Virginia's Academic and Career Plan Emphasizes Middle School

Article excerpt

To have a meaningful, fulfilling career in the 21st century workplace, students need technical and academic skills as well as the ability to think and work collaboratively with others. Career education must begin in middle school or earlier to allow students time to develop the aptitudes, skills and attitudes necessary to develop an awareness of their chosen career. Middle school is an important transition stage between elementary and high school and provides the perfect opportunity for life or career planning through the development of skills, knowledge, attitudes and awareness of careers (Kerka, 2000).

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The Virginia Department of Education has undertaken positive steps to reinforce career planning through its implementation of the Academic and Career Plan (ACP). The state board of education, in its 2009 revisions to the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia, set forth provisions for each middle and high school student to have a personalized learning plan that aligns academic and career goals with the student's course of study. Slated to begin in the 2011-2012 academic year, all schools are required to develop a personal ACP for each seventh-grade student with completion by the fall of the student's eighth-grade year. The components of the plan should include the student's program of study for high school graduation and a postsecondary career pathway based on the student's academic and career interests. The ACP is developed using a template designed by the Virginia Department of Education incorporating guidelines established by the board of education. It encourages school-parent-student collaboration by ensuring the student, student's parent or guardian, and school official sign it. The ACP is included in the student's record, reviewed, and updated, if necessary, before the student enters the ninth and eleventh grades.

Career Counseling

Research shows that career counseling at an earlier age helps to overcome the barriers of race, ethnicity and socioeconomics. Counseling gives students awareness of the wide range of postsecondary opportunities, from those requiring college or technical training to those that do not require any type of formalized degree. It helps students' master academic and life-career skills with an understanding of the relationships between these skills and future career success. Career counseling develops the decision-making and other skills necessary for postsecondary success. This awareness helps students reach their fullest potential to become effective lifelong learners, responsible citizens, and productive, satisfied workers in today's global economy (New Jersey School Counselor Association, 2005).

There is increased acceptance of the academic content in career and technical education (CTE) classes and the role that intentional career planning plays in student outcomes. Society, to a certain extent, has embraced the belief that academic pursuits are higher order skills, brain-based or intellectual versus career and technical skills which are considered manual or practical. There is a false dichotomy of "knowledge work" as opposed to "manual work" in most parents' perceptions, according to Michael Crawford's book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. Even with the expanded understandings of Howard Gardner's theory about multiple intelligences, parents tend to undervalue the intelligence and knowledge skills embedded in today's comprehensive CTE programs.

Parental Involvement

Research shows that parental involvement in a child's education specifically through school interactions such as open house, parent-teacher conferences and career fairs--have a positive link when parents believe their involvement matters (Flynn, 2006; Georgiou and Tourva, 2007).

Research from the Center for Prevention Research and Development, housed at the University of Illinois, supported evidence that middle school parents are not aware of recognized middle school practices such as teaming, advisory programs, integrated lessons and exploratory courses designed to aid in career planning. …