A TUSD success story: Career and technical education - Inside Tucson Business: Guest Opinion

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GUEST OPINION A TUSD success story: Career and technical education

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Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011 8:00 am

The 2011 Arizona AIMS (Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards) test scores were recently released. It is important that Tucsonans be aware of a little-know fact in the results regarding the drastic contrast between the general population of Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) high school students and those students in the district who are enrolled for at least two credits in career and technical education (CTE).

Similar differences also can be found in many other school districts across Arizona.

Data from the Arizona Department of Education show the strong performance of TUSD CTE concentrators (students completing at least two CTE credits) on the Spring 2011 AIMS assessment, with 87.46 percent of them meeting or exceeding the pass score for AIMS math compared to 41.6 percent of the general high school population in TUSD.

In the AIMS writing test, CTE concentrators in TUSD had a pass/exceed rate of 95.51 percent versus 55.3 percent for the district's general high school population.

In reading, TUSD CTE students had a pass/exceed rate of 95.43 percent versus 65.8 percent for the district's general high school population.

The differences in these scores continues to reinforce the fact that a CTE education offering relevancy and contextual learning helps students perform academically.

Today's Career and Technical Education programs are vastly different in philosophy from the Vocational Education programs of the 1960s and 1970s. The programs now include college preparatory focus areas such as engineering and bioscience, nursing and business administration, in addition to automotive technology programs that offer training in state-of-the-art computerized mechanical analysis.

These programs provide the high-engagement learning that is key to keeping students in school. Many of the programs offer students articulated or dual community college credit and/or industry certificates and credentials.

Arizona Department of Education data this year shows a 99.29 percent graduation rate for TUSD CTE concentrators. This proves these programs are keeping more kids in school and helping them graduate successfully.

There is a growing shortage of workers in high-wage and high-technical skill professions (two years or more of post-secondary training). Plus, there is a national debate regarding budget cuts and the value of CTE/vocational education versus a more traditional college prep education.

These focus areas do not have to be mutually exclusive as even the most academically gifted scholars can benefit from an engaging applied approach to learning such as that offered by a career and technical education program.

Today's CTE programs are more rigorous and focus on the need for preparing students for post-secondary education success. With solid AIMS scores and passion for their programs-of-study, these TUSD CTE concentrators are well on their way to successful careers.

Contact Kathy Prather, director of career and technical education in TUSD, at Kathy.Prather@tusd1.org or (520) 225-4652.

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