Kick a hole in education

“Kick a hole in education,” says Carol Egan, Director of the Center for Advanced Learning (CAL) in Gresham. “That’s the brand; that’s the culture here.”

As Ms. Egan welcomes Stand staff to the CAL campus for a tour of their cutting-edge facilities, it is abundantly clear that she and her team of dedicated educators are achieving that mantra. In the process, they’re setting their students up for success during and after their classroom years, and providing an example for educators across the state for how career and technical education (CTE) can improve their outcomes.

CAL welcomes students from five high schools in the region, offering six CTE-focused areas of study such as Health Sciences, Mechanical Engineering and Manufacturing, and Digital Media and Design. There is an unwavering eye toward the future with every course offered – CAL students can complete their entire English requirement for a Bachelor’s Degree while still in high school, or pursue an internship to help build their resume. The ultimate goal is to offer students the ability to earn an Associate’s Degree before they even graduate high school.

There are no bells on this campus, and there are no hall passes. “Class is engaging, so guess what students do?” Ms. Egan muses. “They go right back to class.”

That’s because at CAL, going to class means studying cyber security and hacking, or designing shoes with adidas in the school’s “Fab Lab,” or embracing aviation in a fully functional flight simulator, or studying health and dentistry at the school’s on-site facilities. Students may start the day welding or crafting in a foundry and follow that by designing marketing materials for a new food truck in the afternoon. Kids know exactly how their studies relate to the working world – in fact, they’re already a part of it. Pella Windows, for instance, relies on a component that CAL students created.

CAL’s success is just one shining example in a larger narrative about how CTE opportunities have a profound and positive impact on education outcomes. In Oregon’s most recent graduation rates released in January, students with at least one credit of CTE graduate at 86 percent, compared to 77 percent for those who don’t. Kids with two or more CTE classes do even better, graduating at rates up to 92 percent. At CAL, they’re blowing those rates out of the water with a 99 percent graduation rate.

Schools all over Oregon are now taking steps to share that success. Thanks to Measure 98, every school district in the state has new resources to invest in CTE opportunities. That means more engaging courses to capture and hold students’ interest, and it means more graduates with real-world, career-applicable skills entering the local workforce across Oregon.

That is a hole in education worth kicking, as Carol Egan and her staff prove every single day.