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New York City public high school students enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools, which typically serve low-income students and students with below average 8th grade test scores, are much more likely to graduate than their peers in non-CTE schools. Black and Latino male students in CTE schools, who traditionally have the lowest high school graduation rates and are often the target for city-funded programming, showed the greatest graduation gains.
These are some of the findings of a new report released today by Community Service Society of New York (CSS) examining the potential impacts and limitations of CTE in New York City. “Challenging Traditional Expectations: How New York City’s CTE High Schools Are Helping Students Graduate,” tracks the outcomes of a cohort of 79,705 students -- including 6,262 from CTE schools in the city – from September 2008 when they entered high school through June and August 2012 graduations. Drawing on previous work on CTE schools by a 2008 Mayoral Task Force and a 2012 Public Advocate’s report, the CSS study is the first quantitative, statistical analysis of CTE student and school-level data.
Overall, the report found that CTE students, on average, graduate at a rate higher than New York City public high school students in general, but have lower rates of college readiness than non-CTE students. Attending a CTE school is also associated with significantly higher graduation rates for blacks and Latinos, males in particular. The report found that graduation rates for black and Latino males outside of CTE schools are just 52 percent; in CTE high schools, they graduate at 63 and 66 percent, respectively. Within the portfolio of CTE schools, the strongest graduation outcomes were found among those students enrolled in CTE schools created since 2003. Students in newer CTE schools are 18 percentage points more likely to graduate than comparable students in non-CTE schools.
“Not too long ago, CTE schools and programs were part of a second-class system of vocational education populated by students for whom we had the lowest expectations,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society. “Today these schools are showing some of our most vulnerable students the value of career-oriented programming as a pathway to obtaining their diploma, continuing their education or gaining the skills that can lead to a job with decent wages. As our study shows, these schools have tremendous potential to improve outcomes for the populations of students who traditionally are the hardest to serve.”
"The findings of this timely report confirm the importance of educational programs that track to a career path, particularly for disadvantaged students whose exposure to good job options may be very limited, “ said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City. “The business community is eager to work with the de Blasio Administration to scale up successful CTE models in order to ensure that more public school students are college and career ready.”
“New CTE schools are having a remarkably positive effect on the graduation rates of black and Latino males in New York City,” said Lazar Treschan, CSS Director of Youth Policy and lead author of the report. “The DOE should continue to expand these programs, while studying what is making them so effective for young men. At the same time, our study shows that the next step in the growth of CTE is to raise the bar past graduation to improved college readiness.”
CTE schools offer core academic instruction within the context of specific career fields that include aviation, information technology, healthcare, fashion, travel and tourism. Students in CTE schools receive applied learning experiences, exposure to career pathways, career readiness activities and employer mentorships. There are currently 45 fully-dedicated CTE high schools serving 26,364 students. Twenty of these schools have opened since 2009, seven were opened between 2003 and 2008, and 18 are over a decade old.
Recent reforms to the CTE school model have sought to use career-programming to both keep students engaged in high school by increasing the real-world relevancy of their coursework, as well as offering a clearer pathway and rationale for post-secondary education and training. CTE schools created after 2003 tend to have smaller classes and a single industry focus, while older schools tend to be larger with multiple tracks. Five new CTE schools are scheduled to open this year while four older schools are to be phased out.
Improving and Expanding CTE Schools
Recognition of CTE schools has been on the rise. Last year, President Obama cited a Brooklyn CTE school, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-Tech), in his State of the Union address as an example of forward-thinking education reform. More recently, Mayor de Blasio announced that the city would expand innovative schools such as Health Education and Research Occupations High School in the Bronx that generate skilled workers for middle-level jobs in the healthcare field. A Community Service Society survey found that 73 percent of New Yorkers would be willing to pay more in taxes to expand and improve CTE schools.
Based on the major findings of the report, CSS offers several recommendations on how to build on the progress these schools have made. Given the impressive graduation results CTE schools are having on black and Latino males, the NYCDOE should seek to aggressively expand the CTE portfolio using models similar to those developed since 2003. One clear area for expansion is Queens, home to students who seek to attend CTE schools at the highest rate.
CTE schools should also seek to enroll more English Language Learners (ELL), who are very underrepresented in CTE schools. NYCDOE should also pay close attention to the high school matching process for students who rank CTE as their top choice, as those who do so but are not placed in CTE schools show very poor graduation outcomes.
New CTE schools should target students just below the averages for proficiency in ELL and Math. The CSS report found that the strongest gains in graduation from CTE schools accrued to those students just below the mean in middle school test scores. NYCDOE should target this population directly as it implements admission procedures at its new CTE schools.
In light of low college readiness rates for CTE students as compared to their peers in non-CTE schools (22 and 18 percent, respectively), this should be a special area of focus. In order to shed the reputation as an alternative to college preparation programs, CTE schools must place a stronger emphasis on equipping students to excel at the next level.
The report was authored by Lazar Treschan, CSS’ Director of Youth Policy, and Apurva Mehrotra, Policy Analyst. They have partnered on recent reports examining the labor market facing young adults in New York City, as well as enrollment trends at City University of New York and New York City’s specialized high schools. Lazar Treschan also helps to manage local coalitions including the Campaign for Tomorrow’s Workforce and the New York OPPORTUNITY Youth Agenda.