Nov 15 Written by: Alisha Hyslop
November 15, 2011 at 10:59 am

This is the last in a series of four posts on using career and technical education (CTE) to turn around low-performing schools.  Click here to read the previous posts: CTE’s Role in Turning Around Low-performing SchoolsCTE’s Role in Turning Around Low-performing Schools: New Britain, Connecticut, and CTE’s Role in Turning Around Low-performing Schools: Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, Texas.

As an urban Title I school that had not made adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the second straight year, Holmes High School in Covington, Kentucky, entered school improvement status in 2011. The school was required to notify parents, implement school choice provisions and revise its school improvement plan in an attempt to improve student test scores and its 60 percent graduation rate.

Going above these requirements, the school launched an intensive new effort this year to improve student performance and focus on career readiness. The transformation was made possible by a $220,000 grant from the Social Innovation Fund, a local program administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The effort is known as “Holmes 180” and is designed to “better connect students to learning opportunities that ensure that they have opportunities to graduate from high school with college credit and with skills that can help them attain employment.” The school’s new goals are to guide, pursue and connect.

Under the Holmes 180 initiative, students will have more opportunities to take CTE courses that match their career interests. In addition to a college-prep academic core, students will complete four credits in a CTE area of their choice, such as manufacturing construction, education, health care, information technology or protective services.

Freshman will begin to explore careers and participate in a special course designed to help them develop an individual learning plan and gain skills in handling finances, career choices and life decisions. As students enter 10th grade, they will be grouped into two main houses: Business Industry and Technology or Wellness Arts and Government, each with about ten specific CTE pathways.  Through a partnership with nearby Gateway Community and Technical College, students will also be supported as they work to earn up to a semester of college credit by the time they graduate.

Dennis Maines, the school’s principal, explains the importance of the new strategy to a local reporter, “This makes high school more relevant. Students must see the connection between what they are doing now and how it will impact their future. We are bridging the gap between high school and students’ postsecondary dreams.”[i]

Guest Author: Alisha Hyslop is the Assistant Director of Public Policy at the Association for Career and Technical Education and is the author of the upcoming ACTE Issue Brief titled “CTE’s Role in Turning Around Low-performing Schools.”

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