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Ninth graders asked to choose career paths

Special to SEGAZINE

Students in Brantley will soon be making career decisions as soon as they step on to the high school campus – as per state mandate – but fears that the county’s young adults are being locked in too early are misplaced for the most part school system officials said this week.

Starting this year, high school students across Georgia will be choosing a career path in one of seventeen broad career “clusters” to help combat dismal graduation rates across the state and begin focusing course-work toward employer needs.

While the students will still be able to opt into more college-prep courses officials at the state level are hoping students will begin participating in career-specific courses as well.

But with career pathways already in place at Brantley County High School, students won’t be a stranger to the program according to Brantley School System assistant superintendent Greg Jacobs.

Jacobs said that the systems vocational classes are currently split into 13 pathways. The pathways allow students to have a specialization listed on their high school diploma based on key classes they had taken.

The introduction of clusters now groups those pathways into eight specific areas of study.
High school students are now required to begin a pathway beginning in ninth grade which will take up three of the total 23 courses that students will need to graduate.

That has raised concern from some critics who believe that high school freshmen are inable to make life-affecting decisions. But with the system now on block schedule, Jacobs said that there will be room for some trial and error for students and with some classes carrying over between pathways the student won’t have to start from scratch in most cases.

And that change in high school could go a long way to saving parents money later on when students head into post secondary education.

Jacobs said it would be better for students to make those changes in high school than wait until college where each course falls squarely on the student – or parent – to finance.

And students won’t be new to the different career areas when they open the door to the high school their first day of class, Jacobs said, because overall the students are introduced to different broad areas of study each year beginning in first grade including the basics of logistics and other areas of the career field. By fifth grade they will be putting together a portfolio.

From sixth to eighth grade students will receive career-related assessments and inventories.

By eighth grade students will put together a graduation plan.

The hope is that by the time students reach high school, they at least have a level of interest in one area or another by the time they leave.

Jacobs confirmed that the new mandated change to the school curriculum is unfunded from the state, but said that Brantley wouldn’t be particularly affected by the change on the financial end.

However, the new system will contribute to discrepencies between pathways and clusters offered in larger and smaller school systems, Jacobs said.

Jacobs said that the number of teachers available at schools and the number of students interested in a specific course have always played a role in just what the school system can offer and that this continues through for Brantley not necessarily offering as many of the over 100 pathways as a metro-Atlanta area high school.

Schools smaller than Brantley are, in turn, less able to offer pathways to their students.
But according to Jacobs, Brantley has managed to break this generality to some extent offering more clusters and, in them, pathways than some larger school systems in the immediate areas.

If Brantley doesn’t offer classes in an area that interests a student, the school system is connected to digital classes where students can take those classes over the internet in the media center.

At the state level, proponents hope that introducing students to interesting careers early in life will lower the liklihood that they will drop out before completing high school.

According to Mike Buck, chief academic officer for the Georgia Department of Education, schools are offering courses that play on regional strengths. Brantley is no exception with the largest offering of courses falling under the agriculture cluster with a total of four pathways including forestry and natural resource systems, animal systems, power, structures and technical systems and plant systems.

Meanwhile, education and training and transportation, distribution and logistics each have two classes each.

Among other clusters are science, technology and engineering, government and public administration, hospitality and tourism, healthcare science and business management and administration.

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