In the face of the recession and declining numbers of skilled technical workers, a key piece of the Obama administration's education plan is a renewed emphasis on Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, just like the one Carter and Hooker attended at Wooddale. Today's CTE programs are not the vocational curricula of the past, which focused solely on trade education. They include college prep as well, giving students more options after graduation. To fund them, the Education Department is calling for the renewal and retooling of the Perkins Act. The act was last renewed in 2006, under President Bush, but Obama wants to push it further, calling for increased collaboration between high schools, colleges, industries, and states.
"It seems very clear that when you give young people an opportunity like at Wooddale High School to engage in this kind of learning, it turns something on," James Stone, director of the National Research Center for Career & Technical Education, tells me. "I truly believe this, even though I can't point to empirical evidence that's research based."
In the end, the boys' rocket launch was unsuccessful, but they already have inspired the younger members of the school's aviation program:
Although disappointment hangs on their faces, Hooker and Carter are well versed in science and know that failure is just an opportunity to learn. "The center of gravity may have been off on it to give it that spiral," Hooker says. "It's not the end, there's still a lot of work to be done, a lot of knowledge to be passed on, but this is capping it off for us seniors."