Paving pathways to success

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February 28, 2018 - 12:00 AM

One of the missions of Iola High School, Scott Crenshaw notes, is to prepare students for the future, regardless of whether it’s college, trade school or going straight into the workforce.
One of the most effective methods is through career and technical pathways.
And not all students are interested in college, the IHS Principal continued. They don’t have to be.
With that in mind, USD 257 is in the midst of reshaping its career and technical education model with a wider array of “pathways” — courses dedicated to developing skills if students wish to pursue specific careers after graduation.
“It’s not particularly a college-bound program, and not particularly a tech ed program,” Crenshaw said Tuesday, in front of a group of about 40 at the high school’s CTE advisory committee meeting.
Attendees represented a number of career fields, from health care and engineering to retail business owners or ag specialists.
Melissa Stiffler, high school guidance counselor, explained how CTE pathways work.
As students enter high school, they’re tested twice a year with career assessments to determine specific skills or interests.
From those test results, students are given a laundry list of potential pathways — 10 for each student.
With each pathway, students are given a list of elective classes on top of their basic course load.
“Our goal is to make sure students are in a pathway of the field they want to be in after school,” Stiffler said. “They’ll be taking classes that will take them closer to what they want to do.”
The pathway options have increased dramatically, from 12 in 2016-17, to 19 this year.
And while some courses often are specified for specific career paths, many are broad enough to serve students if they decide later in high school to follow another path
“Usually, there’s a bit of an overlap,” Stiffler noted.
For example, students pursuing an audio/video or communications pathway would likely take the same business essentials courses as would  somebody more interested in business management.

THE OUTCOMES for each pathway are constantly evolving, Strickler noted, thus necessitating committee meetings such as Tuesday’s.
“That’s why you’re here,” she told the audience. “You’re here to tell us what we need to know from the community perspective.”
Instructors assigned to oversee each pathway were introduced before the committee members broke off into individual groups to identify how to strengthen the outcomes in their specific areas of expertise.
The pathways are grouped beneath broad CTE avenues: agriculture, construction, family and consumer sciences, business and finance, audio/video communications, engineering, energy, health sciences and government and public administration.
Some of the pathways weren’t on the school’s radar even a few short years ago.
For example, the explosion of GPS-reliant devices, from cell phones to farm equipment, requires careers manned by skilled cartographers — mapmakers — Stiffler noted. (And yes, that’s one of the pathways now available at Iola High.)

THE CTE advisory committee is required to meet twice a year, although several of the smaller groups agreed to stay in touch on a regular basis.
“Meeting twice in a year is a great requirement,” Stiffler said. “We’re making partners with the community.”

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