A Role to Play in School Reform

Article excerpt

In a Virginia city school system, academics and career and technical education are working together to achieve a common goal.

In the public school system of Chesapeake, Virginia, career and technical education is not sitting on the sidelines when it comes to meeting the state standards for student achievement. Academics and career tech have been working together well in the city's academic tech prep program, and now the Standards of Learning (SOL) are being integrated into the program as well.

SOL is the Virginia K-12 school reform that includes testing, accountability and a school performance report card. The academic areas included in the Virginia Standards of Learning are English (reading, literature, research and writing), mathematics, history and social studies (including geography, civics and economics), science, and computer technology.

A course developed by Assistant Principal of Deep Creek Middle School Jannette Edwards with state funds is set up to train teachers on how to integrate SOL into all subject areas, including career and technical education. There is no cost to the teachers, who also receive a one-hour college credit for the course.

At the ACTE convention in Las Vegas this past December, a group of educators from the Chesapeake Public Schools gave a presentation on the integration of the academic standards of SOL into their tech prep program. In addition to Edwards, the group included Robert Head, program administrator for career and technical education, and James Rayfield, the director of secondary curriculum and instruction.

They noted in their presentation that the overall goal of the teacher training is to "combine challenging academic content and up-to-date technical and career education studies to raise the achievement of students."

CTE Teachers Do Their Part

The resources used in the training course include Chesapeake Public Schools curriculum guides and teacher resource guides that contain essential knowledge, skills and processes.

Since the state was helping localities with training for teachers in integrating the academics involved in SOL into their curricula, Head says, "We used the funds to make sure CTE teachers were not left out of this process."

It was a two-year process, but all of the CTE teachers have now taken the training. Among the positive results already being noted: a rise in student test scores in English, math and history.

According to Head, another benefit is that core teachers and career and technical education teachers see how they can work together in raising the level of student academic achievement. "The core teachers have felt that all of the pressure was on them, but now they see that the CTE teachers can help make connections for kids because they have concrete activities to connect to academics," he says. "And the CTE teachers now feel more a part of this."

Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction Rayfield also praises the training the teachers received, calling it the crucial component that showed everyone was taking responsibility for meeting the SOLs.

"We also heard many positive remarks from all of the CTE teachers," says Rayfield. "They said it was valuable time spent."

Statistics confirm that the time was indeed well spent, since the academic achievement of the students improved according to the Standards of Learning end-of-course tests. In the 2001-2002 school year, the passing rates of students enrolled in career and technical education courses at Chesapeake Public Schools had improved dramatically since the 1999-2000 school year. In English, 73.83 percent passed, compared to 67.77 percent in 1999-2000. The passing rate for mathematics in 2001-2002 was 67. …