Earlier this month, Georgia’s Career Technical Education (CTE) administrators met to discuss how to continue to fund career technical courses for students getting on the job experience in high school. Lingering financial insecurity has prompted students across the state to shift their focus toward preparing for the workforce.
Career-focused learning now the norm
Today, all metro Atlanta school districts offer CTE courses focused on preparing students for the workforce.
In DeKalb County, Cross Keys offers nine courses, including cosmetology, dental, automotive, construction and 18 engineering and technology programs. The latter two enroll 4,680 students per year.
DeKalb has the third largest Hispanic student population in the state. This year there are more than 14,000 Hispanic students in the district, roughly 14 percent of the total student population. Nearly one in five residents of DeKalb lives below the poverty line.
In Gwinnett County, the five high schools offer between three and six CTE courses, such as computing. Last year, 45,968 Gwinnett County students completed CTE courses, including JROTC.
Statewide, according to the Georgia Department of Education, in 2012, 60 percent of all high school students (313,898) took career technical courses to prepare for life after high school.
Aside from receiving free workplace training and even workforce certifications, students also seemed to perform better in school thanks to career focused learning. In 2012, 90 percent of students who took three or more CTE courses in one program area graduated high school. This is higher than the general statewide rate.
Getting more Hispanic students involved
“Lots of parents tell me that they didn’t know that we have programs like construction, engineering, and health care,” said Dr. Delmas L. Watkins, who directs the Career Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) Department for DeKalb County.
Statewide, according to the Georgia Department of Education, Hispanics made up 10 percent of CTAE enrollment in 2012 and 13 percent of total student enrollment in 2013.
Increasing the number of Hispanic students could mean increasing Hispanic graduation rates. Statewide, Hispanics account for the largest number of dropouts. In 2010-2011, the high school graduation rate for Hispanics was just 57 percent, compared to 59 percent for black students and 75 percent for whites.
Cross Keys in DeKalb County, which has the third highest percentage of Hispanic students, also has the lowest graduation rate: 43 percent compared to the statewide average of 71.5 percent.
“We would like to see more students taking advantage of the programs [at Cross Keys],” said Sandra Nuñez, director for the DeKalb County English Language Learners Studies Program and Gifted Programs. The school’s programs, she added, “have come a long way to improve services and increase graduation rates. Good things are happening there.”
Bolstering the workforce
Across the country, school districts are looking at ways to connect students’ educational experience with possible career paths.
This September, Georgia officials hope to roll out a new Career Pathways program in middle and high schools throughout the state. Under the program, eighth and ninth graders will choose one of 17 career concentrations to follow throughout high school.
In Gwinnett County, five high schools will unroll the pathways – called Career Academies – program this fall.
Unlike CTE programs, where students can take any number of career development courses on top of their general coursework, career pathways blend career learning with core curriculum.
Continue reading Getting On The Job Experience in High School
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