4 districts that created innovative CTE programs and pathways

Districts of Distinction career and technical education category finalists: Socorro Independent School District, Utica Community Schools, Mt. Healthy City School and Conrad Weiser Area School District
By: | Issue: May 2020
April 8, 2020
One of the four Districts of Distinction runners-up that District Administration is honoring for creating innovative CTE pathways is Stevenson MADE at Utica Community Schools where students participate in advanced manufacturing projects. Other CTE programs have increased high school student employment, improved adult technical education opportunities and established a STEM and computer science framework.Students working on a project in the Stevenson MADE program at Utica Community Schools.

Here are four K-12 districts being honored as Districts of Distinction runners-up for developing innovative CTE programs. School systems have created advanced manufacturing projects, increased adult technical education and high school student employment opportunities, and established a STEM and computer science framework.

1. Socorro Independent School District

Program: SISD Community Education/CTE Collaborative

Challenge: In Texas, Socorro ISD officials wanted to connect workforce training services to adult education learning services, but there was limited funding to serve the state-required number of students through contracted post-secondary institutions.

Initiative: In 2016-17, the district’s Community Education and Career and Technical Education departments created an adult technical education program where students can take free courses to pursue training and earn certifications in high-demand occupations in the El Paso region—such as computer repair and dental assistant jobs. The collaboration allows the adult education program to benefit from CTE resources, such as teachers and labs.

Impact: Over three years, 250 students have earned industry-recognized credentials or licenses. “Our graduates are either advancing with their current employer or changing careers in the industry related to their certification,” says Anthony Fraga, community education director.

2. Utica Community Schools

Program: Stevenson MADE: Academy of Manufacturing, Automation, and Design Engineering

Challenge: The Michigan district wanted to meet local industry needs for a highly skilled workforce and for students to see that skills taught in school are needed for success later.

Initiative: In 2019-20, administrators worked with industry leaders to create a CTE pathway to careers in automation, design engineering, and welding and machining. Students participate in advanced manufacturing projects designed with business leader input. Business leaders provide field experience for students and come to speak at schools.

Impact: Each of the four high schools have created similar academies that demonstrate real-world relevance and support Michigan’s goal to reduce the skills gap between education and business. As the effort moves toward a full program for grades 9 through 12, 88 freshmen enrolled this year. “Stevenson MADE has provided students and families a voice and a choice on their learning styles and pathways,” says Superintendent Christine Johns.

3. Mt. Healthy City Schools

Program: Mt. Healthy City School and LSI STEM Collaborative

Challenge: With a large at-risk population, officials wanted to increase student attendance, engagement and overall attitude and respect. Meanwhile, a local business, LSI Industries, needed reliable employees.

Initiative: In 2018-19, the Ohio district launched a high school student employment program that allows all students to work at LSI in the summer and on Saturdays during the school year, regardless of their GPA or school attendance record. Students are paid $13 per hour and the district provides transportation. On Saturdays, students make time-and-a-half and earn double-time if they make meet quotas. “This initiative has ignited an interest in our students and a drive to improve their attitudes,” says STEAM lead Robin McGinnis.


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Impact: Participation has grown from six to 30 students, and school attendance has increased from 60% to 90%. Meanwhile, LSI has caught up on backlogged orders. “Students are learning the importance of showing up to work on time and being dependable,” says McGinnis.

4. Conrad Weiser Area School District

Program: Conrad Weiser Science Research Institute

Challenge: Over the next decade, seven in 10 new jobs in the commonwealth will likely require workers to use a computer, and an estimated 300,000 STEM jobs will be available this year. “Investment in workforce preparation in fields of demand is paramount,” says Assistant Superintendent Ryan Giffing of the Pennsylvania school district.

Initiative: The program has established a STEM and computer science framework to serve as a model for other schools. Students are improving their literacy, communication and entrepreneurship skills with business and industry leaders. A major goal is to document the first comprehensive intellectual property policies in the U.S. “Our initiative curricular scope and sequence will revolutionize the role of STEM and computer science in our educational system,” says Giffing.

Impact: More than 60 university, business, industry, government and nonprofit entities have joined the Science Research Institute. In 2017-18, students amassed $1.4 million dollars in trips, financial awards and scholarships. The following year, 300 middle schoolers and 137 high schoolers engaged in research projects. “These students are the future STEM and computer science entrepreneurs of our country,” says Giffing.

To learn more, visit the Districts of Distinction page.


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