Beyond the CTE push



Students in RHS’ culinary program work to prepare food in class. According to Culinary Arts teacher Angela Ash, CTE pathways provide students with real world experience.


This article is the second of a two-part series on the increase of student enrollment in CTE courses.
Click here for the first article, published April 9th.
(‘District feels the CTE push,’ N. Khudyakov).


According to a 2017-18 SARC report, 946 students participated in an RHS CTE program in any capacity. A SARC report from the previous 2016-2017 school year showed 721 Participants, a one year increase of 225.

Since the state of California switched to Dashboard, an online ranking tool for measuring the performance and progress of all schools in California, schools are incentivized to encourage students to take CTE classes. This is because the program released a new measure of ability, which calls for student college and career readiness and rewards school for having students complete CTE programs of study.

RJUHSD currently ranks 61.1% of students of the class of 2018 as prepared within the measure of College and Career Readiness. PLTW Engineering head John Fuller believes that these changes have encouraged a cultural shift within the district to more heavily value CTE courses.

“There’s a lot more push for CTE in the state of California and Dashboard is one of those elements associated with CTE,” Fuller said.

Bradlee Crockett, head of the CTE Computer Science pathway, agrees that both administration and teachers have looked to more fully integrate CTE pathways into students’ schedules.

Students work with equipment in their engineering class. While other school district make it a requirement, students at RHS do not need to complete CTE courses like Engineering in order to meet their graduation requirements.

“I think it’s because our school gets rated based on student completion of programs… CTE has been integrated into that,” Crockett said.

As CTE operates through a series of pathways typically comprised of three tiered classes – introductory, to concentrator, to capstone – students are encouraged to build up their skills by going through the full system of tiered classes.

Completion of a pathway also results in a higher Dashboard ranking. Crockett believes a move to direct students to follow the order of the classes, rather than take one individually, is imperative to achieve success and understanding of the skills presented and learned from each specific pathway.

“The idea is to build skills and scaffold the skills that they need to become successful,” Crockett said. “The three course pathway allows me to scaffold those at appropriate levels and keep adding more and more strengths to the students as they grow.”

The pressure to continue through a pathway limits students’ ability to take classes in an alternate area of interest. Junior Jazzy Kittle chose to prioritize continuing the PLTW Biomedical pathway over the possibility of taking several AP classes she was interested in prior to beginning the course.

“I definitely had to pick and choose which ones I wanted to take this year because I know there were quite a few AP classes I wanted to take,” Kittle said. “I know I want[ed] this class first so I’d have to choose between [those],” Kittle said.

Culinary Arts CTE pathway teacher Angela Ash feels that improving CTE performance and visibility is a long-term goal both the district and CTE teachers share.

“We feel like if we can get students to take at least one class, they’ll see the value of completing and earning certificates,” Ash said, “…[Things like] real world experience, talking with adults, and marketing themselves, producing quality products in a group situation.”

Students in John Fuller’s engineering program work in class. While pathways in RJUHSD continue to evolve, CTE classes are not currently a graduation requirement.

Teachers have contributed to efforts to popularize CTE and champion CTE classes available for students through more than word of mouth.

Many school activities and showcases reflect the CTE push by presenting the variety of available programs to prospective students and their parents. Events such as the Elective Showcase or presentations held at middle schools that funnel into high schools within the district advertise themselves.

Smaller CTE branches find it difficult to continuing growing. Crockett must strive to market his class to students.

“Getting the word out is definitely tough,” Crockett said. “A lot of word of mouth but the word of mouth revolves in small circles.”

In order to interest students, these courses frequently emphasize the exchange between taking the class and earning real world experience. For example, students within the culinary pathway receive a food handling license as part of their midterm. The licenses are required by law for anyone planning on handling food in the context of their job.

Additionally, students in the PLTW [Project Lead The Way] Biomedical pathway experience trial medical labs and go through a variety of career options related to the medical field.

While teachers try to appeal to and keep students interest, they understand that not everyone will continue their level of interest, nor will they move to look for a career in that respective CTE field. Culinary CTE teacher Jaime Jackson believes that while not all of her students will go on to work in the hospitality business, they still benefit from the skills taught in the program.

“There’s very few that actually want to go into the food service,” Jackson said. “For the most part these kids just leave that pathway with having really great career skills and workplace skills.”
For students who are unsure of what they’d like to do in the future, Jackson believes CTE courses offer a risk-free opportunity to “test the waters, see what you enjoy.”

“Even if this isn’t a pathway that you are necessarily interested in pursuing as a career, you build those skills – those networking skills, those group collaboration skills – that you need for any career,” Jackson said.