A Massachusetts Success Story: Voc-Tech Schools

Madison Park Voc-Tech High School in Roxbury, MA
Photo credit: Tim Pierce (CC-By-SA 3.0)

I read an article in Commonwealth Magazine earlier this month that pointed to the success of voc-tech schools in the state of Massachusetts written by former Massachusetts Senate President Tom Birmingham who helped author the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993. He is currently works with our friends at the Pioneer Institute as a senior fellow in education.

An excerpt:

Voc-techs educate a higher percentage of low-income and special education students than typical high schools do, but the dropout rate at regional voc-techs is about one third that of traditional high schools and their special education graduation rate is 24 percentage points higher.

More than two-thirds of voc-tech graduates go on to post-secondary education. For those who choose not to, a survey of business owners and others conducted by Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center found that voc-tech graduates are more job ready than other high school graduates. What’s more, a number of respondents said they were more job ready than college grads.

The schools operate using an innovative model under which pupils alternate weekly between traditional academics and hands-on work in their trade, allowing students to graduate with a high school diploma and a certificate of proficiency in their career technical program.

Common Core can’t take any credit for this. The 1993 reforms are what made a difference for voc-tech schools in Massachusetts. Not that problems don’t exist in these schools (they are under Common Core after all), but I wish more states and school districts would consider this route as these schools help break out of the “one-size-fits-all” mold we see in public education.