Administrators at Wilcox Technical High School in Meriden and other high schools that are part of the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System are looking to increase enrollment of high-needs students — in particular those students who are considered English Language Learners.
This idea makes sense, and the reasons for it are several.
Those students — and local industries — stand to benefit if there are more workers who are not only skilled in a trade, but also have the ability to communicate fluently in more than one language.
Then there is the fact that English Language Learners are notably few in the tech high schools. Although they make up around 13 percent of the student body at Maloney and Platt, Meriden’s city-run high schools, they are only 3 percent of Wilcox students.
Meanwhile, society as a whole seems to be re-assessing the conventional wisdom which has long held sway in this country — that just about everyone should go to college — understanding that many students might be better served by a more direct path to a good job in the trades.
English learners now make up more than 8 percent of the entire student population, from pre-kindergarten to grade 12, statewide.
In order to increase the numbers of ELL students attending the tech schools, what’s needed is outreach, and the system has been doing just that.
Jeffrey Wihbey, superintendent of the statewide Connecticut Technical Education and Career System, said CT Tech officials have reworked the system's enrollment process as part of a larger effort to make it more equitable. Part of that effort, dealing directly with families online, was spurred in part by the pandemic.
Wilcox recently held an open house for Spanish-speaking families to learn more about the school's programs and how to navigate its online platforms.
And it’s hard to argue with success.
“They're graduating at a higher rate,” Wihbey said of the ELL students. “We want to get more of those kids into our school. They are successful when they get to us.”
All the more reason to endorse this program.