How a school district drives a city’s economic revitalization

Syracuse city schools plans to begin offering CTE courses to all middle school students
By: | February 1, 2021
Le Moyne College runs a “quantitative thinking village” summer camps where Syracuse middle schoolers work on projects such as building robots and debugging computer programs.Le Moyne College runs a “quantitative thinking village” summer camps where Syracuse middle schoolers work on projects such as building robots and debugging computer programs.

Coding professional development for CTE and other tech teachers will lay the foundation for Syracuse City School District’s role in a consortium formed to revitalize the the local economy.

At the high school level, district leaders also are developing a  public service leadership academy as part of an initiative called ERIE 21—or “Educating for Our Rising Innovation Economy in the 21st century.” The project, which includes state, city and county government, and local high-tech firms, is headquartered a Le Moyne College.

“To sustain growth rates in an urban district, you’ve go to provide support to kids,” says Bob Leslie,  Syracuse city schools’ director of career and technical education. “We have a philosophy that support for students doesn’t end at graduation. We want to make sure we’re connected to kids until they have that sustaining job.”

The district already has more than two dozen CTE pathways that begin in eighth grade. Students in these programs have attained a 91.5% graduation rate, which is higher than the district’s overall rate, Leslie, says.


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The ERIE 21 initiative emerged as city businesses experienced difficulty filling jobs with local applicants or attracting potential employees to move to central New York, says William Brower, Le Moyne College’s vice president for communications and advancement.

The college also felt called to action by the consistently poor performance of Syracuse’s eighth graders on the state’s algebra exams.

Le Moyne also has data that shows when K-12 students’ grades, graduation rates, and likelihood of going on to higher education improve when they are exposed to college programs, he says.

“This is not about testing, this is about getting young people excited about math and quantitative skills and showing them the future—like why is it important to do well in math,” Brower said.

Changing curriculum

The district is working with educators from Le Moyne to develop middle and high school curriculum in various technology subjects, quantitative reasoning and social-emotional learning, says Amanda Miles, the director of ERIE 21.

Syracuse city schools plans to begin offering CTE courses to all middle school students in fall 2022, says Nicholas Lisi, the work-based learning coordinator in the district’s CTE office.


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The goal is to introduce middle school students to both potential and high school career pathways, Lisi says.

Along with the technical subjects, the courses will focus on in-demand workforce skills such as collaboration, communication and maintaining a positive attitude.

High school students in the program will meet with business leaders and other local organizations who can help them begin setter their sights on future careers.

The college’s priority is to gather a diverse group of professionals to speak to students.


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