"We want to start that conversation as early as we possibly can," John Barry, superintendent of Aurora Public Schools, said. "So, a [young] child doesn't know what college is, but they know it is something good."
Aurora Public Schools wants every student in the district to have an opportunity to choose from one of four career pathways: science, technology, engineering, and math; health sciences; arts and communication; or business.
"We do need to make sure that as we think about kids from pre-school on into graduate school, that we need to be looking at alignment," Lt. Governor Joe Garcia said at the Aurora celebration.
The idea is to align a child's education all the way from pre-school through college, through the lens of one of the four career pathways.
"What we're going to be able to do now is engage on a passion of a student," Barry said.
Laura Serrano is one of those students. The senior at Aurora Central High School started taking classes related to the Health Sciences pathway as a freshman. Now, she's thinking about becoming a nurse.
"A lot of college students change their majors three, four, or more times," Serrano said. "When you start as small as elementary, middle school, or even high school, you start developing the idea of what you want to become."
The Vista Peak P-20 Campus in eastern Aurora is the only full scale career pathway school. But Barry plans to have all schools in Aurora offer at least one career pathway by 2015. Students can still take a traditional general class schedule, as well. Barry points out, career pathway or not, the district must still teach to the state standards.
"But, there's enough flexibility in there that we can direct some of this energy and this passion," Barry said. "[Students] can go to something they've chosen."
Still, some questions have surfaced about the career pathway model. At Vista Peak, standardized test scores have been dismal, earning a grade of "F" from the ColoradoSchoolGrades.com website.
"They're only in their first year," Barry said. "You see that in every school that opens up."
Others have concerns that if a student is focused on a particular career pathway, will that have an impact on other subjects not related to that particular career.
Serrano says the impact is actually a good one.
"It really helps you broaden everything," Serrano said. "It doesn't make you, like if you're in the health science pathway, it doesn't just give you Honors Science."
Barry says give the district some time. He says once the system is fully implemented, he predicts test scores will increase dramatically.
"Yes, test scores, we need to be able to validate, are we doing a good job? But, this is what the passion comes from," Barry said. "Even if you're not exactly in a pathway yet, cause of budget reasons right now, there is a spillover effect that is enhancing all students and siblings."
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