ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE REQUIRED to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in order to avoid stiff penalties, per the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. This presents a unique challenge for comprehensive career and technical (CTE) schools. While there is an emphasis on the CTE path that students are interested in pursuing, academic areas must be mastered with proficiency in order for a school to be successful (in this case, as defined by the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or (PSSA)). In addition, graduation in select districts is dependent upon proficiency. For a comprehensive CTE school to survive, it must have a sustainable teaching model that aligns and integrates career and technical skills with math and reading anchors. Central Tech, a comprehensive career and technical school in Erie, Pennsylvania, has developed a working model for achieving this integration.
For each student at Central Tech, daily instruction includes English, science, social studies and mathematics; this is in addition to a CTE area which encompasses the other 3.5 periods of the day. Historically, CTE has been underestimated in its ability to help students achieve academic success. At Central Tech we are working to change this way of thinking.
Making the Grade
In 2003, Central Tech's PSSA scores reflected 19 percent student proficiency in math (out of the 36 percent required for proficiency) and 30 percent in reading (with 45 percent needed). The school was considered a failing school in the eyes of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The administration, staff and students set out to make changes in the school's performance. The first step was to form a School Support Team made up of teachers and administrators. This team scrutinized all aspects of the school to find a means of academic improvement. It addressed issues ranging from student and staff morale to staff development. A key area that surfaced was a need to align the academic standards with CTE programs. As part of the Perkins Act, which provides federal funding for career education, the federal government requires CTE schools to integrate academic standards into the CTE curriculum. Central Tech's career and technical instructors reviewed all competencies for their training areas and aligned them with the Pennsylvania standards in math and reading. In 2004, the school's scores more than doubled in reading and math and it was on the road to meeting AYP In 2006, the school achieved its goal of meeting AYP.
The teachers and the administrative team wanted to continue the success. Since the percentages required for AYP increase in three-year increments, the next goal was to create a model that would allow Central Tech to further improve its performance. This model developed as some of the school's academic teachers pushed into the career and technical programs and co-taught with the instructors. Appropriately, this has come to be referred to as the "push-in" model.
"Push-In" Model: The Vision
CTE provides a bridge between the world of work and the world of education. Schools in the state are under increasing pressure from the federal mandates of NCLB, and employers, to educate students who are proficient not only in their career and technical skill areas, but also in the Pennsylvania anchors for reading and math. Central Tech's goal is having students apply the anchors to their career areas and becoming well-rounded employees. In order to achieve these goals, a number of dramatic changes needed to occur.
The first change had to occur at the teacher level. In order to achieve success, CTE teachers had to first have a solid understanding of the reading and math anchors established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Next, they needed to integrate reading and math anchors into their curricula. Finally, English and math content teachers had to understand how to apply PSSA anchors to CTE labs.