Staff talks up career programs at ETHS board meeting

Teacher Cindy Curtis works with Isidro (Jesse) Gonzalez on The Tallest Tower Design Challenge in a Project Lead the Way Introduction to Engineering Design course.

Career and technical education staff members told Evanston Township High School board members Monday that the school offers a wide array of rigorous courses aimed to prepare students for real-world jobs.

Among the 250-plus courses offered at ETHS, career and technical education (CTE) electives include classes in business management, communications, environmental resources, health sciences, and engineering.

ETHS students have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized certifications by completing designated courses in advanced manufacturing, automotive technology, early childhood education, Microsoft Office, and pharmacy technician training.

In addition, coursework in public safety is offered in partnership with the Evanston police and fire departments and Oakton Community College.

As a national Project Lead the Way school, ETHS also offers six engineering courses that focus on applying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to real-world problems. 

 Like the advanced placement exams issued by the College Board, PLTW-affiliated colleges will accept high scores on the PLTW end-of-course exam and award credit for the course taken in high school.

While many students are college-bound, other students need to enter the labor market sooner. Career and technical coursework covers a full range of post-secondary options that can lead directly to jobs or better prepare students for continued studies, the staff report said, adding that high-quality technical programs give students marketable skills and boost their earning potential.

“Today’s students are digital learners, and their future learning and their future careers in the 21st century will require a solid foundation in Career and Technical Education, regardless of whether they choose to go to college or go on to other career and postsecondary opportunities,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon.

“At ETHS, we offer our students remarkable career and technical education courses, and I encourage all of our students to take advantage of these far-reaching courses and programs while they are students here," Witherspoon said.

The report was delivered by Shelley Gates, who heads the CTE department at the school. She noted that CTE does not represent an inferior track for students unable to go on to college. Instead, she noted many examples of top students selecting CTE courses to help them determine their future career choices.

This struck a positive note on the part of some board members who often profess in public that their vision of an ETHS education is that it prepares all students for future careers, whether or not they go on to a four-year-college.

"I particularly like the fact that we're not tracking students into CTE courses," said member Jonathan Baum. "We're providing opportunities for all students."

Member Bill Geiger said it is his hope that the school will be able to develop a metric that will help them "define success" in the career-oriented curriculum.

Gates admitted that the school does not presently have a system for tracking students after they leave the school, "but I would like to develop a system," she said.

Former board president Mark Metz said he looks forward to the day when the very best students, in addition to taking the most rigorous courses the school has to offer in such subjects as mathematics and physics, will find CTE courses just as challenging and as rewarding to them.

"I think we're close to the place where we're adding that kind of rigor," he declared.

Peter Bavis, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said that he was most impressed that the CTE curriculum attracted what he called a "mirror" of the demographics of the school, noting that students in CTE classes represent 32 percent of white students, 38 percent of African American, and 22 percent of Hispanic.

"We want to maintain that as we grow," he said.

Students in the Geometry in Construction course work on the frame of the Wildkit house.

New this school year, the interdisciplinary Geometry in Construction class provides students with a better understanding of both the geometry and construction content through the combination of academic and work-world contexts.

In addition to preparation for other math courses, Geometry in Construction gives students hands-on experience in construction areas including plumbing, roofing, and framing.

ETHS has established a range of partnerships with businesses, nonprofit groups, post-secondary institutions and other organizations to develop work-based learning experiences for students.

ETHS staff members are then able to connect students with specific information about apprenticeships, job training, certification programs, and other post-secondary options.

Related document

Career and Technical Education Report to ETHS Board

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