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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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Sac Bee misses the most important education cuts

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Jan. 13, 2009

In this morning's piece on the California Teachers Association and their proposed tax increase, the Sacramento Bee editorial board mentioned that every aspect of education had taken a hit except teacher salaries.   The Bee editorial board wrote, "While virtually everything in education has taken a hit -- academic programs, art and music, counseling, books, labs -- teacher salaries remain among the top 10 in the nation."

We take one major exception with that information and the overall article.  California manufacturers have a substantial stake in our high school career technical education programs and rely upon them for critical workforce both from college and straight out of high school.  These high wage employers have suffered as a result of a 40 percent decline in student access to these programs over the last 20 years (see chart below and here's a prime example showing CTE is the last priority).  That the Bee did not mention one of the largest and most dramatic declines in our education system could be an oversight but it's a hard number to miss and deserves proper attention.

It deserves that attention because the state categorical spending for career technical education is about to become extinct with the flexibility being given to schools to raid these funds.  The Get REAL coalition put out a release today making a hard case for securing what's left of vocational programs.   These programs are absolutely essential to California's economic recovery and one can argue the lack of access to these courses has contributed to the overall problem.  Our students need relevance in their high school course work to find their path to success.  Without it we are left with more dropouts -- already above 30 percent -- and too many high school graduates with limited workforce skills or college inspiration.

The media, the Governor, the Legislature and CTA must understand that they have whittled these critical career programs down to the bone and, for now, we must at the very least protect existing funds or risk our economic recovery and our students' success.





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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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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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More career tech opposed by more Democrats

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on June 27, 2008

Just after the Assembly Education Committee killed two bills that would have provided for future high school career tech courses (SB 672 and 681) Democrats in the Senate Education Committee yesterday defeated AB 1586, a bill that would have allowed California State Universities to accept CTE courses as enrollment requirements.  This bill's failure essentially prohibits an important path to the CSU system for many students who need the inspiration and opportunity from these hands-on courses.  Even worse, the defeat contradicts all the positive CTE rhetoric from our elected officials.
   
    See what Get REAL leaders are saying
   
    AB 1586 vote:
    No -- Jack Scott (Chairman) (D)
    No -- Alex Padilla (D)
    No -- Gloria Romero (D)
    No -- Joe Simitian (D)
    No -- Tom Torlakson (D)
    No -- Elaine Alquist (D)
   
    Yes -- Mark Wyland (Vice Chairman) (R)
    Yes -- Jeff Denham (R)
    Yes -- Abel Maldonado (R)

   
   
    SB 672 & 681





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