Students in Manteca Unified have a better chance of graduating high school than their counterparts elsewhere in San Joaquin County, California, and the nation.
But that isn’t good enough for Manteca Unified leadership. They want to make sure students that receive diplomas are either well prepared to access higher education or are employable.
It is why they are gearing up to roll out seven more two-year vocation programs this fall at four comprehensive high school campuses. The vocational effort is an expansion on the be.tech academy now operating at the Manteca Unified district office complex.
“At graduations each year I’ll look out at the first two rows or so at the students with all the cords and they look confident as they know where they are going,” Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer said. “But when you look beyond d those first rows there are students who are scared because they don’t know what is next. A number of them will succeed but others don’t know what they are going to do next.”
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How Manteca schools stack up
California Department of Education data for the 2012-13 school year puts the Manteca Unified graduation rate at 92 percent. That compares to 90.3 percent for Ripon Unified, 85.2 percent for Lincoln Unified, 83.1 percent for Stockton Unified, and 82.8 percent for Lodi Unified.
For individual comprehensive high school, Manteca Unified four-year graduation rates from data gleaned from the California Department of Education are:
• 97.1% for East Union High.
• 96.9% for Lathrop High.
• 95.2% for Weston Ranch High
• 95.0% for Manteca High.
• 94.9% for Sierra High
Statewide, California had an 80.2 percent graduation rate in 2012-13. The national graduation rate was 81 percent.
And while Messer is pleased that the district’s graduation rate is the highest in San Joaquin County, it doesn’t necessarily make him happy.
“Our goal needs to make graduates employable or ready to go to the next level (of higher education),” Messer said.
Messer noted 60 percent of Manteca Unified grads go on to a two-year post-secondary school or community college. Another 20 percent go to four-year institutions.
The remaining 20 percent go into the military, the family business, start working, or end up in prison.
Of the graduates going on to four-year programs from Manteca Unified, 95 percent graduate. The students who go onto two-year programs such as community colleges and vocational schools have a completion rate of around 50 percent.
The Manteca Unified endeavor is seeking to target those that don’t complete a two-year post secondary course of study and those who are trying to go straight to the force.
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The new vocational programs for fall
Vocational education is the path least traveled by most California secondary schools. But that soon won’t be the case in Manteca Unified. The seven new vocational programs will be in addition to three be.tech based programs including first responders, culinary arts and fabrication as well as the school farm and Regional Occupation Program.
The seven new programs are health care plus the hospitality industry at Weston Ranch High; advanced engineering and manufacturing plus coding and gaming at Lathrop High; sports business careers such as broadcasting and sports medicine at Manteca High; and farm to fork food endeavors plus web design at Sierra High.
The seven new programs along with be.tech mirror industries that are large job generators in the 209 region.
And just like with the be.tech programs they are open to any student in the district. For example if a student currently at Manteca High wanted to pursue the web design program, they would be transferred to Sierra High from their junior and senior years. All programs are two-year undertakings for juniors and seniors.
But unlike be.tech, students from outside Manteca Unified will not be able to enroll in the seven new vocational programs at the individual campuses. That’s because be.tech operates as a charter school.
Students successfully completing the vocational programs will get two diplomas — one in their chosen field of study and one from the comprehensive high school they are attending. They still have to meet all of the academic requirements that non-vocational students do. Academics are structured as independent studies that are taken at the same time as vocational training.
The undertaking next fall at the high schools, the school farm, b.tech, as well as the Regional Occupational Programs the district operates are part of the Manteca Unified goal to prepare students for their future beyond school.