Tuesday, January 29, 2013

CareerTech: Shrinking the Dropout Rate and Addressing the Needs of At-Risk Kids

I read the January 6th Boston Globe op-ed piece written by Alan Leventhal on the cost of dropouts and have followed the discussion since. The dropout issue isn't just an issue in Massachusetts, but it is a national issue that will cost the U.S. trillions of dollars as Leventhal points out:
The cost of a dropout over a lifetime has been estimated at up to $500,000 in lost wages, increased entitlements, and criminal justice spending. If the dropout rate can be reduced by one-half to 500,000 annually, savings will approach $250 billion over the lifetime of each graduating class. Over a 10-year period this would represent lifetime savings of almost $2.5 trillion. In the context of our budget challenges, this is real money.
On January 23rd, the Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts-based public policy research group, published "The Incredible Shrinking Voc Tech Dropout Rate" in response to Leventhal's op-ed piece and stated the following:
There are many ways to come at this issue, but perhaps the most hopeful way is to look at the state’s voc-techs, which educate a higher percentage of at-risk students. Statewide, 17 percent of students are in special education, while the number is 24 percent at the voc-techs.

Previous blogs and research I have shared here have underscored how much academic performance has improved in the regional vocational-technical schools, which function autonomously outside the purview of a district superintendent. A quick primer on the issue can be gotten in Vocational-Technical Education in Massachusetts (October 2008); a few blogs (here, here, here, and here), and a Fall River Herald News op-ed in support of expanding vocational education.

Why is this the most hopeful way to look at the issue of dropouts? Because, as a report released yesterday notes, voc-tech schools — especially a subset of them — are hitting it out of the park increasing the graduation rate and lowering dropout rates.

The special education graduation rate for vocational technical schools, which stands at 82 percent, is nearly 20 percentage points higher than that of traditional district high schools.
It has been obvious, to those of us within the CareerTech system, that career and technical education has grown and progressed from those old stereotypical days, into a dynamic system that can quickly modify its instructional delivery system to meet the needs of their students, industry, and their respective states. The improved academic performance in CTE further demonstrates the wide-ranging course offerings and the improved ability to attract some of the brightest students.

CTE's approach to individualized education based upon rigorous standards and competency-based assessment is, in my opinion, the educational model that can best address the dropout issue and ever-growing skills gap (among other educational issues).

Another reason why I believe CTE is an appealing way for students to find success is because its foundation is built upon the 70+20+10 model for learning and development. This model focuses on CareerTech students who spend their class time "Doing" (real life, on the job-type experiences) with "Others" (instructors that have worked in industry) and have based these first two components upon "Study" (formal learning).

Career and technical education should no longer be an after-thought, but a very important part of any educational discussion.

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