Education Week - May 17, 2017 - 14
Popular Career-Tech-Ed. School Works Toward Diversity
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pass a test to get in-students
who've had less opportunity can
find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.
The New Jersey Department
of Education declined Education
Week's request to discuss the issue.
Photos by Mark Abramson for Education Week
But Matt Gandal, the president
of the Education Strategy Group, a
consulting company that is working
with state education commissioners and career-tech-ed directors on a
national initiative to build good CTE
programs, said equitable access to
high-quality offerings is very much
on states' minds.
"It's a bit of a Catch-22, because
you do want to create programs
that are highly competitive, that
prepare students for college, not
the old-style vocational education
that has limited utility post-high
school," he said.
"But when you start doing that,
everyone wants to participate,
more well-to-do families. So the
question becomes, how do you build
very specific strategies and policies
into those programs to make sure
CAREER TECHNICAL EDUCATION
that access for disadvantaged students is a priority?"
programs have been trying to
reach the goal of equity in different ways, and for too many, success
has been elusive. A recent study
of seven communities that have
invested heavily in career academies noted the emergence of racial
and socioeconomic equity as a key
"District administrators often
struggle to make academies
equally accessible to all students
and to attain academy enrollments that reflect the demographic
makeup of their districts," said the
report by the Education Development Center.
Drawing on the seven communities' experiences, and on prior research, the study highlights some
successful equity strategies.
Intensive outreach to families is
necessary, it says, particularly outreach that meets families where
they are-at church and community events, or in home visits-
rather than expecting parents to
come to school-based events. Where
districts decide to locate programs
can make a difference, too; opening
career academies in neighborhoods
with large populations of minority
or lower-income families can help
Recruitment strategies that capitalize on students' academic potential, rather than on their prior
achievement as measured by test
scores and grades, is another tactic
that can pay off in a more diverse
Admission requirements for
AT A CROSSROADS
programs in high demand can be
a barrier to many students, so the
study encourages the use of lotteries or other "equitable methods"
Here on Sandy Hook, a picturesque spit of land in central New
Jersey, the marine program didn't
always tilt toward elite students.
When it began in 1981, it was a
marine trades program where
about 40 white, black, and Hispanic teenagers, mostly from bluecollar families, learned the welding
and repair skills necessary to keep
the commercial fishing boats working on local waterways, longtime
MAST teacher Cheryl McDonald
'College for All' Takes Root
But over the years, as the emphasis on "college for all" grew, the
marine trades program was phased
out. MAST replaced it.
Now it's one of five full-time,
competitive-admission career academies in the Monmouth County
Vocational School District. The
district, which serves a vast chunk
of central and eastern New Jersey,
also offers 14 half-day programs
in fields such as plumbing, cosmetology, carpentry, and automotive
technology. Those programs have
much larger shares of Latino and
black students, and students of
poverty, than do the admission-byexam career academies.
To build diversity in those programs, MAST and the vocational
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 17, 2017 | www.edweek.org
Students from the Marine
Academy of Science and
Technology handle a
flounder caught on a boat
trip in New Jersey's Sandy
Hook Bay. The students
record data on fish for
state officials before
tossing them back into the
sea. The popular school
funnels students into
colleges and jobs in marine
and other fields.
Older students help rig nets
and lines as they assist the
boat's captain and mentor
the marine biology
district are using outreach to
spread the word in lower-income
towns with sizable minority populations.
Joseph Senerchia, the vocational
district's director of student counseling, regularly visits schools and
chats with counselors, to get them
to pitch the program to a wider
swath of students. He's also pushed
hard to get access to 8th grade student directories in schools that
serve lower-income students, so he
can reach out directly to families to
talk up the career academies.
"I want to see more kids get a
shot at programs like MAST," he
Diversity has improved at MAST.
Five years ago, 92 percent of the
students here were white. Today,
that's down to 83 percent. Most of
the change has come from a rise
in the enrollment of students who
identify as mixed-race.
But in a regional program, the
outreach to diversity can encounter resistance. Some principals
don't love the idea of losing topachieving students to another
school when test scores matter in
their school ratings.
"They don't want those programs
scooping up our best students,"
said one middle school counselor,
who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.
There's a price tag, too: School
districts must foot the $6,240 annual tuition bill to send a student to MAST or the other career
academies. They also have to pay