Education Week - May 17, 2017 - 15
ABOUT THIS SERIES
This story is the second of
a three-part series on key
challenges facing career-and
as they attract a new wave
of attention and support in
schools across the country.
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. But when you start
doing that, everyone wants to participate."
Education Strategy Group
are necessary in a vocational zone
that spans 53 communities spread
across 472 square miles.
It's a geographic challenge to
reach students from varied walks
of life in such a big catchment area.
And the social and academic stratifications of school life can perpetuate the uneven flow of information
about students' options.
Robert Lopes, a freshman at
MAST, comes from Ocean Township, a middle-class community 15
He wanted to avoid going to his
home high school, where drug use
and rowdiness create "not the best
environment," he said. And he knew
MAST would help him get into college.
In middle school, Robert took honors courses, where teachers talked
up MAST and the other career
academies. But few minority students were in those classes, Robert
said. "I don't think they even knew
about this program," he said.
That's the nut Earl Moore is trying to crack. MAST's principal,
Moore figures that two things get
in the way of a more diverse population at his school: students not
being academically ready for the
admissions exam, and not knowing
about the program. He has to rely
on educators in the lower grades to
take care of the first. He's aiming
for the second.
Expanding the Reach
Students get top-tier opportunities at MAST, and Moore wants to
see a wider variety of students benefit. Here, students are steeped in
computer-aided design, engineering,
and robotics, enabling them to build
cardboard boats that are actually
seaworthy, and robots capable of collecting sediment samples from the
This immersion can lead to careers in marine science or engineering, but it can lead elsewhere, as
well. In these classes, it's not hard
to find students who are planning
to become military officers, lawyers,
musicians, teachers, or graphic designers.
That's the message that teams of
students and teachers carry when
they visit elementary and middle
schools to present their research and
talk about their school.
At one such visit recently, five
MAST students shared their botanical field research with 5th through
8th grade students, and taught them
how to press and preserve plants.
They raved about the bay excursions, the teacher support, the freedom to pursue subjects that excite
Most students at this school,
Joseph R. Bolger Middle School,
in the blue-collar town of Keansburg, face long odds in gaining
admission to MAST. Fewer than 2
in 10 met expectations on the state's
required math and English tests.
Ariana Giebler, one of the MAST
students who helped lead the botany
presentation, hopes to help change
that trajectory. A Bolger graduate,
she wanted to return to her alma
mater to deliver a message.
"I come from a poor community, no
doubt about it," said Giebler, a senior
who will undertake college studies
next year to become an occupational
"A lot of kids here don't think they
can get in [to MAST]," Giebler. "But
I want everyone to know that we are
a great town, and we can do great
As the children filed out of the Bolger library to return to their classes,
a visitor stopped a 6th grade boy to
ask what he thought about the presentation. Would he think about applying to MAST one day?
"Maybe," he said, nodding.
It's a start.
Visit the HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND blog,
which tracks news and trends on this
Last week: Tennessee is working
to improve program quality
by ensuring that all pathways
lead to higher education
and jobs in growing fields.
This week: Read about efforts
to create a demographically
diverse student enrollment in
New Jersey's Marine Academy
of Science and Technology,
an elite career-and-technicaleducation program.
May 31: The old "vocational
education" system too often
categorized low-income and
minority students as poor college
candidates and tracked them
into blue-collar jobs. Read about
Arkansas' placement of career
coaches in more than half its
schools, a move that could
FroM Educ Ation W EEk Pr Ess
Author Gary Marx
and our future.
EDUCATION WEEK | May 17, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 15