This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Struggling to be heard over protesters who came to oppose school closings, the School Reform Commission approved a plan for improving career and technical education across the District on Thursday night.
The plan includes a new state-of-the-art CTE high school, although details weren’t provided on where it will be located or how it will be paid for. Other objectives are more access for students, more work-based learning experiences, a districtwide curriculum for CTE programs, and a "talent pipeline" to train CTE teachers and principals.
The goal is to double the number of students in CTE courses from 6,000 to 12,000 by 2017, assure that students graduate with industry credentials, and create new certification areas.
The plan is to open 30 new CTE programs, including Advanced Manufacturing, Biotechnology, and Renewable Energy, as well as Veterinary and Pharmacy Technician certifications.
School leaders have sought for decades to upgrade and modernize the District’s offerings in what historically has been known as vocational education. It has had trouble in the past keeping up with rapidly changing industry demands. Traditionally, vo-tech was for students who did not excel in academic pursuits, but many technical fields now require high-level math and other demanding coursework. Parents and students have consistently complained that there weren’t enough courses available in fields that lead to high-paying jobs.
The District received a $5.7 million grant from the Middleton Foundation last year to improve its CTE programs.
One of the 37 schools the SRC wants to close by September is Bok Technical High School. It plans to move all of Bok’s programs to nearby South Philadelphia High School.