From auto shop to health sciences to culinary arts, more kids in career classes get diplomas

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Reynolds High School senior Tyler McFarland, hopes the skills he is learning in Reynolds new HVAC class will help him in the U.S. Air Force. Kids in East Multnomah County schools who take career, trades and technical education classes graduate at significantly higher rates than those who don't, reflecting statewide and national trends, recently released graduation statistics show.

Statewide, high school students who took even one career or technical education (CTE) class graduated at a rate nearly 10 percentage points higher than the Oregon average. Oregon's graduation rate for all students was 78.7 percent in 2018 and for students taking a CTE class, it was 88.1 percent and for those concentrating in CTE it was 92.8 percent.

Those kinds of results also hold true in East Multnomah County schools.

The Gresham-Barlow School District graduated 72.9 of the class of 2018, but the rate for kids taking at least one CTE class was 85.9 percent and for students concentrating on CTE, it was a whopping 93 percent. With both Gresham and Barlow high schools under construction and some of the CTE classrooms out of use this year, those numbers could dip a bit next year.

Reynolds School District graduated 67.9 of the 2018 cohort of students. Of that bunch, students who took at least one CTE class graduated at a rate almost 14 percentage points higher or at 81.6 percent. For Reynolds students who concentrated in CTE the rate was 90.2 or more than 22 percentage points higher than the general population.

Centennial School District showed similar striking results. Students who concentrated on CTE classes graduated at 91.4 percent, compared with 86.7 for kids taking one or more CTE classes and 71.8 percent for the whole 2018 cohort.

Students from these districts also may attend the Center for Advanced Learning, which is a career and technical education public charter school. Although CAL students are counted in the statistics for their "home" school, CAL administrators said the school's graduation rate is 100 percent.

Career and technical education classes can be in the classic disciplines such as auto shop or metals. But schools also have programs in culinary, hospitality and tourism, computer information systems, graphic arts, design, business and health sciences.

Schools are expanding their CTE offerings and they are using money from Measure 98 that Oregon voters passed in 2016 to purchase state-of-the art equipment that keep career and trades classes current.

The students in CTE classes have a variety of reasons for taking the hands-on education. A quick check with students in Reynolds High School's new HVAC program found one senior, Tyler McFarland, had already enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and thought the class would give him skills for that career.

Senior Nicholas Blegen thought the skills would help him in his preferred career as a firefighter.

Senior Carlos Garcia is considering HVAC as a career.

"It's a good job and you don't have any student debt," he said.

Some of the CTE students graduate and go directly to work in an apprentice program, but 91 percent go on to college, according to national statistics from the Association for Career and Technical Education.

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