Friday, October 14, 2011

Good Focus by Brizard

APA Whistle Production
APA students in class with instructor Pablo Verela

The coverage of CPS CEO Jean Claude Brizard and his views on career and technical education in the Huffington Post was refreshing.

This is a strong step in the right direction. Nationally there are 14 million people out of work yet 3 million jobs unfilled. These are typically good paying jobs that require high skills and often require certifications of various kinds. The CPS Career and Technical Education (CTE) program can provide the link to these unfilled jobs—a real bridge between our communities and those companies. And as he says, “…when kids see a real connection between what they are learning and how this will affect them outside of high school, they see more reasons to commit to it. The relevancy element is fundamental.”

At Austin Polytechnical Academy (, a CTE school specializing in manufacturing, students that have historically had real academic difficulties are doing better when they have real contextual education—the relevancy element. The improvement in test scores in Math has been great at APA. In addition to some highly motivated teaching in math, students experience applied math in their engineering and machining classes. They also get the chance to tour manufacturing companies where math is used every day by people with interesting, well-paid, and secure careers. We are sure this is due to the “relevancy element.”

As Brizard mentions, creative collaborations are key. At Austin Polytech, we have 65 companies as partners that provide tours, job shadowing, internships, summer jobs, and maybe a career job for the motivated student. Graduating senior, Marquiese Booker now has a career track job at Laystrom Manufacturing, with the head engineer as his mentor. Marquiese had proven his value to the company in a summer job in his senior year where he showed up at 5 AM every morning, as well as earning two National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) credentials at APA. Every student at APA is encouraged to get NIMS credentials. So far, 89 students have secured 125 credentials, and APA has become the only NIMS accredited high school in Illinois.

CPS is to be applauded for encouraging these types of programs, and changing the negative image that so often has accompanied the notion of “vocational” education.

Huffington Post article: