June 21, 2022
As with most dissections of policy or practice within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, there were multiple layers of reality on display as the Forum sought from a CMS program director some details of how career and technical education plays out in the schools today.
Susan Gann-Carroll, director since 2016 of the CMS Career & Technical Education program, came armed with a presentation focused on the CTE curricula and on how CMS measures student participation in CTE.
For a number of participants in the Belmont Center meeting room, there was more interest in why individual CTE courses are not more widely available across all high schools, and why programs popular with students have been removed. After multiple inquires about a clothing design program at West Charlotte High, Gann-Carroll acknowledged that she had made that decision, saying she was focused on providing classes that would prepare teens for higher-skill, higher-paying jobs.
The overall discussion unearthed a number of issues that facilitator Laura McClettie said the Forum would try to pursue at future Forums. Among them:
– Gann-Carroll said that federal Perkins Act funding pays for CTE teachers, but not for equipment. That means that even if there is funding for a position and an employee can be hired, a program available at one school can’t expand to another until money from a different pot can be found to equip the classroom. Gann-Carroll suggested that CTE program expansion ends up competing for bond dollars. The school board is presently prioritizing $5 billiion in identified needs, in hopes of whittling the list for a 2023 bond issue to something in the $2 billion range.
– A fundamental question was raised: Whose interests drive the program? Teachers? Students? Parents? Or the area businesses on which CMS increasingly depends to create internships and donate equipment? Gann-Carroll readily agreed with several participants that internships are no substitute for the in-depth apprenticeships that regularly lead directly to employment. Gann-Carroll said businesses will often support short-term internships; apprenticeships, not so much.
– The pandemic put virtual learning at stage center, correct? Gann-Carroll said CTE had some classes like auto mechanics that did not make that transition, and that CTE had always for good reason focused on hands-on experiences. The topic is relevant because of a key reality illustrated on the final page of the brochure below: While the curriculum covers many fields, not a single CMS high school offers all of the CTE classes. If CTE is not virtual, there is essentially no way that all students will have access to electives in which they can explore their interests. And that leads to another barrier:
– Gann-Carroll said her office can recommend additions to a school’s offerings, but it is the principal in the schoolhouse that decides on the electives to be offered. Bias could easily creep in as a principal, working with a finite budget, skimps on the needs of one group of students to accommodate the needs of another group.
Note: It appears that readers will not be able to deduce, from the data thus far provided, which focuses on enrollment, how completion rates by individual CTE pathway might vary by ethnicity.
Below the video of the morning’s presentation are two items: individual pages from the presentation; and pages from a “How CTE Works” brochure handed out to participants. Below the brochure are charts sent in by CMS to respond to Forum participants’ requests for additional information.
Slides from presentation
Slides from Susan Gann-Carroll’s presentation are below. The entire set of slides may be downloaded as a PDF here.
The ‘How CTE Works’ brochure
During her presentation, Susan Gann-Carroll distributed to participants at the Belmont Center a February 2021 CMS CTE brochure titled, “How CTE Works.” Below are the pages from that brochure. The pages may be downloaded as a single PDF here.
CMS response to requests for additional data
During the session, participants sought additional information, chiefly about enrollment in the various CTE courses, and breakdowns of those enrollment numbers by ethnicity. CTE officials on Wednesday provided the following material.
In all charts below, data is cumulative for currently enrolled students, and ends with the end of last fall’s first semester of the 2021-2022 school year.
More information on the CTE program is at the CTE website.
Overall enrollment by ethnicity
Pathway enrollment percentages by ethnicity
Pathway levels by ethnicity
CTE Course enrollments by percentage ethnicity
Attainment of credentials by ethnicity
Course pass/fail rates by ethnicity