Top city and state education officials descended on Thomas Edison High School in Queens Tuesday afternoon to show support for career-focused education — and discuss roadblocks to its expansion.
Proponents of career and technical education say it helps engage students, encourages graduation and provides a skill that will be useful after high school. But the state’s long and stringent approval process can often be difficult for schools to navigate.
In particular, schools have had trouble in the past finding certified teachers, creating new and emerging programs and taking advantage of a new graduation option that involves career education.
State and city officials on Tuesday indicated they have made some changes to ease the process and are interested in looking for more.
“We [can] try to make sure that we take away those issues that might be stoppers and make it much more feasible for school districts across the state to move [in] this direction,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said.
In broad strokes, school officials sometimes find the state’s process doesn’t always align with the programs they want to run. In some cases, even nationally recognized programs are not on the state’s radar, said Moses Ojeda, principal of Thomas Edison High School. (Elia indicated that is something the state would look into.)
The desire to spread CTE programs was boosted by a new rule that lets students substitute a final Regents exam for a pathway in career and technical education. The problem is, some schools say, the state’s approved exams don’t always match the specific career training schools are offering.
Historically, it has also been difficult for schools to find CTE teachers, though the state has recently made it easier for those with specific career expertise to become teachers.
In sum, New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said she would like all CTE programs across the city to become official, state-certified programs, but the rules and regulations can make it difficult.
“That’s why we need more help,” Fariña said. A report released Monday also found that English learners were underrepresented in the city’s CTE programs.
If anyone could make the process smoother, it was the group assembled on Tuesday. In addition to the commissioner and the chancellor of New York City schools, the chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents and several Regents attended the school visit.
“It’s always exciting to be able to walk a building with both the commissioner and the Board of Regents because together we can make things happen,” Fariña said.