Wednesday, January 9

New and improved vocational schools may be on the way

In October, Comptroller William Thompson issued a report lamenting the declining status of vocational education. But now with a new head of Career and Technical Education, the DOE may be planning to bulk up vocational school options, the Sun reports. Students in the city's CTE schools and programs post higher Regents scores and graduation rates, despite the fact that CTE schools are not funded as well as other schools. According to the Sun, rumors are swirling that the DOE plans to build and open "model" CTE schools to seize on these strong results.

The DOE's new head of CTE programs, Gregg Betheil, was until recently a senior vice president of the National Academy Foundation, which coordinates vocational programs in a number of NYC schools, including the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism at Erasmus, where every student participates. Betheil also worked as a teacher and technology coordinator at Martin Luther King before it closed; according to a 1998 Village Voice article, he was the "champion" of integrating technology and education and inspired students.

I've liked the vocational schools I've visited. Kids are engaged in their work and generally seem happy to be at school. This feeling was especially prevalent at George Westinghouse High School when I visited this fall. There, as at many larger schools, enrollment has declined in recent years as kids enjoy more high school options. But the DOE has not slammed Westinghouse with "over the counter" transfers, as it has other, non-vocational large schools. I wonder whether this is because of the DOE's bias against vocational education. Let's hope that if that bias is truly changing — and it should — the DOE doesn't start filling vocational schools with kids who aren't looking for career-based high school programs.

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