District-Commissioned CTE Report Complete


District Needs More State-Approved Programs, Work Partnerships, Student Participation; Report Calls For Program Consolidations or Governance Changes At Edison Campus


By most measures, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in Rochester schools are failing to help students be career-ready for the 21st-century needs of employers, according to two reports from the CTE Technical Assistance Center of New York (CTE TAC). 


In the two CTE-focused schools at the Edison Technical Education Center, student achievement is unsatisfactory and “there are challenges at the district and school levels that interfere with the ability of the high schools at the site to be effective,” concludes CTE TAC.


Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, Ed.D., commissioned the group to conduct an objective review of District CTE programs and make improvements, with a special focus on the high schools at Edison. The reports call for major changes at the Edison campus, offering five recommendations for the Board of Education to consider:

·        Provide school leadership with more CTE knowledge and experience

·        Unify the schools under one Executive Principal and strengthen Central Office support for CTE

·        Contract with the Board of Educational Cooperative Services (BOCES) to provide school oversight

·        Close the schools and have BOCES offer CTE programming on the Edison campus to students from every city high school, along with students from the other districts served by BOCES

·        Create an Educational Partnership Organization that would allow a college, non-profit organization or BOCES to manage the schools, receiving full powers of the Superintendent and all District funding used to operate the school


Dr.Vargas said the reports will help restore the District to its past strength in career and technical education so that students graduate ready to succeed in today’s economy.


“Offering great CTE programs is essential to closing the opportunity gap for our students, just as we must offer them more instructional time in core subjects and more art, music, and sports,” Dr. Vargas said. “To be successful, we must do more than offer vocational training to a small number of students. Our CTE approach should expose all students to a wide range of career paths. We must provide CTE graduates with the academic and job skills they need to earn good money in a chosen field, ready for any post-secondary education they need.”


District-Wide Findings

The CTE Technical Assistance Center is contracted by the New York State Education Department which paid for the reports commissioned by the District. The review team included six experts in CTE from across the state led by Edward Shafer, Ed.D., former District Superintendent of Madison-Oneida BOCES.

The status report calls on the District to agree on a clear definition of career readiness and associated metrics as a first step toward improving CTE opportunities for students. It notes that 10 of the District’s CTE programs do not yet have state approval, which provides students a technical endorsement on their diplomas and requires the District to meet other CTE standards.


Of 11 programs that do have state approval, four are not operating—business administration, computer technology, photography, and print media. Student participation is low, with only 66“concentrators” who completed two or three CTE units out of about 3,500 upperclassmen. No students took technical assessments, which “should be a normal consequence of completing a CTE Approved Program” according to the report.


To align with regional economic needs, the report recommends considering new programs in agribusiness, food processing and distribution/logistics, plus entry-level human services fields such as nurse assistants and cosmetology. Other recommendations include:

  • Consider a career pathways approach to CTE modeled after successful programs in Nashville and Philadelphia. The model requires highly structured CTE relationships with post-secondary schools and business partners, with shadowing, internship and co-op opportunities for students
  • Strengthen focus on CTE at Central Office, with greater accountability for program performance and a director who helps to evaluate school Principals based on CTE effectiveness
  • Establish four minimum standards for District CTE programs: (1) Approved Program status from the State Education Department; (2) Technical assessments that allow graduates to receive an industry-approved credential; (3) Provide graduates with an employability profile that describes competency of graduates in CTE skill areas for prospective employers, based on industry-provided needs; (4) Give all CTE teachers the professional development they need to help students meet Common Core standards along with the technical and employability standards of their subject area
  • Improve career awareness and applied learning for younger students, while providing high school students the chance to earn dual credit or advanced standing in a college program through their CTE courses


Edison Campus Schools

The CTE Technical Advisory Committee conducted an in-depth review of the three CTE-focused schools at Edison: Robert Brown High School of Construction and Design; Rochester STEM High School; and the Work Experience Program for students with special needs.


The review commended the schools for hardworking faculty, a focus on instructional coaching, and efforts to engage colleges and employers in partnerships to support the schools. Along with the recommendations that apply to all CTE programs, the review cited numerous concerns with the schools at Edison.

·        CTE instructional time—a potential of 675 hours in CTE courses at Edison schools, compared to a range of 810 to 900 hours in BOCES programs

·        Instructional quality—Analysis of 83 teaching incidents showed insufficient rigor and relevance: “Students were engaged in significant amounts of recall and comprehension, with modest levels of independent or group work.”

·        Insufficient planning and professional development time for teachers

·        Inconsistent grading, with no standard rubric for assessing literacy pieces and extended math problems


The report also challenged the organization model of having two schools on one campus. “Students share the same site and co-curricular sports teams, and the community perceives that the students go to Edison Tech. Yet, there is little crossover between the courses offered by the schools.”


The report concluded by advising against trying to re-organize to achieve success, proposing instead the five recommendations for major change such as bringing in outside partners to manage CTE education. “Early data and Regents results are unsatisfactory, and not all programs at the site are approved, including all of the academies at STEM High School,” the report said. “Given the current capacity at the district and school levels to support program development, modify the climate and culture, and effect program improvement at the Edison site, the CTE TAC presents five scenarios for leadership, operation, program development, and improvement of outcomes at Edison.”


Dr. Shafer discussed findings of the report yesterday with Board of Education members, Central Office administrators, leaders of District bargaining units and faculty at the Edison campus schools. “I applaud the District for being proactive in requesting this assessment and acknowledging the need to improve CTE opportunities for students.”he said.


Dr. Vargas said the reports are valuable because they don’t just identify problems but offer solutions.

“Some of these findings are painful to hear, like a harsh diagnosis from a medical specialist. However, the reports include objective, research-based prescriptions for change that will restore the past health and strength of our CTE programs.”


Dr. Vargas said he will work with the Board of Education and stakeholders across the community to act on the CTE TAC recommendations with a sense of urgency.


“I am confident that we will succeed in increasing not just opportunities but outcomes, with more students who graduate college and career ready from Rochester high schools.”


Copies of the full reports are available upon request.