Preparing All Students for Economic and Career Success

June 2019 / Abell-Supported Research / Education
image of young woman in stem
Education Strategy Group (ESG), with funding from the Abell Foundation, conducted an external assessment of career readiness priorities, practices, and programs in Baltimore City Schools.

For generations, good jobs that provided stability and family-sustaining wages were accessible to most individuals with a high school diploma. But significant economic shifts—including those stemming from technological advancements and the Great Recession—have upended this reality. Today, all students require some level of postsecondary education and training to access good jobs.

The task of K-12 educators now is to ensure that all students connect to a pathway that both aligns with their individual goals and prepares them for rigorous college, post-secondary training, and career opportunities.

With funding from the Abell Foundation, Education Strategy Group (ESG) analyzed the career preparation efforts offered in Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools), with a particular focus on Career and Technical Education (CTE). The resulting report, “Preparing All Students for Economic & Career Success,” used student performance data and qualitative data from key stakeholders, to identify the strengths and gaps of City Schools’ current career-related programs. It recommends strategies to raise the rigor and labor market value of those programs so they can more effectively prepare students for in-demand jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and build college-readiness.

Some key findings of this report include:

  • The alignment of City Schools’ career program offerings to Baltimore’s six priority industries is mixed.
  • None of the current CTE programs incorporate all of the elements of rigorous career programming: advanced coursework, work-based learning experiences, industry-recognized credentials/or early post-secondary college credit.
  • The most rigorous CTE programs in career fields aligned to Baltimore’s six priority industries are located in the highest performing schools. At the same time, career clusters that connect to lower-level job opportunities are concentrated in schools with lower academic achievement.
  • Across the district, students (including those enrolled in CTE) are struggling to meet college ready benchmarks; and those who do meet these benchmarks are concentrated in a handful of high performing schools.
  • Student readiness for professional workplace settings is a challenge, with many students lacking critical professional skills and fundamental academic skills to thrive on the job.
  • The City Schools’ “Blueprint for Success” does not directly address career readiness or leverage CTE as a strategy to achieve its stated priorities.