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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning


"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

Tech High Schools...

Today's lead editorial in the TU deals with the prospect of the capital region becoming the model in New York State for technology high schools. I actually know a little about this because both SJC and her father are somewhat involved in this. I couldn't agree more with the editorial:
[the legislature is considering] approval of upstate's first technology-themed high school, based on a concept that could well serve as a model for districts statewide, even the nation. But so far, legislative approval -- without which nothing can happen -- is on hold. The Senate is poised to act, but not the Assembly.

The school already has a name -- Tech Valley High School. It's the brainchild of two of the area's BOCES organizations, Capital Region and Questar II, which together serve a seven-county region. They propose a 400-student high school with a Regents-based curriculum and a technology theme. The most likely location would be at the Rensselaer Technology Park, which would give students a chance to interact with local high-tech firms. At the same time, those companies would be able to partner with, and contribute to, the school. While other high schools downstate and nationwide have technology themes, Tech Valley High School would be unique in this emphasis on fostering interaction between the school and the real-life lessons learned by interacting with business and high-tech specialists.
Everything I know about these high schools - mostly from a friend who works at a high tech high in San Diego - indicates that they are simply excellent: the faculties are enthusiastic, the community spirit of the schools are wonderful, and the education is top-notch. SJC is very interested in technology education, and is currently thinking about taking a summer internship (she's a teacher, summers off!) with the tech group that wants to bring the high school here.
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, has long been a steady supporter of the school. And The New Technology Foundation Replication Project, which is funded by the Gates Foundation, was so impressed with the concept last November that it pledged $400,000 in grant money to get the school started. Yet for reasons that are difficult to fathom, enabling legislation has lagged in the Assembly, even though Assemblyman Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes, is enthusiastic about the idea. Failure to approve legislation by the summer would put the $400,000 at risk.

In a meeting with this newspaper's editorial board last month, Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, did not indicate any opposition to the high school proposal. But an aide said some key questions remain, including whether the school should be established by BOCES or become a charter school. That answer should be evident. This area has enough charter schools, not to mention pending charter approvals. It's time to call a halt until the charter school concept can prove itself as a viable alternative to public schools. A BOCES school would be an opportunity to show that the public school model can be as innovative as charter schools, without costing school districts the per-pupil aid they lose with every student who enrolls in a charter school. As for Tech Valley High School itself, it should be given a chance to prove it can compete with tech high schools anywhere, including North Carolina.
I completely agree. SJC's father works for NERIC, which is a regional coordination unit for the state's BOCES grouping. He's very much in favor of the high school, and not the biggest fan of the TU editorial board. So when they agree, I take note. I think the tech high is a great idea. Let's hope Shelly can be convinced.
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