October 22, 2014

Pathways leads students to educational opportunities

Amy Cunningham
acunningham@gardnernews.com
USD 230 Board members learned that students at Spring Hill High School could have nine additional class options when choosing electives next year.
At Monday evening’s school board meeting, Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructional teacher Michael Strohschein presented a list of 13 new or re-worked classes and four classes that the high school may drop from their curriculum.

Last year students from the CTE program volunteered to assist American Royal organizers. These SHHS teens, part of the Agricultural Education Natural Resources track, worked as the tour guides of a salt mine display during the Royal’s festivities. (from left to right) Maxine Griffin, Kate Keegan, and Cheyanne Dabelstein don hardhats to take visitors through the exhibit. Submitted photo

According to Strohschein the district is adjusting their course offerings to align with the 21st Century Skills the Kansas State Board of Education adopted in 2008. He hopes these changes will help to streamline the cluster and pathway-driven program the district started moving towards about five years ago; doing so would garner an additional five percent of funding from the state for each student enrolled in the non-introductory classes.
“We took what was available with our competencies and we reworked them,” he said while explaining the changes to the board. “…and we’re replacing our current…courses that are not funded. They will be next year.”
Since August Strohschein has been responsible for bringing in over $60,000 in grant money to support current technical education and district policies.  Because CTE programs are more expensive for a district to provide than general education classes they’re eligible for state and federal assistance.
“For every student who’s enrolled in a technical education program by Sept. 20 of the school year we get an additional five percent funding per student, that brings in anywhere from an extra $86,000 to $135,000,” he said.  “We’ve received as much as $133,000 in 2005 and in 09-10 it was down to $94,000, but that changes based on how much the state funds (CTE).”
Strohschein said that CTE used to be called vocational programs, but the name changed when the focus of the program broadened. Previously vocational education largely served students who would enter the workforce readying those students for a career following graduation; career and technical education benefits both those students as well as students wishing to pursue higher education at a college or university.

SHHS student Ronnie Sullivan participates in a livestock judging event. Here evaluates a chicken as part of the high school’s CTE agricultural program. Submitted photo

“About five years ago they started moving vocational courses into core pathways. Our Ag (agricultural) classes were the first to be merged into this core model, then architecture. Now we’re moving all the other programs into these programs of study,” said Strohschein.
Those core courses of study at SHHS include: agricultural, education training, hospitality and tourism, finance, marketing, architecture, information technology and arts av (audio visual) communication.
Strohschein explained that students have the opportunity within those eight clusters to choose from 11 educational pathways.
“Those pathways are the program of study, for example, in the ag cluster there are three separate pathways for students to choose from – agriculture science pathway, plant systems pathway and power, structural and technical systems pathway.
CTE offers an additional benefit to students hoping to attend college, many of the classes articulate to community colleges for credit.  Johnson County Community College already accepts many of the classes and the district is hoping to work out a similar deal with Emporia State University (in Emporia, Kan.) and Washburn University (in Topeka).
“Our horticulture students receive class credit for free at JCCC,” he explained.  “We’re looking to finalize those agreements with ESU and Washburn and, we’re not sure yet, students may have to pay for (credit hours) with those schools.  But our goal is that these courses prepare students academically so that they can smoothly move into a college program. The classes have to meet the same rigorous standards as their (colleges that the district has agreements with) college courses, if they’re at the same level our students will get concurrent credit.”

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