Lake Oswego School District hoping to offer more CTE pathways
Lake Oswego School District officials say they're looking for ways to increase Career and Technical Educational (CTE) opportunities for students at Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools.
Lou Bailey, the district's executive director of secondary programs, told The Review this week that the LOSD is in talks with Portland and Clackamas community colleges about ways to increase state-recognized CTE opportunities for students — both within local schools and through dual-credit programs at the colleges.
"We are looking at other pathways we can form at both high schools. Because teachers need industry experience and CTE certification (through the Oregon Department of Education), it's a little more difficult to create these pathways than it is with other classes," Bailey said. "But we've met with PCC and CCC to see what they can do to support our programs and what programs they have that we could potentially feed into."
The LOSD currently only offers one state-recognized CTE pathway — engineering — at Lake Oswego High School. (Required classes include Engineering Concepts and Engineering and Design, as well as optional programming classes.) In addition, the district also offers opportunities for students to take auto-mechanic courses at the World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville (for which they can earn college credit) and a School-to-Farm program at Luscher Farm.
A CTE pathway consists of three to four classes linked together throughout a student's high school years that would feed directly into either a trade certification or associate's degree.
"A few years ago, we had very few if any classes that could be considered CTE classes," LOHS Assistant Principal Brian Crawford said. "There was a group of students who brought attention to our excellent college prep course offerings and suggested that we need to provide more CTE opportunities."
Since then, the school has not only created the programs with World of Speed and Luscher Farm, but it has also joined with the Career and Technical Education Center (C-TEC) to create an official Program of Study for Engineering.
"Through that group, we have benefited from guidance, professional development and financial resources that allowed us to change a large space that was previously used as a study hall into a technology space, with computer labs, work tables, 3D printers, a laser cutter and robotics equipment," Crawford said. "We want all of our students to be excited about their educational opportunities."
According to Bailey, the conversations are still in their infancy about which pathways will be created at LOHS and LHS, but the district hopes to have additional programs in place in the next year or two.
"We're looking at the pathways we can form at both schools at our current staffing levels, and at classes that we could propose," Bailey said. "We're looking at: What courses do we want to offer, what do we currently offer, and what's missing?"
Bailey said that despite the LOSD's track record of high graduation rates and a high percentage of students who go on to earn four-year degrees, there are students for whom college is not the preferred option.
"CTE offers relevant, hands-on learning for students who may want to take a different path. It's an opportunity for some kids that may not want to go to college, but instead want to go into a trade," he said.
Bailey said CTE courses also provide a good background for students who want to continue to study the trade in college.
"If you create a great CTE program, students can graduate with college credit, and the courses will link right into offerings at CCC or PCC," he said, adding that CTE courses can also benefit students who do go on to pursue a four-year college degree
LOSD Superintendent Michael Musick agrees.
"CTE pathways provide students an opportunity to explore real-life experiences before they enter a traditional college pathway," Musick said. "What we have seen from some of our recent CTE offerings, like our automotive 'World of Speed' and Luscher Farm programs, is they have proven to be very popular elective offerings. Students love the hands-on learning that takes place, and our goal is to continue to expand these types of offerings."
According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, there are 29 million jobs that pay middle-class wages and do not require a four-year degree. Bailey said the district would like to focus on creating pathways into the jobs that are high-wage and high-demand, so students will be set up for future success.
"It's our goal that a student can walk right into a trade either after high school or after a year or two in college," he said.
While nothing has been finalized, Bailey said the district is looking into possibly creating pathways in computer science, marketing and health science. According to Crawford, "Over the next year or two, there are several pathways that we hope to develop that will take what we are already doing in areas like marketing, the School-to-Farm internship, computer science, automotive classes and a few other fields of study, and arrange the courses so that they build upon each other and lead to challenging career-related learning experiences."
However, those decisions will also depend on what students want.
"We're getting ready to do a survey soon to ask kids, 'If these courses were offered, would you be interested?'" Bailey said. "We're always looking for ways to provide opportunities for all kids. CTE classes are really specific and they can create a deep interest in a trade."