Latinos In State’s Technical Schools Doing Well


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                             Dr. Nivea Torres (left) and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman meet with students
                                   at a leadership  conference at the Prince Technical School in Hartford. 
Brian Woodman, Jr.

Latinos enrolled in the Connecticut’s technical school system are graduating at a higher rate than those in general schools and have a  higher than general average rate of  going on to college, according to the state’s new superintendent of the  Technical High School System system, Dr. Nivea Torres.
Torres, who was appointed to the post by the state Board of Education in February and had previously served as the interim superintendent for the state’s 20 technical schools, credits the schools curriculum for its success. “People have an antiquated view of technical schools,” she said. “We are providing a skilled, certified workforce.”
Kelly Donnelly, spokesperson for the CT Department of  Education added that the emphasis on learning trades and putting education in a practical context provides unity at these schools that supersedes cultural differences, adding that the educational model provided at these schools is unique.
Donnelly said  there were 36 occupational fields in which students could become certified while studying core subjects like writing and math at the technical high schools. Torres said that while all the occupations were popular, students favored culinary arts, automotive repair and hairdressing; she said Latino students were consistent with this pattern.
Currently, in the technical school system, 3,000 students are Hispanic, making up 33 percent of the school’s population.  The Puerto Rican born Torres said that, according to findings, tracking the progress of graduates from the technical schools in 2013, 54 percent of the students progressed to higher education, while about one-third of the graduates went directly to work.
The averages shifted with Latino students. She said 91 percent of the 670 Latino students responded to the tracking attempt. About 70 percent went to college, 9 percent went to work, 4 percent worked part-time while attending school and a few joined the military.
Torres, who came to the mainland U.S. when she was three, expressed pride in her own career as an example to students in general and Latinos in particular. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international politics (which she says has been useful as a school administrator), a master’s degree in English as a second language (she was a bilingual coordinator for the Windham Public School system) and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction. Before her appointment as interim superintendent for technical schools, she worked for about three years as the system’s superintendent for curriculum and instruction. She said that, while she never attended a technical school, she became interested in her current specialization following her exposure to Connecticut’s model.
Torres added that other data about Latinos at the technical schools was consistent with the general population. About 3 percent of the general population and the Latino students were learning English as a second language, she said.