Tuesday, June 9, 2009

CTE focus group

On the June "Start a new post," Kathy Fine wrote:

Two weeks ago I attended a focus group related to Career and Technology education in the PPS. What I thought would be a forum to flush out the best way to administer CTE (eg one centralized school versus programs in schools throughout the city) turned out to be something quite different. The focus group was run by a marketing firm that has been hired by the city. The survey consisted of 2 questions (I am paraphrasing because I neglected to write the questions down!):

1) What challenges facing struggling students in the PPS could CTE help in addressing?

2) What challenges does the PPS face in communicating the importance of CTE to the public?

We all flipped through pages of random images and selected 5 that we thought best answered the question. I commented that I thought that the second question was somewhat rhetorical as we all know that CTE is essential in any school system as different students have different career goals.After leaving the focus group it occurred to me that possibly the administration is looking for ways to sell the public on CTE because it is planning to spend a lot of money on it and it needs to justify that expenditure after saying that it cannot afford to renovate Schenley. Just a guess...


Mark Rauterkus said...

There would be very little blowback if PPS announced it was going to form and spend upon a new Vo-Tech High School.

The public wants such a school. The public knows its value. Citizens would support the school -- wildly.

The foundation and instutional communities (ivory tower types too) -- would present a different front. They are another matter. They get ga-ga about a Sci-Tech that ignores AP classes.

Questioner said...

But, there was also a strong interest in taking the most cost effective approach.

Would there be support for a freestanding CTE academy even if CTE could be offered much more cost effectively by spreading programs among existing schools rather than opening a separate academy that would leave comprehensive schools with a large amount of excess capacity?
Either way the auto body shop apparently needs to stay at Brashear due to the cost of moving it.

This seems to be the type of question that a CTE focus group should address first, along with questions about what type of CTE to offer. Then, after input and buyin, marketing the program could be discussed. Rather than starting with marketing when we don't even know yet what will be offered and where.

Anonymous said...

There are separate issues here, to be sure. For one, the idea of a South High-type of school should never have been abandoned. A great many kids were abandoned in the process. I am not of the belief that the public "knows" or "wants" anything, however. The apathy among the district's taxpayers is unfortunate and yet, is counted upon by this administration.
Schenley's closure is a second issue, of course. Is the idea that somehow there is a point of turning back? Reizenstein is the IB program. Uprep is for everyone else. IB is already said to be moving to Peabody in a couple of years.
I just don't see any talk of Schenley coming into this, or any worries about CTE on the heels of the Schenley issue. In Roosevelt's mind, the page has been turned.

Kathy Fine said...

I agree that the Schenley door is closed in the administration's mind. But if there is a large amount of money allocated for CTE, I do believe that there will be some questions (everyone that I speak to about the closure and not just members of the Schenley community, express disbelief and dismay) as to why we can afford that but we couldn't afford Schenley. The logical question is why not place the CTE programming at Schenley and kill 2 birds with one stone? The Schenley building fits in with the green technology theme, is centrally located and architecturally a much better building than Connelly.

Just a thought...

Annette Werner said...

Per the consultants the renovation cost of Connelly is almost the same as the cost to build new; and despite the excess capacity in the district the survey included questions about "building new"; so hard as it is to believe, there may be a proposal to build new on the Connelly site.

But for that money we could just renovate Schenley, for CTE OR to use for IB and place CTE at Peabody as had been planned in 2005.

Anonymous said...

Interesting questions presented by the consultants. "Communicating the importance of CTE to the public" is not a big issue. Until we see an actual CTE plan I will have to believe our bigger problem has been communicating the importance of CTE to the admin.

I can only hope the parents of elementary aged kids are reading and learning all they can about the next phase of reform including CTE. A lot of those participating in the discussions won't have kids around PPS long enough to take advantage of offerings.

If you have ever seen the classrooms for any of the apprenticeship programs I think you might lean toward NEW building versus updated.

Questioner said...

Is that because the apprenticeship programs have great new buildings?

Anonymous said...

State of the art equipment, air conditioning, lots of windows for natural light, and lots of windows into classrooms making it easy to highlight the process of educating apprentices. Plenty of parking available for students in the program, this is essential. Many jobs in the field will require a driver's license. If our CTE students get the kind of educaion that would allow them to either enter the workforce or to even just qualify for an apprenticeship program the high school experience should offer at least a support mechanism to help a kid obtain a driver's license. The classroom portion of a drivers' ed program might not be very costly for instance.

(I just scared myself by rereading what I had typed so far and I'd better stop. The plan I describe, if implemented could cause a drop in the number of kids enrolled in other PPS programs.)

Questioner said...

Sounds great- but can we afford it?

The IB program is currently in a building with little natural light, no auditorium, soundproofing problems, etc.- despite many millions of dollars being spent to move to that location.

Also, how many years out will a CTE program be if a new building or extensive renovtion is required?

Anonymous said...

How many years out? My guess would be three, at minimum. The opportunity of the single site being a regional school serving multiple districts should be explored too. Even now I bet the few programs that exist if any (auto at Brashear mentioned earlier), are probably year-to-year. CTE went too long in limbo and it could take years before any stability is realized. CTE has to be CAPA with tools and torches instead of ballet bars and easels. I am just a parent so take that into consideration when grading my thoughts. Knowing that my 14-year-old won't be around long enough to take advantage of an improved CTE program is hard to take.

Annette Werner said...

Something about separating kids out by their area of study so soon has always troubled me. I feel like that happens soon enough in college. I think there's a real benefit to artists sharing classes with engineers and future philosophers sharing classes with students learing a skilled craft.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, we are left to wonder where the money goes, what's going toward the overall benefit of students in the district and what is spent on unnecessary items that have little to do with the future of our kids.
Just as the student population in any large urban district is diverse, so are the needs of those students. At some point, some accountability needs to be in the offing so as to ensure that those needs are being met. IB, Science-, Business-, Computer and other academically-oriented themed schools are wonderful, but academics in and of themselves don't speak to the needs of all students. How CTE has been allowed to fall through the cracks as it has is somewhat bewildering in this regard, as the programs offered could present a ray of hope for countless students.
But it takes money to enact programs, and it takes fiscal responsibility to manage that money.
It would seem to me that PPS is top-heavy in various areas of expenditures, not the least of which is salaries for administration. Why is it that so many salaries are paid to individuals who are not in the classroom? Why is it that some sort of belt-tightening has not become a focal point for a corporately run district, especially in a time of national economic duress?
PPS has become a bureaucracy in many ways, not the least of which is the amount of personnel currently jamming office space to conduct research, enact policies, dictate curricula and the like.
Education means individual buildings providing instruction to students first and foremost. It means teachers and building administrators---essential personnel. Above and beyond this level, the idea should be that a bare-bones approach is in place to simply compliment the buildings rather than govern them. The needs of the kids should be paramount.
PPS leadership prides itself on continually trumpeting the "no new taxes" angle. That's nice. But failing to provide students with educational opportunities that lead to rich and rewarding careers entails making prudent decisions where non-essential salaries are concerned.