Bethlehem Area Introduces Career Pathways for Students

By Adam Clark, Of The Morning Call, November 4, 2013
When Bethlehem Area School District asks its students what they want to do after high school, it doesn’t want to hear, “I don’t know.”

So the district has designed four career pathways to help students match their strengths and interests with courses offered at its high schools.

If approved by the school board later this month, the pathways will be:

• science, technology, engineering and math

• arts, humanities and communications

• business, finance and law

Students will review the pathways in eighth grade and the district will provide a list of courses students can take to focus their education on a specific field. There will be separate course lists for students who plan to attend graduate school, to earn a four-year degree, attend technical school or earn a high school diploma.

Students are not required to choose a pathway and can switch pathways as desired. But administrators hope students take the pathways seriously and schedule the courses that best prepare them for life after graduation.

“More … purposeful students are more successful students,” said Jack Silva, the district’s chief academic officer.

The district also hopes the pathways will stop the flow of students leaving for specialized charter schools for arts, medicine and other fields.

“Each of our four pathways will be as good or better as what they can get anywhere else,” Silva told the school board Curriculum Committee on Monday.

The science, technology, engineering and math program will be aligned with Project Lead the Way, a nationally recognized program designed to prepare students for careers in those four areas.

The Project Lead the Way program, which will cost about $500,000 to implement over four years, includes a track in engineering and a track in biomedical sciences. Each track includes a four-year sequence of courses. The district will receive assistance from community partners, Silva said.

In addition to the list of courses in each pathway, the district will provide a list of ideas in each pathway for students to complete their required community service project.

The goal is for students to find a purpose in their elective credits and their community service project, rather than completing them for the sake of graduating, Silva said. The district thinks students who follow a pathway will be more competitive with students from other districts when applying for college and jobs.

Board Vice President Michele Cann said the pathways are fabulous. But she stressed that the district needs to ensure students are able to schedule the courses they want, instead of getting study halls.


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