Magazine article Techniques

Keeping Our Programs Alive

Magazine article Techniques

Keeping Our Programs Alive

Article excerpt

Sometimes it may be a struggle to keep career and technical programs alive and well in high schools and middle schools, but it's a battle worth fighting.

Sarah Raikes is one career and technical educator who has already proven herself a strong champion in defense of our programs. She has managed to rejuvenate not one, but two family and consumer sciences education programs in Kentucky.

After rebuilding the family and consumer sciences (FCS) education program at Campbellsville High School in Taylor County, Ky., Raikes moved to the high school in Washington County where she now teaches. The move was not made for reasons of money or prestige. She went there, says Raikes, because she was needed.

The program at Washington High School was without a certified teacher and was on the verge of being closed, but when Raikes arrived, she began implementing the same changes that had been so effective at Campbellsville High School. She upgraded both the name (it was still being called home economics) and the curriculum. She established career paths and career interest inventories-and she began a campaign of community service.

As her student volunteers became involved in numerous community projects, they created greater awareness of-and respect for-the high school's FCS program. Raikes had also employed community service in strengthening the Campbellsville program. But, at both schools, she made a point of connecting community service projects with the core content and curriculum of her classes.

Today, the FCS program at her high school is strong, and Raikes says that she knows her principal would not consider closing it because of its importance to the school and the students.

"If it was closed," states Raikes, "no one else could meet my students' needs. I know on a daily basis that I touch my students in a way that no one else does. I can tell you how my students feel about things and whether or not they are having a good day or a bad day."

It is the family and consumer sciences education content that allows her to achieve such a remarkable rapport with her students. "We have the perfect curriculum to do that," Raikes notes.

"Right now I have a student whose sister is battling cancer," she explains. "She can come to me anytime because she knows I'm there for her. The curriculum I teach is what allows that."

Her dedication to her students, her community, and career and technical education earned Sarah Raikes a very special honor last December. At the ACTS convention in New Orleans, she became the first recipient of a new award when she was named the ACTE-- McDonald's Outstanding Teacher in Community Service.

One County's Story

When the board of education in St. Mary's County, Maryland, began considering elimination of family and consumer sciences classes in schools there, a campaign to keep the program in county schools was launched, and it soon spread beyond the borders of the Eastern Shore county.

On January 15, 2002, an article entitled "Home Ec Programs Fall on Hard Times" appeared in The Washington Post. The article centered around a pending decision by the St. Mary's County Board of Education to eliminate the family and consumer sciences classes to make time for an extra period of reading.

The Washington Post cited the eighth-- grade reading test scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program as a prime factor in the school officials' plan. Three out of four St. Mary's eighth graders have not been able to read at the level considered satisfactory by the state of Maryland, and the 1998 Maryland State Task Force on Reading found that many middle and high school students are nonreaders. Adding to the argument for eliminating FCS was the fact that few teachers were becoming certified in the subject area.

But many teachers and parents wanted to keep the classes, and even the board members were split in their opinions. …

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