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Hart district increases focus on guidance, occupational options

Roundtable: The educators respond

Posted: March 4, 2014 7:04 p.m.
Updated: March 4, 2014 7:04 p.m.
 

David LeBarron

William S. Hart Union High School District

Director of curriculum and assessment

 

During the Roundtable discussion on education, local employers agreed they’d like to see stronger “soft skills” in young graduates, as well as more options for occupational training.

How will the new Common Core Standards develop soft skills?

At their core, the new Common Core State Standards are meant to create problem-solving, deep-thinking individuals.

Literacy is a big focus, as well. We want our students to be literate in all subject areas, which means knowing how to research and discover solutions within your content area. There’s a whole chunk of standards that drives students to interact with the material.

Previous standards didn’t take engagement with the material to the next level. Communication, collaboration – that’s all wrapped up in the Common Core Standards.

Employers said they’ve seen schools steer away from occupational training. How much focus has the district put on occupational training?

Every student needs more training after high school. If you don’t have more than a high school diploma, you won’t do well. We need to do a better job of helping students decide the best training or higher education for them to pursue.

We have a 10-year goal of having every student leave the district with a clear understanding of where they’re heading. We want students to have direction. If students can’t decide exactly what major or career to choose before they leave, we at least want to help narrow down the options before they leave. We could have done a better job of that in the past.

To help get students on the right path before they leave, we are increasing our focus on the College and Career Plan that begins in 7th grade. The district also offers 43 rigorous career-focused classes after school, including sports medicine, physical therapy and more. They can explore these career paths and try these things out.

How does the district reach out to the local business community to see what skills are in demand?

We have the Regional Occupational Program, or ROP, classes, which are designed to let students explore different careers before they leave. At the end of the year, each class chooses its strongest student, who goes on to an annual advisory meeting with local business professionals in their field. It’s an interview night for those students, and they spend the evening being interviewed and interacting with more than 40 local business people.

We also have multiple career pathways available each high school in the district, including medical, health sciences, automotive and more. For each pathway, the district holds and annual advisory meeting reviewing how things went last, as well as planning better options for next year. During the meetings, local business professionals in the industry give advice on strengths and areas of improvement.

We also have folks on the Valley Industry Association Star Education Committee and participate in their Connecting to Success program, which groups local business leaders and students for workshops and events.

We need to increase these partnerships. There are a lot of good, small things happening. But we need to be aware and make people aware of everything that’s happening. We need to produce what our local businesses are looking for – they are our consumers.

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