Via Arthur Goldstein.
Massachusetts’ well-regarded vocational schools are sending more graduates to college, not to the workforce, reports the Boston Globe.
Once viewed as a place for student slackers with no college ambition, Massachusetts vocational high schools are increasing academic standards, offering honors classes, and producing more college-bound students than ever before.
Employers are seeking more formal education for entry-level workers in the fastest-growing career sectors, such as information technology, environmental studies, engineering, biotechnology, and health care, said Patrick Collins, superintendent at Assabet Valley Tech.
Vocational schools still are seen as academically inferior, said Daniel O’Connell, superintendent of North Shore Tech. Some 29.7 percent of seniors in the class of 2013 went on to four-year colleges and universities, up from 15.1 percent five years earlier.
“Vocational education has changed so drastically,’’ he said. “If you were a vokie you worked with your hands and were a discipline problem. That’s archaic. But it’s still a process to educate the public. Each year that goes by, people realize more and more what the opportunities are with a technical education.’’
All students take the Massachusetts curriculum and must pass the state exam to graduate.
Only 30 percent of young people will earn a four-year degree, says Bill Symonds. He’s co-author of Harvard’s 2011 Pathways to Prosperity report, which argued that U.S. high schools should provide a variety of paths to adulthood.
His son attends Minuteman, a 21st century vocational high school in Lexington, Mass., reports American RadioWorks
Chris, was a C- minus student who loved to cook. The local high school had no courses to prepare students for a career in cooking.
In the wealthy, well-educated Boston suburbs, “there is a tremendous bias against” vocational education, says Symonds. But Chris knew it was the right choice for him.
In middle school, he asked himself, “Why am I learning this?” Always behind, “I just felt so stupid.”
. . . once he got to Minuteman, he started to see why he needed to learn math and English. Chris is now a senior, about to graduate in the top 10 percent of his class.
“In culinary arts, there’s not just the side of, ‘Make this recipe and put it out,’” he says. “There’s the side of, multiply this recipe. Break it down. Make more, make less. There’s the side of hospitality, and learning how to write out business plans, pay wages, make a profit.”
Students who’ve failed in traditional schools can do well at Minuteman, says Michelle Roche, the director of career and technical education. “They’re standing on their feet, they’re working with their hands, they figure out a problem,” she says. “And success breeds success.”
“Every year, some one million students leave before earning a high school degree,” writes Symonds in Pathways to Prosperity. “Many drop out because they struggle academically. But large numbers say they dropped out because they felt their classes were not interesting, and that high school was unrelentingly boring. In other words, they didn’t believe high school was relevant, or providing a pathway to achieving their dreams.”
Career and technical education can engage students and widen their options — including going to college — says Symonds.
The U.S. isn’t first in the world in college-educated adults — the Obama administration’s goal — because Americans earn fewer vocational degrees than our competitors.
Ozymandias is the theme of this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted by Petticoat Government. CT has been teaching about Ancient Egypt and contemplating the decline of once-powerful institutions, such as the public school system.
“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Now in college, the Cates’ daughter wrote an essay on how homeschooling prepared her for college.
Charters designed for students with disabilities are renewing the “inclusion debate,” reports Arianna Prothero in Ed Week.
Diana Diaz-Harrison opened a charter school in Phoenix for her son, who has autism, and similar students. The Arizona Autism Charter School, which enrolls 90 students, “is among dozens of charters nationwide that focus on serving students with disabilities,” writes Prothero.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires that students with disabilities be taught in the “least restrictive environment.” That usually means mainstreaming students.
Some parents prefer a specialized school designed for their children’s needs.
About 100 charters are designed for special-ed students, according to the Center for Education Reform. While some are disability-specific, others “serve children with a range of disabilities as well as their typically developing peers.”
Several years ago, I visited charters designed for disabled and mainstream students in Michigan and California as a freelance writer on Unique Schools for Unique Students, a Center on Reinventing Public Education book on charters for special-needs students.
Not everyone thinks mainstreaming is the best strategy.
“A majority of kids with disabilities are performing very poorly—very, very poorly—where they receive all or most of their instruction in the mainstream classroom,” said Doug Fuchs, a special education professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. “Inclusion must account for whether or not students are profiting educationally from the mainstream setting.”
Many students at Arizona Autism Charter School were doing poorly in mainstream classrooms, says Diaz-Harrison.
Special-ed co-teachers may function as “very expensive finger pointers,” writes Peter DeWitt, who’s taught inclusion classes, in Ed Week. The Goldilocks quandary remains: “How do we find a balance between having higher expectations without making those expectations so high that we continue to make a marginalized population of students feel even more marginalized?”
Young Latinos are doing better in school and are more likely to complete high school, reports America’s Hispanic Children — Gaining Ground Looking Forward by Child Trends Hispanic Institute.
The percentage of Hispanic eighth graders achieving at or above the “proficient” level in math (an important predictor of high school completion) has increased from 8 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2014.
Dropout rates have fallen sharply, but only 73 percent of Hispanic youths complete high school in four years, compared to 86 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
Only a quarter of young Hispanic adults have earned a two- or four-year college degree compared to half of non-Hispanic whites.
The report also looks at health, economics, family and other issues. I noticed that young Hispanics are much more likely than blacks to be growing up in a two-parent family.
Technology can’t replace “human connections,” said Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, at a NationSwell Council event.
Microsoft’s technology-rich “School of the Future” in Philadelphia underperforms the city’s public schools, which is “quite a feat,” said Kopp. On a visit last year, she noticed that “every single kid in the room was IMing their friends, or trying to fix the computer, or surfing the Internet, while a teacher talked very loudly in the front.”
“If we try to stick technology in there to solve this problem without those foundations [of human connection in the classroom], we’re going to see things go in the wrong direction,” she said.
Fourteen historically black colleges were at risk of losing access to federal student aid because of high default rates on student loans. At the last minute, the U.S. Education Department changed the method used to calculate default rates: 20 for-profit colleges and one public adult education program remain on the list of colleges facing sanctions.