Magazine article Techniques

Freshman Transition: A Preparatory to Career Clusters

Magazine article Techniques

Freshman Transition: A Preparatory to Career Clusters

Article excerpt

ANYONE CONCERNED WITH REDUCING HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT RATES has encountered sobering statistics. The information is abundant and bleakly staggering in terms of the picture it paints for today's youngsters. Fortunately, recognition of the problem has led to high school redesign initiatives that utilize career clusters to help students focus on who they want to become and prepare for the transition into adulthood. While career clusters are a move in the right direction, statistics show almost one in three eighth-grade students in America will not graduate, and half of all African American and Hispanic students will not complete high school. With this in mind, the question becomes how to get eighth- and ninth-grade students to commit to the concept of career-based education. One answer is to provide all students with a preparatory course that follows the Course Standards for Freshman Transition Classes set forth by The George Washington University's Freshman Transition Initiative (FTI).

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By grouping like industries and occupations according to the necessary skill sets, personality types, and functions of the jobs in the group, career clusters provide students with a relevant context in which to apply traditional academics. This enables students to maximize their educational experience by building academic competency as they acquire transferable skills, resulting in multiple career opportunities matching the student's defined interests and aptitudes. This, in turn, leads to a more successful transition from education to the world of work.

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The positive impact of career clusters is Far less than optimal without complete student understanding of why the process is so important. This is the point at which preparatory freshman transition courses become essential. These courses help students develop a thorough understanding of who they are, articulate their goals for the future, and actively engage in the educational process.

Most important, the Course Standards were designed to help students project into the future. Realizing that the educational decisions they make today will shape their transition into the workforce and, thereby, their entire lives, makes the future seem much more immediate and relevant for students. By answering in the eighth or ninth grade why specific courses of study are important, students become career-focused learners who are ready--and develop mentally able--to make informed career cluster choices and commit fully to the educational process.

In addition to the career cluster philosophy, what is essential for successful student transitions is the creation of a plan or ''roadmap" that spans the length of the education-to-career transition period. In fact, one of the most critical elements of the Course Standards calls for students to formulate a 10-year plan outlining yearly quantitative goals and objectives for education, work, financial and lifestyle choices. The 10-year plan takes eighth-or ninth-graders through high school, beyond postsecondary education, and into the first years of their working life, outlining concretely what surprises each major transition may hold for them--not just in terms of their education, but also their finances, their families, and all other facets of adulthood. This roadmap gives students a reference tool that can be consistently updated and revised as they become young adults. Ultimately, after completing a 10-year plan, students possess a confidence that comes from understanding the consequences of the decisions they make today. …

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