Schools That Work

David Jason Fischer
Center for an Urban Future
May 2008

David Jason Fischer
Center for an Urban Future
May 2008

Like Paul Tough's New York Times Magazine article on the success of KIPP and its ilk, "Schools That Work" gives wonks, parents, and educators alike an accessible and hopeful picture of the schools that innovative educators can build when given enough flexibility. The focus is New York City's career and technical education (CTE) schools, of which twenty-one currently exist, teaching vocations like nursing and automotive maintenance. Although CTE students are poorer, older, less academically accomplished, and more likely to be black or Hispanic than their traditional high school counterparts, they attend class more often and are four times less likely to drop out. That's because, the author hypothesizes, the classes are actually interesting and practical. The schools are also more responsive to the city's labor market, giving students concrete paths to stable careers. Graduates from Automotive High School, one of the city's top CTE schools, for instance, leave with an industry-recognized certification that gives them easy entrée to potential employers. Some schools have struggled, however, to forge similar ties with leaders in their respective industries, in large part because of barriers imposed by the district bureaucracy. Companies that want to award scholarships, for example, have had to set up special pathways to comply with archaic regulations. The schools also have great difficulty recruiting qualified teaching candidates, many of whom are turned off by certification requirements that are completely irrelevant to what and how they're teaching. There's a golden egg waiting to hatch if the fat mother bird would just give it a bit of room. Read more here.

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