Viewing blog posts written by Gino DiCaro

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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Everyone thinks it's time for career tech except Assembly Education Committee Democrats

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on June 26, 2008

Two bills (SB 672 & 681 by Sen. Tom Torlakson) that allow high schools to use future money for CTE courses failed in the State Assembly Education Committee lat last night.  California's losing 20 high school students per hour because our education system puts kids on one track and one track only.  Family after family finds little motivation and relevance in current high school course work.  Employers and manufacturers all over the State find a young workforce ill-equipped to make and produce the machines of the 21st Century.   Yet, legislation that asks for zero new money and only provides for schools to use future Prop 98 money above cost of living, existing growth allocations, etc. continues to receive meaningless rhetorical attention and very little support when it comes time to vote.  It's time for CTE.  If not now, or in the near future, when?

The SB 672 vote was almost strictly partisan:

Abstain -- Chairman Gene Mullin (D)
Yes -- Vice Chairman Martin Garrick (R)
Abstain -- Julia Brownley (D)
Yes -- Joe Coto (D)
Abstain -- Mike Eng (D)
Abstain -- Loni Hancock (D)
Yes -- Bob Huff(R)
Abstain -- Betty Karnette (D)
Yes -- Alan Nakanishi (R)
Abstain -- Jose Solorio (D)

Get REAL Press Release -- Assembly Education Committee Democrats Fail California Students

Some data on dropouts and CTE decline:

Statewide enrollment chart (since 1997)

Los Angeles County enrollment chart (since 2000)

San Diego County enrollment chart (since 2000)

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