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Study: Students at career-tech schools more likely to graduate

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Students enrolled in business-backed courses focused on career and technical skills are more likely to graduate from high school and complete the requirements to attend a California college or university, according to a study released yesterday.

The report, titled "Profile of the California Partnership Academies 2009-2010," found that 95 percent of high school seniors in California Partnership Academies graduate, compared with 85 percent of students statewide.

The study also shows that 57 percent of the academies' graduates fulfilled the courses required for admission to the UC or CSU systems, compared with 36 percent of graduates statewide.

A Partnership Academy is a three-year program (grades 10 to 12) structured as a school within a high school. A select group of students takes core academic classes and at least one career-technical course together under the guidance of a team of teachers. Businesses provide mentors, internships and other opportunities to help the students learn outside the classroom.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a former public school teacher, said the study confirmed what he saw firsthand in the classroom. He said several students benefited greatly from internships and shadowing professionals at hospitals and veterinary clinics.

"This kind of hands-on learning, this kind of connection to the real world makes so much sense and engages students. They see the relevancy of the mathematics, the science, the language arts that they're asked to do," Torlakson said. "When they see that connection between their goals and their dreams for a full job, a job in the economy that would pay well and provide for their future, they then buckle down even more and get engaged in all the homework and the lessons that would lead to that."

The state Legislature created Partnership Academies in 1984 to provide job skills to students most at risk of dropping out of school.

The study, by the Career Academy Support Network at UC Berkeley, comes as many academies are slated to lose funding at the end of this school year. Out of the 500 partnership academies in California, about 200 risk closure due to budget cuts.

Torlakson; Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento; and researchers from the Career Academy Support Network joined together yesterday to discuss the study and call for more support and implementation of business-school initiatives.

“These results are encouraging and provide one more reason to address the financial emergency facing our schools by investing in education again,” Torlakson said. “We must continue to fund these successful programs and think boldly about how we build on these successes.”

Filed under: K–12, Daily Report

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