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U-46 Board updated on career pathways model

By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 updated the Board of Education on the career pathways model that will be in place for secondary students starting in the 2021-2022 school year at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 7.
  Students starting in middle school will be expected to eventually choose a career pathway to focus on while taking high school courses. A general education option will be available.
  Lela Majstorovic, assistant superintendent, said that all current seventh graders will be able to take a seminar course, which will be presented to the board later this school year, as freshmen in the 2021-2022 school year while all pathway courses are expected to begin in the 2022-2023 school year. The seminar course, which is optional, will allow students to explore the pathway offerings according to officials.
  All five current high school academies will seek magnet school status which includes Bartlett’s Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), Elgin’s gifted/international baccalaureate, Larkin’s visual and performing arts, South Elgin’s BEACON and Streamwood’s world languages and international studies academies. South Elgin’s academy is expected to start the magnet application process in 2020 and all five will have started the process by 2022.
  Kinasha Brown, director of career pathways, said those academies “have or will have their curriculum updated” in order to seek magnet status. She said those academies follow five pillars, “diversity” being the top pillar.
  There still are some questions regarding the Bartlett and Streamwood magnet academies as board member Kate Thommes noting they are listed as to be determined. Majstorovic said Bartlett will always be a STEM academy but the curriculum needs updating to be unique from all other high schools, and Streamwood is undergoing a “larger-scale revision.”
  All five high schools will also house college and career academies in STEM, business, human services, fine arts and liberal arts. All of those academies will include several pathways such as finance and accounting for business, Mexican folklore art for fine arts, social advocacy for human services and automotive for STEM while liberal arts will be general education with an early college focus.
  Brown said the college and career academies will have an “emphasis on the holistic approach to college and career readiness by making connections between academic learning and its real-world application,” and the pathways will include multi-year, career-themed courses. Not all pathways will be available at each school.
  The criteria for determining the pathways included program design, facilities, national employment data, personnel and future student interest. The district used employment data to determine which careers it thinks will be in demand in the future.
  Some current courses will be discontinued including both automotive and electrical fundamentals, but they will be incorporated into the future academy programs. All fashion courses will be discontinued all together for next year’s freshmen class, but current students will be able to complete their course work.
  Hallie Furtak, the board’s student advisor, asked what the plan was for students who want to switch pathways, and she said: “When you’re 13, choosing what you’re going to do for the next four years, your interests are going to change.”
  Majstorovic said students will be able to switch, but “the only implication you might have for students… is if they enter a pathway after their sophomore year, they may not be able to achieve that industry credential because some industry credentials require a certain number of hours in the course to achieve that.”
  Board member Melissa Owens asked about the determination of which pathways will be available at each school.
  Majstorovic said that will depend largely on facilities and they’re hoping to determine that by the end of this school year. She said: “We are still making determinations around that, and we are not ready to put that out yet.”
  Owens asked about student flexibility to change pathways to which Majstorovic said “we don’t really have an answer” yet, but “we’re definitely taking into account that sustainability piece.”
  Asked if there will be a cap on students enrolled in each pathway, both Majstorovic and U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said “there has to be.” Owens asked how students who are capped out of a pathway will be guided and Majstorovic said it “depends on what our selection process and criteria will be, and we haven’t gotten to that point yet.”
  Thommes asked how the college and career academies will be differentiated from the magnet academies to which Brown said the magnet’s will have “a very specialized curriculum” and the “teaching philosophies are a little bit different.”
  Majstorovic said the academies are designed “to ensure students have opportunities to be successful once they graduate high school” regardless of pathway choice.
  Questioned by Sue Kerr, the board’s president, Majstorovic said all pathways will lead to either college credits or some form of career credentials, and students can choose multiple pathway courses if they fit in their schedule. Regarding the discontinuation of fashion courses, she said it does not meet the pathway criteria because of declining enrollment numbers in the courses.
  Middle school courses in family and consumer science, computers and project lead the way are undergoing updates with curriculum rewrites. All middle schools will undergo the accreditation process, which is done every five years, between 2020 and 2021, and high schools will seek re-accreditation starting in the 2022-2023 school year.
  A town hall meeting was held last week at South Elgin’s Kenyon Woods Middle School and two more are currently scheduled including one at Bartlett’s Eastview Middle School on Tuesday, Oct. 20 and at Elgin’s Kimball Middle School on Tuesday, Nov. 5 both from 6 to 7:30 p.m.






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