With high school dropout rates reaching record levels in some cities, the AGC says this could be cut significantly if officials fostered public schools that teach construction skills.

The Associated General Contractors of America said that construction-focused schools are already delivering better results than comparable public schools in communities across the country. AGC said it believes that students nationwide would benefit if those schools were more widespread.

“For too long, we’ve told students that the only path to success lies in mastering a standardized test, instead of acquiring practical skills,” said Ted Aadland, the association’s president and a builder with Portland, Ore.-based Aadland Evans Constructors. “By giving students an opportunity to master skills like construction that will win them good pay and earn them rewarding careers, we’re giving them another reason to work hard and another way to succeed.”

Aadland made the call for greater support of skills-based education during the recent launch of a new construction-focused charter school in Albuquerque, N.M. He said student performance is higher at similar construction-focused high schools across the county that the association supports than at nearby public schools.

For example, the AGC found that 92 percent of students graduate from the Construction Careers Center Charter High School, while only 72 percent graduate from the local city schools.

Meanwhile, students learning construction skills at Washington, D.C.’s Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School, and a construction academy in San Diego County, Calif., score significantly higher on their high school exit exams than their fellow school district peers.

The association president added that these construction schools are providing students with a better education experience and preparing them for successful careers for significantly less than comparable public school programs.

“Our education system and our graduation rates would be significantly better if schools like the one we are opening today were the rule, instead of the exception,” Aadland said.

Education departments need to do more to encourage, support, and finance schools like this, he added. Noting that nationwide the high school dropout rate is now 30 percent, Aadland said that “having a 30 percent failure rate is no way to run a business and it should be no way to run an education system.”