Pathways to Postsecondary: Indiana Career Majors: The Indiana Career Majors Initiative Is Increasing Student Achievement as Well as Helping Students Transition Seamlessly into Postsecondary Education

Article excerpt

Education today for the work of tomorrow must take on an entirely new look if the United States is to remain competitive in the global economy. Today's students need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, have excellent communication and digital literacy skills and master challenging core content.

Indiana is a leader in creating high school initiatives that provide this new look for education in the 21st century. These innovative education initiatives help students master core subject matter and 21st century skills while enjoying learning. Foremost among these programs is our Pathways to Postsecondary: Indiana Career Majors initiative.

The goal of this program is to increase student achievement and the number of students who complete postsecondary education. How do we do this?

* By instituting more rigorous and relevant standards.

* By improving the school curriculum and student learning experiences.

* By an increased focus on career guidance and a seamless transition to postsecondary education.

Career majors increase high school student motivation and achievement by helping students make the connection between what they are learning in school and success in future educational and employment opportunities. This school improvement model is being used effectively in both comprehensive high schools and career centers.

Background

In 1999, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development began working with a handful of high schools across the state that were interested in adding rigor and relevance to their curriculum by creating career academies or career pathways. Academies and career pathways help students understand how their high school education prepares them for their future. Schools create thematic instruction by integrating academic and technical education, provide students with career guidance to help them choose courses based on their interests and aptitudes, and further explore interests through extra learning opportunities such as internships and student competitions.

What state officials and school administrators wanted to look at was the possibility of using career majors systems to give all students the tools and the motivation they need for success in high school, postsecondary--and in life.

Indiana has continued to connect education with lifelong student success. Indiana's Education Roundtable, a standing community and government taskforce on education reform, is dedicated to increasing the number of high school students who complete more rigorous Core 40, Academic Honors and Technical Honors graduation requirements, and thus improve their chances for satisfying, rewarding employment.

Providing all Indiana children with the academic foundation needed to successfully navigate in the world of today is the basis of the Education Roundtable's P-16 Plan for Improving Student Achievement. This success will only be realized if Indiana's entire education system (from the early days of a child's life, through early childhood education, elementary school, middle school, high school and college) is geared to prepare and enable all students to achieve at high levels.

The Indiana Career Majors initiative builds on these efforts by connecting education with future opportunities. The Department of Workforce Development has grown from an initial eight pilot sites in 1999 to 110 schools around the state for the planning and establishment of career majors. By pursuing education in the context of chosen career majors, students better realize the relevance of education to their lives and set to work building futures that match their aspirations.

Best Practices

An example of a career major is science and engineering. For most schools in Indiana, this major or pathway would include the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) pre-engineering sequence of courses. Indiana has 160 schools utilizing the PLTW curriculum and professional development system. …