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In Pittsfield, educators continue to push for an all-vocational high school

Students in 2018 at Taconic High School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Pittsfield Public Schools
Students in 2018 at Taconic High School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

At a Pittsfield School Committee meeting last week, two high school principals and the head of the district's vocational education program made the case for opening a fully vocational education high school in the city.

This was the second school committee meeting this year where the proposal was discussed.

Tammy Gage, Pittsfield's director of career and technical education, told the committee that in the last five years, the district has seen increasing interest and enrollment in its vocational education program.

"Taconic High School is growing out of its building capacity to serve all secondary students who want CTE [career and technical education]," Gage said, "thereby reducing access to our own Pittsfield students who want to enter a vocational education program."

Gage and both high school principals have a proposal that would gradually turn Taconic High School fully CTE by fall 2026.

Using school enrollment and other education data, they explained to the School Committee that several negative assumptions about vocational education aren't true.

Taconic High School principal Matthew Bishop said it's a myth that not enough students would choose CTE.

“Each year at Taconic less and less non-CTE students are enrolled,” Bishop said. “This year, with the coming freshman, currently only 45 out of a class of 250ish are not CTE.”

In Massachusetts, vocational education students are required to meet the same educational standards for graduation as other students in the state, dispelling the idea, Bishop and others said, that vocational education is less rigorous.

The School Committee meets again August 17.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."