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Career technical education gets a boost from Senators Rod Wright and Mark Wyland

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on May 6, 2009

The following video is from an April 22nd Senate Education Hearing on Senator Rod Wright's SB 381 - a bill that mandates alternative CTE pathways for any high school requiring A-G coursework for graduation.  ("A-G" is the standard term for all approved classes for entrance into the University of California system) 

SB 381:
  • values student access to both "college-prep" and CTE curriculum in high school;
  • preserves student access to balanced and rigorous curriculum to prepare them for success in the 21st century economy;
  • upholds the law that districts provide balanced curriculum for both college admissions and career entry; and,
  • stops efforts underway to track ALL students by narrowing district curriculum offerings.

The bill passed out of committee with only Chairwoman Gloria Romero voting against it.  The testimony and questioning is worth your time.  Here's the alert document that Sen. Wright will distribute during the future Senate floor debate either on May 11th or 14th.


View Sen. Rod Wright on SB 381 and importance of providing Career Technical Education options when A-G is required



View Sen. Mark Wyland on SB 381 and importance of providing Career Technical Education options when A-G is required




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California can learn from Chicago's agriculture students ... yes, 'agriculture'

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Oct. 27, 2008

Don't miss this NPR piece on the impressive success of an urban agricultural science high school in Chicago's south side.

It shows how a high school can, at the same time, provide a hands-on agricultural science program along with a traditional college-preparatory education.  600 students apply to participate and travel up to an hour to attend.   The school features a 72-acre working farm where they learn husbandry, farm fish, grow corn, poinsettias, apples and more, milk cows, and sell their commodities based on an ever-changing market, shedding light on an entire modern agricultural spectrum, from Illinois' bean fields to the Chicago Board of Trade.  The school records only a six percent dropout rate.  Sixty-one percent of the students are African American, 27% are Caucasian and 12% are Hispanic.

Whether it's agriculture, bioscience, raw manufacturing, or otherwise, California's high school students continue to suffer the losses of valuable career education courses like the ones featured in this piece -- curriculums that use innovation, experimentation and enterprise to teach skills and expose students to the success and opportunity they need most.   California has allowed the disintegration of these types of programs for a long time but the state's budget problems now threaten a close-to-extinct statewide vocational system.  Already more than 30 percent of California's high school students drop out and only two of ten students go on to get a four-year college degree.   Cutting more career technical education will only make California's economic problems worse, leaving more dropouts and high school graduates with little or no skills to take advantage of tremendous opportunities in our increasingly technical and hands-on workforce.

The major hurdle, among many, is California's unwillingness to require, fund and measure these courses in public education.  Try integrating a program like Chicago's ag science curriculum in a California public high school and you'll run up against funding issues, "time-in-school-day" problems, A-G University of California enrollment requirement road blocks, and others.  Simply put, it wouldn't happen ... even in a state with 400,000 agricultural jobs.   Last year, CMTA and the Get REAL coalition were defeated on all major career technical education reform bills.  One of those bills -- SB 672 by Sen. Tom Torlakson -- specifically would have allowed high schools to take existing funds (after all prop 98 allocations) and implement programs like these for graduation.   Here's how it went down -- All the democrats except one abstained, basically killing the bill without publicly killing the bill.

Like 'Da Bears from the same midwestern region, we'll be back next year, as committed as ever ... and we might even fly out some ag students from Chicago.



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Algebra earlier policy not proven anywhere

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Aug. 29, 2008

The Sacramento Bee editorialized this morning that moving the Algebra I standard to the 8th grade was a proper use of the State's resources because it would force our schools to teach basic math skills earlier,  ensure that every 13 year old is ready to tackle algebra, and "increase the richness of the experience in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades."

The problem with the 8th grade Algebra I mandate isn't that every high school student shouldn't be competent in Algebra I skills, it's that an arbitrary decision to move Algebra I coursework from 9th to 8th grade has an enormous cost to a public education system that is already misprioritizing funds .  Improving California's current 8th grade math scores should be our first priority before raising the bar to include Algebra I standards.

California ranks 5th worst (45th overall) in terms of 8th grade math achievement according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  All 44 states that have higher scores do NOT require algebra in the 8th grade.  That's worth repeating -- not a single state that ranks higher in math achievement has done what California is about to do, let alone spent $3 billion to implement the change.

There might be some good arguments for starting algebra enlightenment earlier for some students, but, as a State that has become one of the worst in math learning and as a State Government that currently needs to leverage every single educational dollar, we should be looking at the successes around the country and emulating those before we test broad new theories.

High school and middle school dropouts continue to increase at an alarming rate in our state.    Millions of  remediation dollars are spent in our schools while we remove students from other relevant, and sometimes educational-awakening, applied learning courses (sometimes even non-math courses that teach math in other ways).  California manufacturers -- who pay some of the state's highest salaries -- can't find skilled workers for highly technical careers.  Increased spending on Career Technical Education (CTE) seems to be a much wiser expenditure of scarce education dollars.  The California Department of Education's (CDE) own education statistics show that for students who take three sequential CTE course, the dropout rate is cut in half.











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Would a business 'make a scrawny horse pull a heavier load with a bigger whip'?

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on July 16, 2008

Two hours ago the California Department of Education came out with their newest form of reporting high school dropouts.  They reported what we basically already knew - that the State's dropout rate was far worse than the reported 13% that was detailed during the last round of data for 2005-06.

According to the CDE,  the dropout rate for 2006-07 reached 24% (and another 8% unaccounted for),  meaning either the State was negligent in the data collection in the past or California more than doubled it's dropout rate in one year.   It's the former no doubt but now we can agree on the tragic nature and the depth of the enigma that exists within the policies of our State's education system.

These new numbers identify the virtual dropout factories that our high schools are slouching toward.  It's time for the State to run it's education like a business.  If a third of a manufacturer's product didn't meet customer needs, consumers would start going elsewhere. Then, the question that would ripple through every department, staff level, budgetary decision and stockholder meeting would go something like this:  How does every dollar spent help meet our customers' needs?   Every dollar would be accounted for, prioritized, and rationalized in terms of product and return.  That's how you react and succeed as a business.

Last week the State approved required algebra 1 for all eighth grade students.   With the dropouts number in mind, what are we getting for the billions of dollars that must go to implement this program?  Experience suggests we will see less electives like CTE in 7th and 8th grades and more drop-outs.  We can't even get a majority of our high school students to pass algebra, now we are going to force more students to fail earlier and provide them with less CTE?

Every newly allocated penny should focus on courses with inspiration and opportunity... together they might even get students to understand or take an interest in basic math or even algebra.   The Sacramento Bee's Peter Schrag said it best in a recent piece:

     
    "Urging the board to require that every eighth-grader take beginning algebra and the board's overnight agreement to mandate it within three years is like trying to make a scrawny horse pull a heavier load with a bigger whip. At best, it won't work; at worst, it will kill the horse."


Businesses across California understand more than anyone the failure of our high schools to help our kids find inspiration and meaningful careers.  They know because they need skilled and productive workers for their technical and high-wage jobs more than ever.   While companies find every ounce of return on their dollar, and mine for any skilled workforce they can find, our education system just threw more money at a bigger whip.







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It's time for Career Tech!

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on June 17, 2008

New 2007 education data reveals California is losing 20 high school dropouts and 2 career technical education enrollments per hour. 

Tune into the "Time for CTE" media teleconference call at 10:00 am today to hear about a solution from State Senator Tom Torlakson and the Get REAL coalition.

Media teleconference:
Call-in # 1-888-490-1502
passcode # 52283052

Details:  http://getrealca.com/20080617_media_info.php
 




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