Celebrating School Choice Week: Vocational-Technical Education

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On Day 4 of National School Choice Week, we’re shining the spotlight on career-vocational technical education in Massachusetts, which is delivering on the promise of preparing students for both college and career success.

Along with charter public schools, no other category of schools in Massachusetts has delivered results as impressive as those at voc-techs. Over the last decade, voc-tech students’ MCAS performance has improved by 40%. Regional voc-techs enroll a higher percentage of special education students than traditional districts, while posting much lower dropout rates and much higher special education graduation rates. Voc-techs’ success has led to increased demand, with over 4,000 students on waitlists across the state.

As Pioneer research has shown, it would cost the state less than 0.5 percent of the state education budget to provide 5,000 more voc-tech placements in the Commonwealth. Even though voc-techs are schools of choice, in 52 cities and towns, families still have no access to these schools.The success of these programs, especially in the more autonomous regional voc-techs, and the clear economic benefits, make a compelling case for expansion. Pioneer has held public forums and published research, op-eds, and videos highlighting their success, which you can review below.

We’ll be sharing school choice success stories all week – join in the conversation on Twitter, using #SchoolChoice.

National School Choice Week is an annual celebration of the variety of high-quality academic options available to families across the U.S. Each day this week at Pioneer Institute, we’ll be highlighting charter public schools, the METCO program, digital learning, vocational-technical schools, and independent and parochial schools.

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In 2009, Pioneer’s Jamie Gass received an award from the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators for his work to promote the success of these schools.
By Tom Birmingham
When something succeeds in K-12 public education, we should replicate it. Massachusetts schools have much to be proud of over the past two decades, but there are few success stories better than our vocational-technical schools.
Between 2001 and 2008 alone, MCAS scores in the commonwealth’s regional voc-techs rose by 40 percent. Today, their MCAS pass rates are higher than in Massachusetts’ regular high schools. Voc-techs also have far lower dropout rates. For the 2013-14 academic year, the dropout rate at regional voc-techs was just 0.7 percent, nearly one-third of the rate at traditional public high schools in Massachusetts. Once they graduate, 68 percent of voc-tech students go on to post-secondary education. Whether they go straight into the job market or first pursue higher education, voc-tech graduates are coveted by Massachusetts employers.