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Different Approaches to College- and Career-Readiness

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April 17, 2015 12:15 pm


The number of schools and districts working to bridge the gap between secondary education and the real world continues to grow. Be it an entire state or one school in a district, the chance to engage real-world job training through career and technical education (CTE) has become more commonplace for high school students.

In a recent article, The Hechinger Report’s Sarah Garland explores the revival of old school training at a new CTE school in Waco, Texas that promises its students an almost unheard of guaranteed job following graduation. Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy enrolls students from 11 surrounding school districts, 60 percent of which are Hispanic, and allows students to study welding, manufacturing and home building – or what some might consider dying professions:

Around Waco, though, those jobs are still heavily in demand. And the academy offers a unique promise that’s unheard of even among a new generation of career and technical schools striving to make education more relevant and useful for today’s teenagers: a guarantee of a job after graduation.

In a March 27 article from Yale Daily News, Isabelle Taft sheds light on New Haven Job Corps Center in New Haven, Connecticut a program similar to the Waco Academy. She writes about the CTE program that works closely with the New Haven Academy high school (NHA), giving teens and young adults another option beyond higher education when they graduate. Though Academy saw a 19 percent graduation rate increase over the last year, it is still “fighting to catch up to the rest of Connecticut” in the number of students who hold a high school diploma in a school district that is 54 percent African-American. The school is doing so through college and career training:

College preparation deepens in junior and senior years, when students begin participating in the College Bound Seminar. They research schools, work on admissions essays, obtain references, prepare for standardized tests, learn about financial aid and consider issues they might face as they transition from high school to college…But not everyone agrees that what the most at-risk students need is more focus on college.

In New Haven, much like the college and career pathways movement in California, students are equipped for both college and career following graduation. Taft compares the “Commitment to College Admissions” and the “After High School, Not Heading for the Ivory Tower” routes students take when leaving New Haven Academy, noting Principal Greg Baldwin’s push towards higher education.

At NHA, Baldwin believes setting college as the goal ensures students are equipped to pursue any plan after high school, be it a traditional four-year university degree, trade certification or a military career.

By contrast, Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy leans more towards career-specific training for students. Still, the Hechinger Report article states that college is not an afterthought for the school’s educators:

Yet despite this more traditional focus on blue-collar job skills, the school is also incorporating some key strategies of the college-ready movement as it tries to make learning more connected to the real world…Much of the curriculum is organized around projects, for instance, a popular trend in many new college-focused high school programs.

Similar to what’s happening in Waco and New Haven, an educational approach called “Linked Learning” is taking hold in California and elsewhere in the United States. Linked Learning, which is available in more than seventy school districts in California, combines rigorous academics, career-based learning in the classroom, work-based learning in professional settings, and integrated student support to provide students with a relevant high school experience that prepares them for success in college and a career.

Late last year, the Alliance released two reports on Linked Learning. The first, Linked Learning: Using Learning Time Creatively to Prepare Students for College and Career, released jointly with the Center for American Progress (CAP), examines how the Los Angeles, Oakland, Porterville, and Sacramento Unified School Districts are lengthening the school day and year and using time before school, after school, and during the summer to provide more focused learning time for students and teachers.

The second report, Beyond High School: Efforts to Improve Postsecondary Transitions Through Linked Learning, outlines how several California schools and school districts have successfully used Linked Learning to better prepare their high school graduates for success in college—an especially positive development given that two-thirds of the nation’s jobs will require at least some postsecondary education by 2020.

In 2014, the Obama Administration also made CTE a priority with the Youth CareerConnect initiative, allocating more than $100 million to schools and institutions aimed at better training students for in demand jobs of the future. Preparing students for life post-graduation, according to President Obama, means preparing them for the jobs that help them compete with the rest of the world.

Ariana Witt is the Communications Associate at the Alliance for Excellent Education

Connected Learning, Linked Learning

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