OSC: High school Career and Technical Education programs need improvement

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in the state are supposed to provide students with an alternative to traditional high school coursework. The graduation rate for students in these programs is 90% but a new report from the New York State Comptroller’s Office (OSC) said CTE programs are falling short.

CTE programs are not preparing students for a changing job market. Instead, they are offering programs that are not in demand, high paying, experiencing rapid growth, or all three according to the OSC report.

Furthermore, students have to deal with multiple barriers to enroll in and complete CTE programs. Schedule restrictions, lack of support from officials, and low reimbursement rates/instructor salaries are also hindering CTE programs, the report said.

“Approved programs do not always provide high-quality opportunities for students that also meet the labor needs of the state and its businesses. Approved programs often lead to occupations that pay less than the state average or frequently require four or more years of additional education.

While almost all the approved programs in the state align with occupations that are in high demand, have a high growth projection, or typically lead to a high salary, only 30% meet all three criteria,” the report said.

During the 2018 to 2019 school year, 13% of students in approved CTE programs—or 6,014—were enrolled in a program that met all three of the criteria in question. The remaining 39,214 students were enrolled in programs that weren’t deemed in high demand, growth, or high paying.

Source: Oversight of Career and Technical Education Program in New York State Schools

Those students enrolled in CTE programs that paid below the state average was 42%—or 19,204 of the total 45,228 students enrolled in these programs. OSC said the New York State Education Department (NYSED) also needs to do more to monitor the success of students in CTE programs and work to standardize the curriculum.

“High school CTE programs are designed to foster student development. NYSED’s secondary-level CTE programs prepare students for success in future careers by introducing them to workplace competencies through hands-on learning,” NYSED said in it’s response to the OSC report.

The activities involved in introducing students to workplace competencies include practicing a range of skills useful in future studies or careers. While CTE programs deliver instruction in technical skills, they are not job-training programs designed to position students to enter a specific occupational title upon graduation.

Instead, CTE programs use technical skill instruction as a vehicle to teach students to become independent learners. Students enrolled in high school CTE remain engaged in their educational program, learn how to learn, meet the requirements for graduation, and are prepared for the next step of their educational continuum- be it employment, post-secondary training or education, or military service.

NYSED

OSC recommended that approved and local CTE programs align with the needs of the state’s workforce and the career goals of high school students. They also recommended NYSED look at CTE programs and make sure they are adequately funded, and work with schools to better promote, support, and teach the programs.

In its response to OSC about the oversight report, NYSED said funding for CTE programs is not determined by NYSED. “Consequently, an examination of issues related to reimbursement must focus on legislative decisions that determine these levels.”

NYSED also said the CTE curriculum cannot be standardized across New York because curriculum is decided at the local level. They said, however, that it would begin developing guidelines for school districts to assist in what should be included in curriculum for CTE programs.

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