As an administrator at Manchester Community College, in Manchester, Conn., Patricia A. Ciccone wondered why so many of her students were not finishing their degrees. “What was the goal?” she remembers asking. “How do we help students make those decisions?”
Seeking the answer to that question led Ciccone, to consider the transitions students make between primary and secondary school, from secondary school to college, and from college to career. Her search eventually drew her to the Connecticut Technical High School System, a state-run district where students from across the state can get a grounding in real-world work skills while acquiring the academic credits they need to graduate from high school.
“I believe this [vocational education] is the answer,” says Ciccone, 60, who served as the superintendent of the 11,000-student technical high school system from 2003 until retiring in December 2012. “Even if they choose not to work in their chosen field, they have such significant exposure” that they can make informed choices, she says. Students leave the district with a high school diploma and a certificate in a chosen trade.