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Hall, Gainesville schools on course with pathways
State sets courses for career-oriented high school tracks
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Incoming high school freshmen now have different “pathways” from which to choose during their last four years in traditional K-12 education.

However, it’s not much of a change for either the Hall County or Gainesville school systems, with both having had the clusters and pathways in place.

The Georgia Department of Education announced last week that it has developed the foundational courses for Career Clusters/Pathways, a new model that’s being implemented in schools across the state.

“But the changes in the pathways have come because the state has gotten further aligned with the federal clusters,” explained Sarah Bell, director of academic programs and standards with the Gainesville system.

The law behind the change, HB 186, was voted on by state legislators in 2011, mandating alignment with the federal career clusters through the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium.
It’s all part of a collective effort to seamlessly bridge the gap between high school, and either postsecondary education or a career.

There are 16 national Career Clusters, with multiple pathways within each cluster. Clusters include topics from agriculture to business management to health science. Students select their pathway based on what they think they might want to do following high school.

In the Hall school system, pathways are offered in 15 of the cluster areas.

According to Rhonda Samples with Hall County Schools, Georgia added energy as a 17th cluster.

“We will have one new pathway next year, (and that’s) Air Force at Flowery Branch,” Samples said.

Under each cluster, there can be multiple pathways, typically with three courses each. For example, in Hall schools, the business cluster is broken into administrative support and small business development pathways, with three classes under each pathway.

“Too many students drop out of school because they can’t make the connection between what they’re doing in class and what they want to do after graduation,” State School Superintendent John Barge said in a news release. “Our new Career Pathways will keep students engaged and on the road to graduation.”
According to both Bell and Samples, the state releasing the model for foundation courses doesn’t change much beyond the way some introductory-level courses are taught.

“But, like with Gainesville High School, because they’ve had the pathways in place for a good while, they are kind of transitioning pretty seamlessly,” Bell said.

Bell pointed out that with the recent recession, educators have seen the importance of preparing students for careers.

“It does need to be flexible,” she said. “We all know student interests change as they get older ... but by the same token, we all know that jobs are important. We want to make sure that we have our students developing those skills.”

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