This ain't your daddy's shop class. The Boston Globe reports that almost 50 percent of Bay State vocational ed students "now enroll in a two- or four-year college after graduation, more than double the rate in 1990." Not only are voc ed programs helping keep at-risk students from dropping out, but they're pushing some on into higher education, too. For instance, Kelsey Byers, a college senior and former vocational student, was accepted to Harvard thanks to her perfect SAT scores and her brilliant paper juxtaposing two different interpretations of Antigone. (In the end, she attended MIT.) Traditional voc ed subjects are becoming relics; plumbing and welding classes are being replaced by instruction in pre-engineering and biotechnology (Byers's focus), which reflects changing employment needs. Where the old staples remain, they are sometimes being revitalized as students demand that technical classes be accompanied by a rigorous academic curriculum. Worcester Technical High School's two top seniors are cosmetology students, for example, and both plan to attend a state university in the fall. Voc ed producing beauty and brains? How can you go wrong?
"Plumbing, then political science," by Maria Sacchetti, Boston Globe, January 21, 2007