CCSD career tech grad rates above state target, CTE director says

Published 8:00 am Thursday, February 29, 2024

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To celebrate February as Career Technical Education Month, Tyler Nelson, the director of CTE for Chambers County Schools, gave an overview of the program and its progress to the school board.

According to Nelson, the graduation rate for Chambers County CTE participants is 100 percent, far above the state target of 78 percent. There is also a category that focuses on students who are in non-traditional programs. This means females in traditionally male-dominated programs, and vise versa. That number went up from 17 to 29 percent.

The performance indicators, which show how CTE programs have grown over the past year, saw growth in almost every category, Nelson said. The exceptions were performance in the core curriculum subjects.

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“They recently put English, math and science indicators for us because they see the connective tissue between technical education and the core curriculum. They want us to be an extension of those classrooms. But we have a plan for growth,” Nelson explained. 

He aims to expand the core curriculum into the CTE programs. Nelson said his department is in contact with the math, science, and english teachers so they know what concepts are being taught and when. 

“How can I take those algebraic equation equations that are in that textbook that are talked about in that math class and apply those in a machine shop, How can I apply those in cosmetology with measurements and formulas and fractions,” Nelson said.

There is another program that incorporates teachers, called Teachers on the Floor. The CTE program takes teachers on tours of local industries so they can learn more about specific career paths.

“Our teachers can’t talk about careers that they don’t know anything about. So we put them out in the industry,” Nelson said.

A new effort of the CTE programs is outreach to younger students. Nelson said the district put together a plan that reaches all the way down to fourth-grade students. The hope is to have these students visit the campus and get exposed to what the county offers in terms of career tech. 

In sixth grade, the visits become more purposeful in teaching the students about the different programs. Finally, in eighth grade, the students make a four-year plan based on what career they want to go into. 

Through the University of Alabama, CTE brought high school students to a poverty simulator at the Langdale United Methodist Church. Alabama states that the purpose of the simulation is to “facilitate understanding of the challenges faced by individuals in our community who are living at or below the poverty level,” according to their website. 

“We brought in our LaFayette students, we brought in our Valley students, those who said I don’t really know what I want to do. And we brought them all together to show them, hey, it’s important that you figure out what you want to do,” Nelson said.

Achievements the program has made during the past year include the GreenPower racing team officially becoming an athletic team. This means coaches for the team get compensation like any other athletic coach. The GreenPower program also started an after-school program where students can race the cars on a new racetrack funded by a $280,000 investment in the team. 

The funding also went to purchase a trailer to transport cars that also serves as a mobile STEAM lab with laser engravers, waterjet cutters, 3D printers and other machines. Nelson hopes to take the mobile lab to the elementary and middle schools to get younger students interested in CTE.