Peter Goodman’s “Multiple Pathways” post last week scooped the DOE on its plans to expand the Young Adult Borough Centers. The Mayor announced the initiative yesterday, as the NY Times reports. While the Mayor was announcing, DOE senior counselor for policy Michelle Cahill presented the whole model more informally at an event hosted by Educational Priorities Panel. The YABCs are to expand and get job readiness and career exploration components, the idea being you have to connect these students to the world of work if they are going to see a reason to graduate. Thanks to another few million $$ from Gates and others, the DOE is also adding 15 new transfer high schools, and again, there is a work-readiness component to engage students in their futures. Or as the DOE says, “students have the opportunity to participate in intensive employability skills development and college exploration activities.”
Why, oh why, does the DOE feel it has to speak this way? And why do they try to sound as if they invented these programs? As Peter reported, last year and earlier this year the DOE closed GED centers and transfer high school programs. Then they did a study with gobs of foundation funding and discovered that not all kids graduate without a peep in four perfect years so they recreated this “multiple pathways to graduation” strategy, replacing what was a perfectly workable and well-thought-out system before they arrived. Whatever. Now they invented it and the concept is theirs.
What remains to be seen is if they can really implement. I took down this quote from Cahill: “We know what to do but not how to do it.” A lot of folks at the EPP event were skeptical. EPP director Noreen Connell asked, sensibly, why there wasn’t an effort to fix middle schools, where dropout problems first emerge. Cahill said the DOE is putting Carmen Farina on the case. UFT VP Carmen Alvarez asked pointedly about serving all kids well and Cahill got a tad testy.
The one piece of this that DOE hasn’t much focused on is vocational education schools, which several attendees pointed out have worked well for thousands of kids for years and years. Michael Mulgrew, the UFT’s new Career and Technical Education VP, noted that on average 80% of incoming students in CTE programs are “at risk” but that these schools graduate about 9% more of their students than the rest of the system. These schools offer students academics and career development and it works well for kids who aren’t academically oriented but have skills they develop and use. The “learning to work” components of the new DOE programs have to really connect kids with jobs, not just blab about “employability skills development.”