ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION®
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After a trip in September to visit CTE programs in North Dakota, this month I spent three days in the greater Chicago metropolitan area touring CTE programs at the secondary and postsecondary levels. I visited six schools with Cindy Stover, IACTE’s executive director, and Alice Slager, IACTE’s second VP. Each school offered unique opportunities to students that will help prepare them for tomorrow’s careers.
Maine Township HS East – Park Ridge, IL
Maine Township HS East was our first stop of the tour. The school has an enrollment of just under 2,000. Among the school’s many CTE offerings is a geo-construction course, where students use geometry skills for construction projects, like framing houses for Habitat for Humanity. These types of courses, which combine real-world learning with traditional academic subjects, have been proven to be effective. In fact, students in the class performed either the same or better on geometry tests as students in traditional geometry classes. Classes like this also allow students to fulfill mandatory course requirements while taking CTE, which provides additional flexibility in students’ schedules and allows them to take CTE courses they may not otherwise have been able to take.
In addition to the geo-construction course, the school has classes in automotive technology, computer integrated manufacturing and nursing, among others. However, perhaps the most innovative offering at the school is their internship program. Led by District 207 Career Coordinator Dr. Laura Cook, the program has partnerships with nearly 400 local businesses. Students can earn class credit for internships with the district’s partners, and go through an application and interview process that matches them with internships that fit their career interests. Internships provide students the opportunity to develop real-world skills and to explore different career paths. For schools looking to replicate this model, Dr. Cook shared the district’s experience about how they jumpstarted their internship program by holding business roundtables, promoting their business partners and using parents with ties to local businesses to help cultivate relationships.
Lyons Township HS North – La Grange, IL
Lyons Township HS North is ranked one of the top 50 schools in Illinois by Newsweek, and 94 percent of its graduates will attend some postsecondary school or program.
Two of the most unique offerings at the school were its television and radio programs. Both programs had state-of-the-art equipment that align with equipment actually used in industry. The instructor introduced a student who, upon graduation, had nearly 200 film projects in his portfolio, far more than some college students would have after graduation. This is an example of how secondary education is preparing students for both college and the workforce. The radio program included three different studios, and students manage a 24-hour local radio station. In fact, for the sixth time, the station recently earned top marks at a national high school radio awards ceremony.
The school also offers automotive and engineering classes. At the time of our visit, the students were working on building a scaled-down, fully-functional replica Lamborghini. Students also have the opportunity to take an aviation course, complete with flying hours at the local airport that could count towards a private pilot’s license.
Rolling Meadows High School – Rolling Meadows, IL
Rolling Meadows High School has some fantastic CTE programs, from manufacturing and engineering to entrepreneurship and health sciences. But, again, what really sets this school apart are the internship opportunities for students. District 214’s Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Dr. Lazaro Lopez, has set the ambitious goal of giving every student an internship experience. As Dr. Lopez says, “our goal is to graduate students into careers, not just jobs.”
And the school district is well on its way to achieving its goals: the internship program currently has nearly 900 business partners, and last year students logged over 2,000 internship experiences. Equally as impressive, since its inception, students in district 214 have recorded nearly 2 million hours at internships! One unique offering in the program is the concept of “microinternships,” which last for 30 hours and grant students .25 credits. This allows students the opportunity to explore careers and gain work-based experience while still in high school.
The district begins courting students in middle school so by the time students enter high school, they can begin taking classes in a particular career pathway. Students have a variety of course options spanning over 40 pathways and 16 career clusters. Then, when students enter their junior year, they already have industry skills, and sometimes even industry-recognized certifications or other credentials, and can immediately bring value to their business sponsors. For students who follow a career path, internships are guaranteed. Students do, however, still go through an application and interview process to ensure they are matched with appropriate internships that will bring both employer and student value.
Harper College – Palatine, IL
Harper College, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, serves more than 40,000 students by preparing them for a variety of career paths or four-year degrees. In fact, the school has dozens of AAS degree programs and specialized study areas, over 100 certificate programs and transfer partnerships with over 100 schools. Some of the certificate programs and AAS degrees in CTE fields include computer information systems, construction, interior design, and engineering and technology.
Harper College also offers apprenticeship opportunities for students, which gives them the ability to graduate with no debt, guaranteed employment and valuable work skills. These apprenticeships are offered in fields like supply chain management, industrial maintenance and CNC precision machining. The college prides itself on having some of the most cutting-edge equipment available so students can learn to use the same machines they’ll be using in industry.
Joliet Central High School – Joliet, IL
Joliet’s two major high schools serve nearly 6,500 hundred students, where nearly 70 percent are students of color and 65 percent of the population is classified as “low-income.” Despite this, average daily attendance is over 90 percent, which can be partly attributed to Joliet’s CTE program. National data consistently demonstrates that CTE classes reduce a student’s likelihood of dropping out of high school. Joliet Township also has a 1:1 technology program that distributes devices to students and provides them with around-the-clock access to a portal of information that they may not have otherwise had at home.
On the tour, we visited more than a dozen different CTE programs and courses, including engineering and computer aided design, where students have access to a 3D printer. We also visited courses on construction occupations, welding and photographic communications (complete with a darkroom).
The building that currently houses Joliet Central High School is the previous site of the nation’s first public community college. Today, Joliet Central High School is following through with the community college’s original mission by providing education to the area’s secondary students to help prepare them for college and careers.
Presence Saints Mary & Elizabeth Medical Center – Chicago, IL
Chicago Public Schools face some unique challenges. With more than a 100,000 secondary students and 86 percent of them considered “economically disadvantaged,” providing access to high-quality CTE can be a challenge. However, one unique program in particular is giving students the opportunity to pursue real-world experience in the career choice they’re interested in. For this part of the tour, we joined students who were touring different hospital wards and talking with staff at the Presence Saints Mary & Elizabeth Medical Center. Many of these students will go on to paid internships at this hospital and with other CPS partners, potentially leading to careers in the medical field. These opportunities for work-based learning give students the exposure and skills to be better prepared for college and careers.
Just like metropolitan districts all across the country, schools in the City of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs face challenges. Some — like finding qualified teachers from industry — are similar, and others are very different. However, the tour clearly demonstrated that though these schools often have different budgets, resources and student backgrounds, all are working hard to enhance their CTE offerings and provide opportunities for their students as they continue their education and transition into careers.
If your state’s ACTE would like to schedule a town hall or media tour, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Jarrod Nagurka on 10/24/2016 at 11:59 AM in Advocacy Resources, State and Local Issues | Permalink
Chicago, IACTE, Media Tour
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