college ready

New York City schools expand career and technical education, while City Council members look to track progress

PHOTO: Jessica Glazer
Students at Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School.

With demand for career and technical education growing, the New York City Department of Education announced this week an additional $113 million in spending on expanding and enhancing such programs.

A City Council education committee hearing was called Wednesday to consider a bill that would require the Department of Education to report each year on student demand for CTE, how many CTE programs are offered, and graduation rates for students in CTE schools and programs.

Members also discussed the obstacles that stand in the way of CTE offerings, such as teacher training, infrastructure needs and the state’s cumbersome approval process.

Chalkbeat reported in August that some schools forego the formal approval process, which can take as long as six years. As a result, those schools can’t offer CTE-endorsed diplomas and students don’t have a reliable way to measure program quality. Councilmember Daniel Dromm, chair of the committee, made many of the same points at the hearing, and Chalkbeat’s story was cited extensively in the council’s briefing paper.

“We need to reduce the bureaucracy and streamline the process at entry level,” said Sterling Roberson, vice president for career and technical education at the United Federation of Teachers, in his prepared remarks.

Career and technical education programs have come a long way from what was once described as “vocational” education. CTE programs emphasize rigorous academics along with training for in-demand and high-paying jobs.

Councilman Mark Treyger, along with advocates who testified during the hearing, touted the benefits of CTE schools for underserved students. In New York City, as of 2013, students enrolled in CTE schools were more likely to graduate than those who were not, a finding that’s especially true for students with disabilities or who are learning English.

But Sam Streed, a policy analyst with Advocates for Children, said steps need to be taken to make sure those students get into CTE programs in the first place.

“We cannot tell from public data whether they have equitable access to the full range of available programs,” he said, in prepared remarks.

On Wednesday, Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Phil Weinberg said the department will launch or enhance 40 CTE programs over four years. At least three of the new programs will offer students the chance to earn an associate’s degree — for free — along with their high school diploma.

The expansion has already begun, with three new programs slated to open this fall. They include a culinary arts program at August Martin High School in Queens, a digital communication and media program at Brooklyn Studio Secondary School and a solar energy installation program at High School for Energy and Technology in the Bronx.

Additionally, the department has changed the way it funds CTE programs. For the first time, more than 70 traditional academic high schools got additional per-student funding for CTE programs. In the past, only CTE schools received such funding.

Still, City Council members and advocates made it clear that more changes are needed.

According to a 2015 survey by Partnership for New York City, less than two percent of CTE students participated in internships. John Widlund, executive director of career and technical education for the DOE, said the department has increased the number of internship slots from fewer than 1,500 to more than 2,000.

Roberson, of the UFT, said it’s also important to make sure CTE teachers have the opportunity to participate in real-world training and update their skills as needed.

“It’s easy to open up the door,” he said. “The challenge is, as things change…how do we make sure the teachers are prepared?”

Charter Schools

A new study reveals which NYC charter school networks are outperforming their peers

PHOTO: Creative Commons / Leila Hadd
A KIPP school in the Bronx

All charter schools are not created equal. That’s according to a new study published by Stanford University research group CREDO, which shows some New York City charter school networks are better than others at improving their students’ math and reading test scores relative to surrounding traditional public schools.

The results are part of a broader study released this month that analyzed hundreds of charter schools and networks across 26 states to assess which types of charters are most effective in boosting student learning.

Most notably, the study found that charter school management organizations (CMOs), which CREDO defines as agencies that hold and oversee the operation of at least three charters, perform better than both traditional public schools and charters not aligned with CMOs. Academic growth was defined in the study as the change in a student’s scores from one testing period to the next.

Nationwide, students at CMO-operated charters received an equivalent of 17 days of additional schooling in math and reading compared to similar students in traditional public schools. In New York City, those rates were substantially higher, with students receiving the equivalent of 80 extra days of learning in math and 29 days in reading.

In comparison, non-CMO charter schools in New York City saw students grow only an additional 34 days in math and actually decline in reading compared to students at traditional public schools (The non-CMO reading difference was not statistically significant).

Five out of 11 CMOs in the city saw distinctly better results. Success Academy Charter Schools, which recently won the Broad Prize, came out on top, significantly outperforming most other networks in the city. Its students gained the equivalent of 228 days in math and 120 days in reading instruction compared to their peers in nearby traditional public schools.

However, the study only examined 168 students from the large network, a small share of its total enrollment of roughly 14,000 students in New York City. In an email, CREDO’s Lynn Woodworth told Chalkbeat that many Success students were excluded from the study because they couldn’t be matched to similar students in “feeder” district schools since the network takes few students after the initial enrollment period.

Icahn Charter Schools, Achievement First, Uncommon Schools New York City, KIPP New York City and Democracy Prep Public Schools all posted lower rates than Success — but still outperformed nearby district schools and the city’s average for CMOs.

Students at Icahn Charter Schools received the equivalent of 171 additional days of learning in math and 46 days in reading, compared to students at nearby traditional public schools. Achievement First students were close, with 125 extra days of learning in math and 57 in reading. KIPP New York City, Uncommon Schools New York City and Democracy Prep all posted gains equivalent to roughly 100 days in math and 50 days in reading.

Two networks — Lighthouse Academies and Public Preparatory Network, Inc. — performed closer to the city’s CMO average. And the three other CMOs — Ascend Learning, Explore Schools, Inc. and New Visions for Public Schools — performed comparably to nearby traditional public schools.

“At the average, independent charter schools show lower gains for their students than CMOs,” the report found. “Despite the wide range of CMO quality, larger organizations of charter holders have taken advantage of scale to the benefit of their students.”

First Person

I’m on a Community Education Council in Manhattan. Mayor de Blasio, we need to move faster on school integration

PHOTO: Patrick Wall

Mayor de Blasio,

As the mother of a fifth-grade student in a New York City public school and a member of the Community Education Council in Manhattan’s District 2, I thank you for acknowledging that our public school system does not provide equity and excellence for all of our students.

I’m writing to you understanding that the diversity plan the city released this month is a beginning, and that it will take time to integrate our schools. However, the black and Hispanic children of this city do not have decades to wait for us to make change.

I know this firsthand. For the past six years, I have been traveling out of my neighborhood to take my child to one of the city’s few remaining diverse elementary schools, located in Hell’s Kitchen. In looking at middle schools, my criteria for a school were that it matched my child’s academic interests and that it was diverse. Unfortunately, the only middle school that truly encompasses both is a long commute from our home. After commuting by subway for six years, my child wanted a school that was closer to home. I obliged.  

At my child’s middle school orientation, I saw what a segregated school looks like. The incoming class of sixth-graders includes few students of color and does not represent the diversity of our district. This middle school also lacks a diverse teaching staff and administrators. (Had I not sent my child to this school, I would only be fueling the problem, since my child was one of the few children of color admitted to the school.)

These predominately affluent and white schools are creating a new generation of students who will not know how to interact with others that come from different racial, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Integrated schools, on the other hand, will provide opportunities for them to learn and work with students, teachers and school leaders that reflect the diversity of our city and the world we live in.  

There are measures we can take that will have a stronger impact in integrating our schools than what is listed in the diversity plan. I am asking that you come to the table with students, school leadership and parents that are directly affected by school segregation and consider our ideas to create schools that are more equitable for all students.  

In the words of Valerie Castile, whose family received no justice in the death of their son Philando, “The system continues to fail black people.” While she was speaking of the criminal justice system, true reform of that system begins with educating our children — who will be our society’s future police officers, politicians, legislators and judges.

Mayor de Blasio, you have the power to spur change. The students and parents of our great city are asking for your leadership in integrating our schools.

Josephine Ishmon is a member of District 2’s Community Education Council. This is her personal opinion and does not reflect that of the CEC.