Technical education programs boost graduation rates in Syracuse high schools

Sep 8, 2012

The graduation rate in the Syracuse City School District continues to be one of the worst in the state, with less than half the students getting their diplomas after four years of school. Technical education programs may be a solution.

However, programs like automotive technology, computer science, culinary science and the media at Central High School’s technical school on East Adams Street boasts more than a 70 percent graduation rate in its first two graduating classes. Principal Matthew Williams suggests a couple of reasons for that.  

“One,” Williams says, “is that the kids are here doing something they are interested in and excited about doing. So they want to come to school and work in their art class, in their media class. The other major fact is we're small. I know who everybody is. We don't lose anybody."

Tech Central senior Nakim Whorley wants to be an accountant, and he says it's the curriculum that draws him.

"I like the classes that they offered me. They seemed to be the kind of classes I needed to take to get where I need to go. And I'm ready to graduate now," Whorley said.

Things could get even better at Tech Central now that a $32 million renovation project is almost done. The renovations mean smart boards and computers in every room among other technological advances.

Junior Paul Grenga says that all makes learning easier.

"With the smart boards and all that, with the internet it just goes easier than just them talking to us and reading out of textbooks. It’s more fun also,” Grenga said.

Superintendent Sharon Contreras pins the school's success on student's interest.

"I think students are really interested in the programs here. They have chosen their career, so they start working towards their licensure here in high school," Contreras said. "So I think that whenever students are motivated you are going to see higher graduation rates."

Contreras adds there is career technical education in some of the other city high schools as well. There is an application process for students who want to get into Central Tech.

Williams says, initially, anyone who wanted could get in. But that's changed.

"The past two years now with our incoming ninth graders, we had to turn folks away. That's been very hard; we wish we had room to fit them all," Williams said.