MDRC in the News

Struggle for the Future: Schools Lag in Preparing Students for the Age of Automation

The 74


Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical High School, a sprawling, low-slung campus on a hillside in eastern Queens, offers its students many ways to prepare for a job.

On a summer-ish morning in early October, graphic arts students in a darkened classroom animated and edited their striking concoctions on propped-up 27-inch Wacom tablets. Not far away, a cybersecurity class sitting in narrow adjoining stations — calling to mind traders in a high-tech boiler room — worked to locate network breaches as the clock ticked down…..

…..The rise in importance of non-academic abilities reflects an understanding that students need to be prepared differently but exposes a lack of coherence in how to build those competencies…..

…..The potential of CTE programs to provide a bridge from high school to a college credential and meaningful work has for years attracted bipartisan support from elected officials — perhaps more so than with any other educational issue — and backing from business…..

…..A little more than 80 percent of high school graduates in 2013 earned at least one credit in a CTE course — non-vocational students take courses like accounting or learning to use Microsoft Excel a decline from 87.9 percent in 1992. But benefits were concentrated among students who took multiple courses at more-difficult levels, according to a research overview by the evaluation group MDRC.

The group reported that evidence for some popular approaches, like apprenticeships, remained unclear or mixed, but also pointed to studies finding dual-enrollment programs, in which students earn college credit while in high school, and technical schools that enroll all nearby CTE students, improved graduation rates and other outcomes.

“One key aspect of the ‘new CTE’ is that it is now being thought of as preparation for college and career, and no longer as college or career,” Rachel Rosen, lead author of the MDRC report, said in an interview with The 74.

She said CTE “has the potential to level the playing field for a lot of kids” but added that there are “a lot of issues in the details of delivery that will determine whether or not it’s a mechanism for maintaining existing inequities — that’s the big question right now”…..

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