By Mark Hansen | Eastland Superintendent of Schools
The Prairie Advocate News will feature an eight (8) week series of articles explaining the different expectations of all school districts who are participating in Race to the Top 3. This is the 6th installment.
STEM is a term used to describe educational programming that integrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Because many of the middle-class jobs of the future will require high-tech skills, schools throughout the country are exploring ways to enhance programs through STEM coursework.
The Illinois Pathways is a new STEM initiative designed to support college and career readiness for all students. The initiative has arisen from a partnership between the State of Illinois’ education and economic development agencies. By developing local programs for students to explore their academic and career interests starting at an earlier age, the Pathways seek to make education more relevant to students.
As a Race to the Top District, Eastland will develop at least two (2) Programs of Study aligned to an Illinois Pathways Career Cluster. These programs align assessments and career counseling with the State’s growing economic development sectors. The goals are to ensure successful transitions to employment and a stronger economy for Illinois.
A committee of administrators, teachers and community members is working to develop two (2) programs articulated from grades 7-12 and beyond. In addition, they are developing programs aligned with career education and training offered through the Whiteside Area Career Center. Features of the programs include:
- Career-based assessment and educational plan development in grades 7-8;
- Orientation courses across multiple career pathways in grades 7-10;
- Focused Career Pathway development, including rigorous academic and Career and Technical Education (CTE) coursework in grades 10-12; and
- Post-secondary education in college or technical school.
The committee has already made recommendations to the Board of Education regarding eight (8) new career exploratory courses that all Eastland students will take in grades 7-8. These courses will help students to build an inventory of experiences that they can use in selecting high school curricular pathways and future careers. Curriculum will be inquiry and project-based. Eastland’s transition to two attendance centers in 2013-14 with grades 7-12 housed in the same building will enhance our ability to do this work as we will be able to share career and technical education teachers as well as classroom space designed for such coursework.