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Ninth graders may have to pick pathways
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Career pathway clusters
Students select one upon entering ninth grade.

1). Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
2). A/V Technology and Communications
3). Architecture and Construction
4). Business, Management and Administration
5).Education and Training
6). Finance
7). Government and Public Administration
8). Health Science
9). Hospitality and Tourism
10). Human Services
11). Information Technology
12). Manufacturing
13). Marketing, Sales and Service
14). Public Safety and Security
15). Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
16.) Transportation, Distribution and Logistics
17) Energy

In an effort to have increased college readiness and stay competitive, Georgia students will soon be required to pick one of 17 career pathways when they enter high school.

The decision is a result of House Bill 186, requiring Georgia schools to provide "career awareness in elementary schools, career exploration in middle schools and the selection of career pathways in high school and beyond," meaning students could start learning about career paths at the end of elementary school.

Gary Mathews, Superintendent for Newton County Schools, said in an email that the county's eighth grade students took the Georgia Career Interest Survey (GCIS) beginning the 2010-11 school year.

"...We electronically captured the results, provided counseling, and started the transition from eighth grade GCIS to high school GaCollege 411, another electronic tool by which students and parents can plan for a successful college admission and assistance. Students in NCSS [Newton County School System] are also creating portfolios with career interest topics included therein.

"Also, entering ninth graders have a graduation plan which is entered into GaCollege 411. Throughout their high school years, Newton counselors follow their progress and counsel individuals accordingly.
Additionally, as the result of Newton County's shift from the 4X4 block schedule to the current seven-period day inclusive of an ‘instructional focus' period for remediation and/or acceleration, there is now more time during the school day for college counseling."

The way Georgia law reads currently has next year's ninth grade students being required to select one or more of 17 set career pathways. It is possible the General Assembly may push that start date back one more year since details on several aspects of the program are still being ironed out, including the annual cost of such an undertaking.

NCSS District 1 board representative Jeff Meadors expressed his hope that the Georgia Career Interest Survey may replace Adequate Yearly Progress reporting, calling the program "a good tool and a useful one."

"The Bridge Act [a bill passed by the General Assembly in 2010 that makes middle and high school students aware of available career and postsecondary education options] has worked to help middle schools help students to identify pathways early on so that by ninth grade they have a sense of college/career readiness. Some know where they are headed; many do not. Yet it gives them the option to complete industry certified credentials in many careers while maintaining the Carnegie Units necessary to help them prepare for college. There are many options for them to explore what they want to do, from Work Based Learning, Youth Apprenticeships, CTAE pathways, Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, etc. There is also an SAT/ACT component to the GCCRPI which helps graduates to have many options. High interest, relevant career pathways keep many students from dropping out. Given Georgia Partnership on Excellence in Education data on workforce trends, I think Georgia is on the right track. In fact, other states are watching our GCCRPI. We will know by the end of December if it has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education."

Meanwhile, according to Mathews, Newton County is readying itself to implement the program if approved.

"Is this the right direction for Georgia schools? In short, with graduation rates in Georgia's colleges well below 50 percent, entering freshmen heavily enrolled in remediation in language arts and/or mathematics, and the state's employers begging for a larger and more skilled workforce, a new direction seems appropriate for the state. Making students aware of careers at the elementary level with career exploration in the middle years, and the selection of one or more career pathways in high school seems to be a responsible way to educate as long as, in my view, a student has the option of a four-year college degree pathway that may, for example, be centered in the liberal arts, or music, or language, or history, or the like. It is entirely possible that the identified career pathways overlook these areas of human endeavor. If so, in my view, they still must be a conscious choice or ‘pathway' for students."