As the nation endeavors to ensure that every high school graduate is “career and college ready,” interest in career and technology education (CTE) programs has surged. Less than half of Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) graduates currently enroll in two- or four-year colleges, making it critical that high school programs provide both academic rigor and pathways to employment and/or post- secondary training.
Since the Abell Foundation’s 2005 report “Help Wanted: CTE in Baltimore City Public Schools” highlighted the undervalued opportunity, enrollment in career pathway programs has doubled in City Schools; today, 40 percent of high school students participate in at least one CTE course, and one-third of graduates are considered CTE concentrators. High-quality CTE programs enable students to complete a rigorous academic and career course sequence, earn the associated certification, receive workplace skills training, and participate in an industry internship. Baltimore City CTE concentrators have higher graduation rates and are more likely to be placed in employment or college following high school than students who graduate without these credentials.
Despite these strong outcomes, the school system has struggled to ensure that every CTE participant meets these goals. The Abell Foundation has sought to build the school system’s capacity for increasing the quality of CTE programming and expanding the number of work-based experiences with local nonprofits and employers.
Code in the Schools for Support of the Computer Science Pathway
Abell has provided grants of $100,000 (2016) and $50,000 (2017) to local nonprofit Code in the Schools to help create a functional pipeline from school to jobs and post- secondary education in the computing and technology fields.
Specifically, Code in the Schools is partnering with City Schools’ CTE department to build out and expand the new Computer Science program in nine high schools. Critical to this effort is developing the fourth-year curriculum, delivering monthly trainings for computer science teachers, marketing to students, and facilitating relationships with employers in Baltimore. Code in the Schools has developed a 12th grade course in Java application development and designed dual enrollment options in Computer Science with the University of Baltimore.
With local IT employers, Code in the Schools has launched a Computing Advisory Council to inform curricular planning, provide classroom and work-based learning experiences, and mentor computer science teachers and students. Code in the Schools is also building capacity within Baltimore City Schools’ CTE staff by providing training. Further, Code in the Schools operates a summer boot camp for 50 students entering the pathway and those planning to take the AP Computer Science course.
These efforts are beginning to bear fruit. In the past two years, the Computer Science pathway has grown from five to nine high schools, and enrollment has increased from less than 500 students to over 800 students. Indeed, CTE teachers from all affiliated high schools actively participate in the monthly computer science professional learning community and are modifying their teaching in response to industry practices. Most importantly, Code in the Schools—as a partner with the national nonprofit Code.org— has advocated successfully for Computer Science Principles as the required tech credit for all City high school students.
Urban Alliance for Support of the Construction Pathway
With $50,000 in support from the Abell Foundation in 2016, Urban Alliance launched a pilot program to provide industry-sector job-readiness training and paid internships to students in the Construction CTE pathway. While the construction industry
had presented numerous challenges for internships, it was identified as a unique opportunity because of the Maryland Stadium Authority’s as yet unfulfilled commitment to hire City Schools students for 21st Century School Building job sites. Targeting 12th-grade students enrolled in the Construction pathway at four high schools, Urban Alliance created a five-month, hands-on internship program with employers in construction-related industries. Beginning with a month of intensive pre-work training during the spring semester, students were placed in paid internships that lasted, in some cases, through the summer. As part of the initiative, Urban Alliance also provided transition services to employment or post-secondary education as students graduated.
Although small in the first year, the Urban Alliance Construction program served 22 students who successfully completed pre-work training and received internships. Eighty-five percent of these participants completed the paid internships with some of Baltimore’s top construction and architectural firms. Of those who completed the internship, 85 percent successfully transitioned to unsubsidized employment or a training program/apprenticeship upon high school graduation. Abell provided an additional grant of $50,000 in 2017. In its second year, Urban Alliance has added a Surveying pathway to the Construction internships and is serving nearly 40 students with paid internships, broadening the pipeline and number of engaged employers.
Green Street Academy Charter School-Career Center
As a charter school designed to prepare its 820 sixth through 12th grade students for the 21st-century economy, Green Street Academy has its eye on pre-professional training that opens doors for its low-income students. Its commitment to career preparation includes accredited certifications in health care, conservation and construction, career exploration with employers, meaningful internships, and career counseling to inform post-high school plans.
Led by an innovative internship coordinator, the Green Street Academy Career Center serves ninth through 12th grade students—and increasingly, alumni. With $85,000 in support from the Abell Foundation, the Career Center matched 250 high school scholars with employers who provided paid internships. These work-based placements ranged from health care and biomedical research to law, ecological services, and outdoor education. They also generated over $425,000 in stipends for students. In addition to gaining income, participating students mitigated summer academic learning loss by an average of 30 percent on the i-Ready benchmarks as opposed to students who did not participate.
Green Street’s Career Center also provides career guidance to both current students and returning graduates. With only two graduating cohorts to date, Green Street is embarking on a process to track post high-school education, employment, and wages of all its graduates, and strives to provide a minimum of one paid internship for every Green Street high school scholar.
Information published in July 2018.