Blacks, Latinos benefit from Career and Technical Education schools, but is it the remedy?

Stephon Johnson | 2/27/2014, 9:56 p.m.

If your son or daughter seems to be drifting along through high school and doesn’t seem engaged in academics, it might be the school and not the student.

A new report by the Community Service Society (CSS) demonstrates how Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools benefit New York City’s Black and Latino kids. Titled “Challenging Traditional Expectations: How New York City’s CTE High Schools Are Helping Students Graduate,” the report (authored by CSS Director of Youth Policy Lazar Treschan and CSS Policy Analyst Apurva Mehrotra) concluded that on average, students of CTE schools graduate at a rate higher than New York City public high school students in general, despite having lower rates of college readiness than non-CTE students. The report also shows that graduation rates for Black and Latino men outside of CTE schools are just 52 percent, but in CTE high schools, the graduation rates are 63 and 66 percent respectively.

“Students in CTE schools had slightly lower scores on the state-mandated examinations in mathematics and the English language arts (ELA) taken during the eighth grade,” read the report. “These tests are scored on a scale from 1 to 4.99. Students are classified as Level 1, well below proficient, if their score is between 1 and 1.99; Level 2, below proficient, if their score is between 2 and 2.99; Level 3, proficient, if their score is between 3 and 3.99; and Level 4, exceeding proficiency, if their score is between 4 and 4.99. The average math/ELA test score of students in our sample was 3.02.”

Among CTE schools, the best graduation rates came from students enrolled in CTE schools that have been created since 2003. Students in newer CTE schools are 18 percentage points more likely to graduate than comparable students in non-CTE schools. Attending a CTE school is also associated with significantly higher graduation rates for Blacks and Latinos, and for males in particular. However, in terms of test scores going into high school, CTE students rank lower than their peers elsewhere in the city.

“On average, students in CTE schools have eighth-grade test scores that are lower—by 0.06 in ELA and 0.07 in math—than students in non-CTE schools,” states the report. “Looking deeper, CTE schools attract more students at and just below the middle of the test score distribution. Similar shares of students from CTE and non-CTE schools are at the lowest level of proficiency in eighth grade, but CTE schools have far fewer students who exceed proficiency standards in eighth grade.”

David Jones talked about the importance of CTE for Black and Latino students and the importance of students seeing a light at the end of the tunnel come graduation day.

“Things have changed since I was coming through in the 1950s and 1960s,” Jones told the AmNews. “The nature of certain work has become so highly technical that unless you have some specific training in it, it’s very difficult. That’s why Aviation High School has been one of the leaders. Industries, like engineering, can be so technical they can’t just have anybody working on complex machines that hundreds of people’s lives depend on. “