Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that are supposed to prepare high school students for future employment are often failing to ready students for jobs that are in demand, are fast-growing, or pay higher wages, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“Career and technical education programs are supposed to teach students the skills needed to succeed in future jobs by providing hands-on learning in high school,” DiNapoli said. “Unfortunately, these programs across the state are often not preparing them for the jobs that are most needed or pay the best. My auditors found numerous ways in which the State Education Department is falling short. We need to do better for our students.”
Approximately 136,000 New York students outside of New York City graduate high school each year. About 6 percent receive a CTE endorsement on their diploma, showing they have met the academic and industry standards of a CTE program, boosting the likelihood of finding work in a particular field.
More than 140 school districts and 37 Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) outside of New York City run 1,021 CTE programs in secondary schools outside the city that are approved by SED and merit the diploma endorsement. Other CTE programs not approved by SED are known as “local” programs.
DiNapoli’s auditors found that CTE programs and respective student enrollments generally do not align with careers that are the most in-demand or best-paying. Department of Labor (DOL) statistics show 41 percent of CTE programs approved by SED are providing students with skills for occupations that pay less than the state average.
Additionally, enrollment in certain CTE programs exceeds the number of open positions in the related job market. For example, for the 2018-19 school year, enrollment in programs for chefs and head cooks was more than three times the number of open positions.
Using DOL data, DiNapoli’s auditors determined a high-salary occupation to be at or above the state average salary (excluding NYC) for all occupations of $52,480; high-growth occupations as exceeding the ten-year average state occupational growth rate of 9.76 percent; and high-demand occupations as those for which the projected annual openings exceed the state median of 256.
During the 2018-19 school year, only 13 percent of students were enrolled in programs that closely aligned with occupations deemed highest in demand, growth and salary. Auditors determined that 57.5 percent of student enrollments were in approved programs geared to high-salary occupations, with the remaining 42.4 percent of students enrolled in programs that align with an occupation with a typical salary below the state average.
Auditors found SED lacks sufficient employee resources to monitor CTE programming in the state. SED focuses on review of CTE program applications and administration of federal grants, but does not perform routine visits to program locations or monitor program-level performance. As a result, its oversight activities are insufficient for assessing how programs are performing.
In the 2015-16 school year, SED records show 121,305 high school students in grades 9-12 participated in at least one CTE course, including 41,227 students who took a CTE course related to an approved program. Of these, 29 percent received an endorsement.
Auditors found that in the 2015-16 to 2018-19 school years, approximately a third of a CTE classroom’s capacity produced an endorsed graduate, indicating endorsements may be difficult to obtain or are not being sought by students. In addition, not all CTE classrooms are operating at capacity, resulting in a reduced number of students that are obtaining enhanced credentials or gaining industry-specific skills while in high school.
DiNapoli’s auditors also found:
- SED has not established any requirements or issued guidance to address scheduling barriers for students trying to meet educational requirements while also accommodating CTE courses.
- The majority of locations (78 percent) visited said that attracting, hiring and retaining certified teachers with industry experience to instruct CTE programs is impeded by a prolonged certification application process, inadequate salaries, and stringent educational requirements.
- Approved program course curriculum and articulation agreements with post-secondary programs are not developed using a centralized approach. There is no single CTE curriculum for comparable programs at different locations, and, as a result, different standards may be required depending on the school district or BOCES where the student takes the CTE program.
- SED is unable to accurately determine the number of endorsed graduates each year and does not have assurance that students have met the academic and industry standards of the respective CTE program for which they received an endorsement.
DiNapoli recommended SED:
- Ensure approved and local CTE programs, as well as student enrollments, align with state workforce needs and meet the career goals of secondary school students;
- Take the steps necessary to monitor CTE program-level performance as well as the accuracy and consistency of data submitted by school districts and BOCES;
- Assess whether the funding provided for CTE-related activities is sufficient to support high-quality CTE programs;
- Work with schools to ensure they are adequately promoting, supporting, and teaching CTE programs;
- Review and update CTE regulations to ensure alignment with state law;
- Work with schools and BOCES to standardize CTE curriculum; and
- Provide additional guidance to schools, school districts and BOCES regarding the application of CTE program requirements to ensure there is a clear and consistent process to record and report accurate CTE-related information.
SED generally disagreed with the audit’s findings. The department’s response is included in the audit.
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