The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 student path choice timing being discussed
By Seth Hancock
Students getting ready to enter high school in School District U-46 may need to decide on their career pathway in the near future.
Terri Lozier, assistant superintendent secondary schools instruction and equity, said at a Board of Education meeting in June that nothing’s “a done deal and things haven’t been decided,” but the district’s vision moving forward is for wall-to-wall academies in the district’s high schools by the 2019-20 school year.
The plan for 2018-19 is rolling up the dual language program to high schools, introducing an International Baccalaureate program to Elgin High School and having middle school students complete career explorations. The following year the vision is that all high school students be enrolled in a career academy and following an educational pathway.
“What are the career academies? I have no idea,” Lozier said. “What are the educational pathways? We don’t know yet.”
Lozier added: “We don’t know because we haven’t really started exploring. We’re going to take all of next year and the year after so that we can plan for that…. We’re not closing things down, we’re merely exploring and looking for efficiencies.”
“The elephant in the room is what happens with the current academies, and we can honestly say we don’t know because what we hope to do with the Alignment Collaborative for Education working side by side with the Citizens’ Advisory Council is to look at our current academy structures and, again as we move to a wall to wall academy structure, see if there are any areas where things are duplicated,” Lozier said.
Board member Jeanette Ward asked Lozier to elaborate on what the wall-to-wall academy means compared to the current academy structure in the district.
Currently, Lozier said, the academies are selective as students have to go through an application process, but “what we would propose is that every single student entering high school would choose a set, or one or two career academies.”
The idea of pushing students towards career paths at that age did receive some pushback from some members of the public who spoke during public comments.
Casey Pearce, a Bartlett High School student and the board’s student advisor, said: “I’m a junior, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”
“I think it’s difficult to imagine having to require freshmen in high school to have to pick a course that they have to stick to,” said Pearce who asked if students would be stuck in one career pathway.
“We would not lock anybody in and say ‘so long, this is where you’re stuck,’” said Lozier, but “we would have to try to figure out some kind of a bridging program.”
Pearce also asked how this would affect a student’s ability to choose electives.
“We would lay out several different plans that would allow students to look and see what would fit them best,” said Lozier who added: “You can’t do everything, and sometimes a difficult choice would have to be made. But we would at least lay out opportunities to show these are the choices that you can have.”
Board member Traci Ellis asked about special education students within this vision and said: “I can imagine that not all of them can be reasonably expected to matriculate through one of the pathways or academies.”
Lozier responded: “Our expectation is that they would go through a career academy because even our special education students, when they graduate from high school, have the opportunity to go to a trade school or go to college. Some of them go straight out into the workforce.”
Board member Melissa Owens suggested the district needs to hire more staff saying “it’s really concerning to me that we don’t have the staffing needed at the middle school level” to provide the career exploration.
The discussion on the vision came during a larger presentation on college and career readiness.
Kinasha Brown, coordinator for Career and Technical Education (CTE), said that audits on 12 high school CTE programs had been completed and “our CTE programs had never had an outside, independent review.”
“We really needed, within our district, to define what we meant by college and career readiness,” Brown said was one of the issues identified from the audit.
According to the presentation, U-46 defines college and career readiness as students following rigorous course work, possessing the “skills or habits of mind that enable them to apply their knowledge in a range of situations,” the ability to take entry level college courses post graduation without needing remedial classes and have opportunities for career exploration.
One of the district’s goals on student achievement is an increase in the percentage of students who are college and career ready. According to the Illinois State Board of Education report card, only 39 percent of U-46 students are college and career ready compared to the state average of 46 percent.
Lozier said that two high schools are below, one tied, with the state average of 84 percent of freshmen on track, two are below the state average of 86 percent graduation rate and all five high schools have a higher percentage than the state average of 49 percent for students needing to take remedial courses once they enter college. The district’s overall percentage of students needing remedial courses is 58 percent.
According to collegeatlas.org, 75 percent of college students needing remedial classes “never do graduate from college” Lozier said.
Brown said another thing identified from the CTE audit was the need for the district to “intentionally emphasize all postsecondary options, not just four-year colleges.”
“I really like the idea of giving students that choice, especially since not every student has to go to college because that might be de-motivating to certain students who have different career goals than attending college,” said Ward who added: “Making a pathway for students to go with something that inspires them, I think that is a great idea.”