Besides navigating new hallways, next year’s high school freshmen will also have to ponder what kind of career they might like to pursue one day.
Starting in 2012, incoming high school freshmen in Georgia will be required to complete a series of courses in one of 17 career pathways. The courses are aimed at giving students a more career-minded focus as they go through high school and preparing them for the working world, said Mike Buck, the state’s chief academic officer.
The pathways offered at each school may be subject to the demands and interests of the local community, he said. The career pathways requirement comes from House Bill 186, signed into law in May.
State education leaders are still hashing out the details of how the career pathways would be carried out, and they hope to get more time from the state Legislature to solidify their plans for the courses, Buck said at a recent state Board of Education retreat. At this point, though, they are moving full speed ahead toward meeting the July 2012 deadline.
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The law calls for collaboration among the state school board, the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents and the Board of Technical and Adult Education for a more seamless transition from high school to postsecondary courses.
State education leaders are also meeting with industry representatives to see what businesses are looking for in potential employees, aiming to incorporate those skills into the instruction. Many of those business leaders have complained that students are not prepared for workplace demands, education officials have said.
The career courses will help give students a real glimpse into the working world, said Sharon Joyner, Bibb County’s director for career, technical and agricultural education.
“The goal is that every student will eventually have a career,” she said. “Students are provided an avenue to a career field to see if that’s what they want to do. The courses can really give them a head start.”
Career readiness also factors into the state’s proposed alternative to the mandates of the No Child Left Behind law. Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index will take into account factors such as success in career courses, student attendance, and SAT and ACT performance, along with conventional testing data.
The proposed index does a better job of making sure students are successful, not only while they are in school, but once they enter the work force, too, state school Superintendent John Barge said.
“We’ve graduated kids for years who know how to pass a test but can’t do anything other than pass a test,” he said.
While education leaders are working out the details for how the program will work statewide, local districts such as Bibb County already offer students career pathway courses through the technical education departments in their high schools.
Each school offers its own variety. Rutland High School, for example, offers architectural drawing design, where students learn about the basics of geometric construction, computer drafting and home design layouts. Students in Central High School’s broadcast and video production pathway can get experience with industry-standard cameras and a control room.
Bibb school leaders are also deciding which courses will be offered to students next year as they put the final touches on their strategic plan, expected in January. In recent weeks, students, school employees and community members completed surveys about what academic focus areas they’d like to see in Bibb schools next year.
Students in the career pathways courses will participate in hands-on projects, giving them real-life applications for the information they’re learning, Joyner said.
“They won’t just read about it. They’ll do it,” Joyner said.
While the students will be receiving career-focused education, they will also get rigorous academic instruction through the Common Core State Standards, which 45 states have adopted.
The legislation will also give high school students the chance to earn certification for “soft skills” such as punctuality and teamwork, another bonus for job seekers, Joyner said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.