2017-11-23 / Front Page

CTAE program in Wilkes schools readies students for career entry

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A recent overview of the Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program implemented within the Wilkes County school system highlighted its practical, hands-on approach to education, and how it’s offered to students on every level.

CTAE Director Dr. Alicia Finnell addressed Wilkes County Board of Education members earlier this week to provide further insight into the highly proactive, career-centric programming that aims to provide students with a solid skill set base by the time they graduate from high school, and so that they can successfully transition into the working world.

“Here within our school we are doing CTAE at all levels – primary, elementary, middle, and high school. The people who work with us are our school counselors and our teachers, and then we have program faculty at the high school who specialize in business, agricultural and natural resources, health sciences, and education,” Finnell said.

The director explained, “at the elementary level – which includes the primary and elementary school – we focus on career awareness and exploration. They get the opportunity to receive career lessons that are based on the 16 national career clusters, they also have the opportunity to have guest speakers come to them, they do career fairs, and contests.”

At the middle school, students are exposed to career awareness, but are also given the opportunity to do online research about various careers, and are permitted to explore career-based websites such as Virtual Job Shadow.

High schoolers are likewise given access to these online resources, however more hands-on training begins within the more advanced curriculum.

“At the high school we start doing some career skill building. We start focusing on soft skills,” Finnell said. “We’ve been hearing from employers that they need our students to come out with specific skills and our CTAE program courses are focusing on those. They are built in to the courses, and it’s just a foundation that our students get when they come through those introductory courses.”

Through the program’s “career pathways,” students are given the opportunity to take a series of rigorous academic, career related courses, which typically begin in the ninth grade, and have the potential to lead to an associate’s degree or an industry recognized certificate or license, along with other practical certifications.

The pathways offered at W-WCHS include agriculture, food, and natural resources; business, management, and administration; information technology; education training; and health science.

“We still have the old vocationals that people say we don’t have, it’s just under a different umbrella now,” Finnell said, explaining that mechanics, and other traditional skill sets are now situated under the agricultural and natural resources umbrella.

The director continued to explain that further opportunities are given to the students through the Work Based Learning program.

“The purpose of the Work-Based Learning Program is to make sure that we offer our students the opportunity to test the waters of a career before they actually get into it,” she said. “It’s for them to go to work at a career area they are interested in.”

In other business, Superintendent Dr. Rosemary Caddell, along with members of the board, praised each school for recent successes with the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). Likewise, each school principal gave a brief presentation on their progress.

W-WPS Principal Janet Pharr said, “we do not have a CCRPI score, because we are the first school in third grade that gives the Mile Stones, so you can’t show the progress when you’ve just gotten started, but we do get other scores within the CCRPI framework, so one of the things that I was proud of is that we had the 15 point Lexile increase. The Lexile level is our reading level from last year. I was very proud of that.

“We also had a star rating, which is based on PBIS participation, it comes from our student surveys that we do with third grade, our parents surveys, and our staff and personnel surveys. We had five stars the second year in a row for that, so I was very proud of that as well,” she added.

W-WES Principal Angela McGill expressed, “this year with us we were glad to see some improvement in our achievement scores, we also did see our area of Lexiles go up 10 points, and we did see where our students in English and language arts, which have been a concern, improvement there as well.

“I do want to say congratulations to the high school, because I think that they have really made our school system proud with their score, and that’s where the end is. What we do, it’s not just one school, it’s all about getting them to that point, so I am really proud of what the high school did,” McGill praised.

“In regard to the middle school we were really proud of our scores as well,” Principal Deleki Lee said. “We were excited to see, and one thing we had been focusing on, was we were trying to close the achievement gap between our subjects, and we did see that gap close between subjects.

“We were fourth in the CSRA, and a lot of good things were shown in our climate ratings with our parents and how they perceive how we’re doing things at school, so we received a lot of positive feedback, and that was great as well,” she said.

“We received our exceeding the bar points. We completed the information for the state to describe some unique things that we’re doing at the school, and one thing that we’ve always had that’s kind of unique to us is the community and schools partnership, and that helped us to earn additional points as well, and we were excited to earn those points again for the third time in a row,” Lee said.

This year, however, students at W-WCHS have been both widely and highly spoken off, as they scored an 87.9, garnering them the ranking of second in the CSRA.

“We’re excited for our CCRPI scores and we’re excited that other people are getting excited about our CCRPI scores,” Principal Robert Wheeler expressed. “As Mrs. Mc- Gill said, it’s a culmination from pre-k all the way up to the high school.

“Our score was 87.9, and they break ours down into achievement progress, achievement gap, and for us economically disadvantaged, and we showed improvement in all of those areas over last year. We improved from an 80.1,” Wheeler said, adding, “over the past five years we are the only school district in the CSRA that has improved every year.”

In other business, the board discussed placing fencing around the elementary school playground, and members voted to surplus a 1998 bus, along with a Ford F150, which will be sold at the Young Farmer’s auction in the spring.

The board also agreed to discuss the resolution of a bond refunding at a later date.

An early release day was approved for Friday, November 17, so that students and parents alike can travel to Manchester for the Tigers’ playoff game.

The next meeting of the Wilkes County Board of Education will be held on Monday, December 18, at 2 p.m. at the board office.

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