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Putting CTE on the Fast Track

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Putting CTE on the Fast Track

 

Putting CTE on the Fast Track Photo
 

Bethlehem AVTS Opens Doors to Ninth Graders for Career Exploration 

Promoting enrollment at a career and technical education center is a never-ending struggle for many center supervisors wishing to keep their doors open. That is why Adam Lazarchak, Supervisor of Curriculum at Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School (BAVTS), started working with his sending schools and came up with a plan that fit everyone’s needs.

Lazarchak explains, “We understood that we needed to help support our district goals in order to ensure success for our students. If our students aren't meeting academic standards, we will see less and less of them throughout the traditional three years of Vo-Tech.”
 

One of the sending schools for BAVTS, Freedom High School, was moving forward with a team approach for their ninth graders and wanted to add a career and technical option for these students.  Bethlehem in turn developed a schedule to accommodate these students and created the Fast-Track Program.

Building A Fast Track at Bethlehem
The Fast-Track Program gives ninth grade students who are at or above grade-level standards the opportunity to attend BAVTS during their freshman year. This career exploration opportunity rotates the Fast-Track students through a minimum of ten career areas offered at BAVTS on a flex schedule during the first period of their school day. Programs offered for ninth grade exploration include everything from commercial art and events management to welding and manufacturing.

Logistically, Freedom High is right next door to Bethlehem, so there is no need for transportation for the students participating in the program. The curriculum isn't much different than the one that is taught to a traditional BAVTS student during their level one rotation in tenth grade, when students run through the programs during their first 45-day marking period.

“The difference in the ten-day rotations is that a traditional student is in the program area consecutive days where the Fast-Track student is in the classroom every tenth day,” explains Lazarchak.

When the Fast-Track students are in their program areas, Bethlehem’s traditional students are pulled out for integration activities in literacy, math and technology. ”These pull-outs are designed to integrate the aforementioned subjects into the CTE curriculum.  Much of what is happening this year is being done in a team-teaching fashion, with the literacy components being included with the technology integration of the vocational classroom. These pull-outs are geared to increase the standardized test scores of our students at BAVTS and their sending high schools,” says Lazarchak.

And Lazarchak has seen some benefit in pulling the traditional Bethlehem students out of their program for this academic integration instruction. “Fortunately for us we have excellent academic integrators who have developed course-specific activities that require various types of formative assessment,” he says. “Although they are in a math, literacy or technology lab they are not just sitting around quietly. They spend a lot of time working on the communication skills necessary for any employment as well as their career portfolios. The students may not see the immediate benefits of these activities, but we are enhancing skills that will be necessary after graduation for college or career.”

Year Two Changes
Now in its second year, Lazarchak and his staff have made some adjustments to conquer some of the challenges they experienced their first year.

“Continuity was the biggest challenge for the teachers and students during the first year of the Fast-Track program,” Lazarchak says. This summer, his staff worked on how to deal with the 10-day cycle, designing projects that can be completed within that one block rather than projects that required multiple days to complete.

There was also an expectations gap to address. According to Lazarchak, “Expectations were high for the ninth graders because we told our teachers that these were going to be good kids who were at or above academic standard. What our personnel lost sight of is that they were still ninth graders who lacked some of the maturity that our upper classmen possess. I am happy to say that we have not had the same complaints from our staff this year that we had last year.”

Moving On with Fast-Track
Some of the success of this program cannot be measured over the short term, but what Bethlehem has done so far is working.  Out of the 27 students who completed the program in 2009-2010,

  • 20 returned to Bethlehem as traditional students
  • 13 chose to go through the level one rotations during the first quarter
  • Seven entered the program area of their choice with advanced placement (an option that all Fast-Track students have with success in that program area and a letter of recommendation from the instructor)
     

The school’s NOCTI scores also went up 22 percent last year.

And the collaboration between Freedom and Bethlehem has blossomed. “Because of our efforts I am now part of the weekly Freedom High School administrative meetings. There we share what is happening in their building as well as what is happening in ours.  This has lead to participation in their Open House and ninth grade orientation activities,” says Lazarchak. “The Fast-Track program allows us the opportunity to enhance academics at BAVTS which supports district goals of increasing their PSSAs. We also help support Freedom’s team approach as well as provide a wonderful opportunity for career awareness.”

For more information on the Fast-Track Program at BAVTS, visit the school’s Web site at www.bethlehemavts.org.
 

 

Sample Schedule for Fast-Track Program 

   Week One
 
 Week Two
 
 Monday   

Commercial Art


 
 

Plumbing

 Tuesday   

Graphic Communications


 
 

Cabinetmaking

 Wednesday   

Culinary and Events Management     


 
 

Manufacturing

 Thursday   

Health Careers


 
 

Automotive Tech.


 
 Friday   

Protective Services


 
 

Welding


 

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The Association for Career and Technical Education is the nation’s largest not-for-profit education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. Founded in 1926, ACTE has more than 25,000 members; career and technical educators, administrators, researchers, guidance counselors and others involved in planning and conducting career and technical education programs at the secondary, postsecondary and adult levels. ACTE provides advocacy, public awareness and access to information on career and technical education, professional development and tools that enable members to be successful and effective leaders.

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