Career tech center’s high grad rateCART in Clovis serves 1,300 students
The Center for Advanced Research and Technology in Clovis is an impressive place, a model facility for career and technical education that other school districts will recreate one day when they once again have money.
Serving 1,300 students in Clovis and Fresno, CART blends college prep academics with technical skills for juniors and seniors who work half-days in 13 labs. They include biomedical engineering, forensic science, engineering, advanced communications, and global dynamics.
CART teachers and administrators have had testimonials and anecdotal evidence from employers and students who said they found the real-world exposure to college and careers challenging and inspiring. Now, there is additional data to support these assumptions.
A seven-year study showed that a larger proportion of CART graduates go on to community college than high school graduates statewide, and also significantly larger numbers than similarly matched peers in Clovis and Fresno. To a lesser extent, the comparison also holds for graduates who go on to a four-year university.
Overall, 72 percent of CART graduates since 2002-03 went on to community college, compared with 29 percent of high school graduates statewide. That comparison held up for all demographic groups, including African American graduates (68 to 32 percent) and Hispanics (73 to 32 percent).
More pertinent was the peer comparison, matching students in CART with juniors and seniors in the district with similar demographics, parent education levels, and scores on standardized tests; 71 percent of CART grads enrolled in community college, compared with 60 percent of their peers. The difference held a year later, with 62 percent of CART graduates still enrolled in community college, compared with 51 percent of non-CART graduates.
CART courses are A-G aligned, fulfilling an admission requirement to a CSU or UC campus. The percentage of CART graduates going on to a four-year university was 23 percent, compared with 21 percent of non-CART graduates. The study didn’t tabulate the percentage of students who chose community college to save money and then transferred to UC or CSU after two years.
The study was done by California Partnership for Achieving Student Success, with funding by the James Irvine Foundation, a key promoter of the concept of linked learning. This strategy prepares students for work careers or college through project-based, technical applications within career pathways. Irvine has funded district-wide linked learning planning in a dozen districts.
CART, serving as a regional facility for students from 13 high schools, differs from career academies – small schools within a school that provide three-year programs in a career pathway, along with internships and academic support. Career academies also have increased college-going rates, especially for students at risk, by creating a small-school community.
Devin Blizzard, CEO of CART, said that CART, too, has been able to provide students with a small learning community. The 100 students in each of the 13 career pathways study and work together daily in a three-hour interdisciplinary block, team-taught by three teachers. They break into small groups for hands-on projects; about 40 percent have internships.
CART has equipment that few individual high schools can afford, like polymerase chain-reaction machines and a spectrometer in the $1.5 million lab for the biomedical program that opened last fall. The psychology lab is team-taught by a chemistry, English, and neuroscience teacher (the only California program with a teacher who majored in neuroscience, according to Blizzard).
“The CART effect is not just technical knowledge but a set of values, like tenacity,” Blizzard said. “Students get to experience a profession in a high school environment.”