Establishing a Clear System Goal of Career and College Readiness for All Students: This Article Is the First in a Yearlong Series That Will More Closely Examine the Recommendations Made in ACTE's High School Reform Position Statement, Reinventing the American High School for the 21st Century, and Highlight Best Practices for Implementing Each of the Recommendations

Article excerpt

THE FIRST RECOMMENDATION IN ACTE'S high school reform position statement is to establish a clear system goal of career and college readiness for all students. What this means is that the entire education system needs to focus on the goal of having all students graduate from high school fully prepared to participate in postsecondary education and the high-skilled workplace.

Today's economic environment requires highly skilled and adaptable workers who are prepared to continuously learn and innovate in the international marketplace. Therefore, high school students need to be lifelong learners who are prepared for the changing and "flattening" global economy, no matter their career and education goals.

All students need a strong arsenal of reading, comprehension, reasoning, problem-solving and personal skills to be ready for the world of meaningful postsecondary education and training as well as entry into the high-skilled workplace. Standards should be aligned to the demands of career and college readiness, and all students should be challenged to enroll in a rigorous college and career readiness curriculum.

Extra help, including structured transition services, should be provided to support this curriculum, and opportunities for additional advancement across broad areas should be provided. Traditional academic and career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers must share the goal of preparing students for both further education and careers.

Many CTE programs from around the country are already working on systems and programs that focus on career and college readiness for all students.

Seamless Transitions

When asked about the unique features of Georgia's Central Educational Center, CEO Mark Whitlock says, "Why all the interest? Simply this: Central Educational Center seamlessly combines academics with CTE ... high school with college ... and education with businesses."

Central Educational Center (CEC) is a charter high school in Newnan, Georgia. It operates as a joint-venture partnership between Coweta County Schools, West Central Technical College, and business and industry, providing learners from high school through adulthood a seamless education for life.

CEC has been named a national Model High School, in large part due to its focus on preparing students for both postsecondary education and careers. CEC brings the resources of the technical college system to high school students, creating smooth transitions that make it difficult to tell where the high school education ends and postsecondary opportunities begin.

CEC opened as a publicly-funded charter school in August 2000 to serve students from Coweta County's three high schools. It grew out of a need to raise standards and prepare more students for the demands of postsecondary education and employment.

More than 1,100 high school "team members" attend the school either full time or part time. Most of these students are 10th-, 11th-, and 12th-graders--and while they still take some academic classes at their home high schools, the school is designed to include academic and technical education in a seamless fashion.

CEC ensures that advanced academic courses, such as anatomy and physiology, are imbedded within the technical coursework because businesses require employees to have this knowledge. According to Whitlock, "We can't see any separation between the academic and the technical, it's all interrelated. Through integrated CTE programs, we allow students to apply knowledge for better retention and transfer."

Students may also take dual-enrollment classes in conjunction with West Central Technical College. Approximately 150 students a year take advantage of this opportunity, and many finish a sizeable portion of an associate degree before finishing high school. Because CEC was founded as a partnership and a branch of West Central, these courses are all offered within one building, with high school and technical college instructors working together on curriculum and instruction. …