Elite not elitist

Will Garden State voc ed schools give traditional high schools a run for their money? Seems that way--and in more ways than one. Vocational schools, long the ugly stepchild of the education system, have taken on a new and more alluring persona in New Jersey--complete with stem-cell research labs, advanced robotics classes, and seven different academies with specialties ranging from medicine to the arts. (A few weeks ago, we discovered that Massachusetts has seen a similar uptick in vo-tech quality.) Parents are swooning over the new options; Bergen County Academies, for example, receive seven applications for every available seat. But local school districts are unenthused; similar to the arguments used against charters, districts whine that these high tech, high performing voc ed schools, typically run by counties, are funneling off both students and funds--and providing undue competition to their low tech traditional neighbors. "To think that we need a Bronx Science in Hackensack leaves a lot to be desired, because most of our schools can handle these students," complained one local superintendent. Last time we checked, we wanted our kids taught by the school system, not "handled." And at the rate parents are picking these new vo-tech schools over their traditional counterparts, we're pretty sure they don't want their children "handled" either.

"Vo-Techs Are a new Elite, Local Districts Complain," by Winnie Hu, New York Times, March 2, 2009