Prairie Grove principal talks career technical education courses

PRAIRIE GROVE – Prairie Grove High School has placed an emphasis on Technical Vocational Education (CTE) courses, and student participation in these classes has increased by 20% over the past five years.

Principal Jed Davis admits that one reason for the increased enrollment is that ninth graders are now required to take at least one CTE course, but at the same time it opens up new opportunities for students, he said.

“It looks a little different from when you went to high school and I went to high school,” Davis said while providing an overview of the CTE program at the March 15 school board meeting.

In 2017, 662 high school students were enrolled in a CTE course. That rose to 799 for the 2021-22 school year, he said. The numbers are also up, he said, because many students are taking more than one CTE course.

Courses in Technical Vocational Education include Agriculture, Computer Science, Project Lead the Way, Family and Consumer Sciences, Certified Nursing Assistant and Business classes.

Davis gave some highlights of the school program.

Family and Consumer Sciences is one of the most popular majors in high school. Davis said the school added another teacher this year and that helped with enrollment. The course has grown from 143 students in 2017 to 222 for the 2021-22 school year.

The school has a 100% pass rate for its students who take courses to become a certified nursing assistant.

Enrollment in engineering courses with Project Lead the Way has remained constant, Davis said. For 2017, 72 students were enrolled in the classes, compared to 80 students that year. Of the 80 students, 13 are seniors taking the fourth-year engineering course, Davis said.

Business and Marketing courses include Business Survey, Marketing Business Enterprise, Marketing Management, Career Readiness, and Work Release.

Beginning with current sophomores, all students must prepare for careers, Davis said. The work-release program allows juniors and seniors to miss three terms of high school for a job if they must earn all the necessary credits for graduation.

Enrollment for agriculture classes has fluctuated over the past five years. There are 158 students enrolled for 2021-22. Davis said he believes that in order to increase enrollment in this program, high school needs to have an emphasis on agriculture.

Davis said many students in high school just go through the moves, and CTE classes are one way to get students involved.

He said he’s excited about future plans for technical vocational training at Prairie Grove High School.

Davis said he wanted to promote the arts. Examples are digital photography, graphic design and advertising, design of school websites and apps or sports photography.

For computer science, he wants to expand it to include courses like robotics, app development, cybersecurity, and game development.

Other ideas include criminal justice, sports medicine, first responders, wildlife management and conservation, construction, welding, and teacher preparation for students interested in becoming educators in the future.

The school helps students earn credit at the same time by offering college algebra and college statistics through the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Next year the school will offer Composition 1 and Composition 2, both college courses.

Diesel mechanics and dentistry are other options through Northwest Technical Institute.

Davis said he wants to inspire students to explore opportunities beyond high school and encourage them to take more CTE classes.

Some suggestions include a demonstration day to give students hands-on experience of different jobs, field trips to see careers in action, and lunches where guests are invited to discuss their jobs with interested students.

There are challenges to overcome, Davis told school board members. This includes more staff, more money and equipment.

Some of those challenges can be overcome by using Virtual Arkansas for certain CTE courses, he said. Others may take several years to meet.

“Our community is changing,” Davis said. “We want to prepare all of our students. We want something for every child that comes to our school.”

other business

On other matters, the Prairie Grove School Board:

• Approved a recommendation to hire Prairie Grove Police Officer Jacob Rollins as the third school resource officer, beginning in the 2022-23 school year.

• Approved the consent agenda and accepted the resignations of teachers Angie Stewart, Benjamin Marcom, Isaac Peason and Mat Stewart.

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