent of graduates statewide.

I wrote about a San Jose electronics academy in the ’80s, when the program was new and all the students were high-risk. “Teachers care about us,” said students, who bragged about teachers calling home to get them to show up every day. The chance to qualify for a summer job was a major motivator. I remember a Mexican-American kid who became the first in his family to graduate from high school. A mentor told him he needed straight A’s at community college, so he could transfer and earn an engineering degree. He was earning straight A’s in pre-engineering courses while working half-time as a technician at a high-tech company.

Sixty percent of academy seniors plan to go to community college and another 28 percent hope to attend four-year universities, the report found. Nearly all plan to work while attending college.

Of 500 partnership academies in California, about 200 risk closure due to budget cuts, California Watch reports.

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