Saturday, June 28, 2008 | 2 a.m.
New research showing the long-term benefits of career and technical education suggests the Clark County School District is already on the right track.
The district has shifted away from traditional high school vocational programs to career and technical education academies, which place an equal emphasis on academics and job training.
A 15-year study released Friday by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp. tracked students — the majority of whom were black or Hispanic — at nine career academies throughout the country. Researchers found the students were just as likely to graduate from college as their classmates who did not sign up for an academy. And eight years after graduation, academy participants were earning an average of 11 percent more than similar students in a control group.
“The findings show that you can make an investment in high school that has a measurable payoff in earnings well after,” James J. Kemple, the study’s author, told The New York Times. “They also show you can provide a solid foothold in the labor market without compromising a student’s capacity to go to college.”
The dropout rate at Southeast Career and Technical Academy, formerly known a Vo-Tech, is just less than 3 percent, half of the district average. Its students also have one of the district’s highest pass rates on the statewide proficiency exam.
The Northwest Career and Technical Academy opened in the fall, and the east region’s campus launches in August. Three similar schools are planned — for Summerlin, the southwest and the central valley.
Career academies are gaining in popularity nationwide. There are more than 2,500 of them across the country, compared with fewer than 500 when the Manpower study began 15 years ago.
In these tough economic times, does the School District really need to spend $300,000 sending teachers and principals out of state to learn how to implement a popular secondary school intervention program?
The answer, the School Board was told by staff Thursday, is yes.
The program is Advancement Via Individualized Determination, and it’s one of the district’s most successful secondary school initiatives. It’s also one of the most expensive. For the 2007-08 academic year, the district spent about $2.75 million in state and federal funds offering AVID to 2,500 students at nine middle schools and 23 high schools.
While the price tag may be steep, few programs can boast AVID’s track record.
Created by a San Diego public school teacher in the early 1980s, the program is designed to help middle-of-the-road students move up to the next level. Students are expected to enroll in honors and Advanced Placement courses, and are given extra support through mentors, tutoring, and classes in critical thinking, time management and study skills. Nationally, 98 percent of AVID students graduate, with 75 percent accepted to four-year colleges in 2006. This year, the first class of Clark County students to complete four years with AVID graduated, with 76 percent accepted to college, according to the district.
Clark County Schools Superintendent Walt Rulffes said he told AVID representatives that the out-of-state training costs were getting difficult for the district to cover. He also told them that if AVID couldn’t provide training closer to Las Vegas, the district might not be able to continue participating.
Following the discussion, the School Board approved the expenditure.
Before the Clark County School District’s hiring freeze took effect last week, new teacher recruiting was going fairly well.
As of June 16, four days before the freeze took effect, the district had made 617 offers and received 336 acceptances. That’s about the same success rate it was having last summer with six weeks to go before the start of the academic year.
There are also 234 teacher job offers pending, and those have not been rescinded, said Martha Tittle, the district’s human resources chief.
The district currently has about 800 classroom vacancies. The number changes daily as more teachers decide to quit or retire. No one’s guessing how long the freeze will last, but in the meantime certain high-need positions, such as in high school math, special education and school nursing, will continue to be filled.
“Those people are hard enough to find already,” Tittle said. “We have to grab them when we can.”