In town to speak to graduates at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a pit stop in Queens to visit with students and business leaders at Aviation High School and talk about the rising focus on career and technical education.
Noting that CTE schools are of special interest to his boss, President Obama, Duncan said he wanted to learn more about how they are working in the city. Aviation is the third such school he’s visited in New York City, and the first in Queens.
“I think New York is doing remarkable things in the area of career and technical education,” he said. “And I want to shine a spotlight on that. This is how I learn. I don’t learn by sitting at my desk in Washington. I learn by going out there and talking to students and faculty.”
Aviation, one of the oldest CTE schools in the city, hosted Duncan for a roundtable discussion with students, staff and representatives from the business world to talk about how to connect students to careers even before college.
Deno Charalambous, principal of Aviation High School, said the school has partnered with companies like JetBlue to offer internships and training. Earlier this year, students from Aviation were able to visit an aircraft exposition in Florida courtesy of the Long Island City-based airline.
“We want to find the best way to connect our students to their futures,” he said.
“Here we learn real skills,” added student Cristian Alvarado. “We get to work with real airplanes, get internships, certifications and college credit.”
He also took the opportunity to promote the Obama administration’s $300 million budget proposal to fund grants for CTE education programs nationwide.
“We need to make these opportunities the norm,” he said. “There are far too many children out there in the country who don’t have these opportunities and we want to figure out how we can do a lot more of it.”
Duncan said he saw something special at Aviation that he has seen at other CTE schools.
“There’s a family environment here,” he said. “Kids who come to this school know they’re cared about and know they’re going to get a good education and there are jobs in the aviation industry 10 minutes from here. It’s one thing to read about these things, it’s another to spend time here and get a sense of the flavor.”
Duncan said a partnership between public schools and private companies is a must for the CTE model to work.
“In everything we do, we have to have public-private partnerships,” he said. “And let me be clear, if what we’re doing isn’t leading to students getting real jobs, then we’re actually doing them a disservice. So if you don’t have public-private partnerships, this thing is simply not going to work. It’s not about industry writing a check, it’s about internships, helping to shape the curriculum and having folks come back and teach. There have been partnerships at multiple levels.”
While at Aviation, Duncan was asked about the new teacher evaluation deal that state Education Commissioner John King will implement for New York City this September.
Admitting he had not yet seen the details of the plan, Duncan said he was glad an evaluation system will be put in place.
“Great! It’s done and now we need to move forward and make it work,” he said.