Rusty Sprague, a junior at Brookhaven High School and Technical Center, is excited about his automotive service technology class that is helping him reach his ultimate career goal of becoming a respected technician. Before he finishes high school, Sprague will have earned a semester of college credit from Copiah-Lincoln Community College and will be able to sign ASE after his name to indicate he has earned national credentials by passing the Automotive Service of Excellence examination.
“My goal is to become an auto or diesel mechanic, and this class in high school is making it possible for me to earn college and high school credit at the same time for free.” When he goes to college, as Sprague enthusiastically expressed, “I’ll be ready to take more advanced classes at the Copiah-Lincoln campus and will have already earned a semester of college credit. So, I will pay for three semesters of college instead of four.”
The dual-credit course is a result of a partnership between Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Brookhaven Technical Center, and the Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Career and Technical Education program. This is the first year the Brookhaven School District has offered dual-credit through its automotive technology class, giving students the opportunity to earn both high school and college credit in a single course. As Brookhaven’s career and technical education director Jackie Martin explained, offering opportunities for dual credit is one way that the district and state are working together to foster student engagement and achievement through CTE.
“This dual-credit partnership is possible because Lisa Karmacharya, our superintendent; Gail Baldwin, the dean of CTE at Copiah-Lincoln; along with Jean Massey, the state’s associate superintendent of CTE education; and Mike Mulvihill, bureau director for the state’s Office of CTE, were all willing to sit down and workout the details like course coding, student identification, course and instructor payment, and credit transfers,” explained Martin. “As a result of their hard work and collaboration, this is the first year that our students are taking the national ASE test instead of the state MS-CPAS2 assessment that measures student achievement.”
Automotive centers across the nation recognize the ASE Blue Seal of Excellence achievement. Therefore, acquiring the national ASE certification in high school means that Sprague will graduate with a diploma and a stackable credential that immediately makes him more marketable in the workplace.
“Business and industry have all been practically begging for better technicians because they have a responsibility to the public to have a mechanic that can perform the duties correctly the first time,” said Blake Oberschmidt, instructor for Copiah-Lincoln automotive technology program. “We’re giving these [students] a jumpstart on their careers and instead of two years of experience, they’re going to get four.”
Oberschmidt teaches the class during the morning block at the Brookhaven Technical Center. During the first semester, students can earn seven college-credit hours, and if they enroll in the second semester, they can earn up to a total of 16 credit hours – the equivalent of taking one semester of classes at the community college.
“From the beginning, Co-Lin and Brookhaven School District have worked with local business and industry leaders, obtaining feedback and support from the automotive industry. These leaders are eager for skilled employees at every level of their operations,” offered Gail Baldwin, dean of career, technical and workforce education at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. “Students enrolled in this dual-credit automotive program will obtain classroom and laboratory experience that may also lead to summer work experience while reinforcing academic skills. As students are better prepared with academic and technical skills along with a stronger work ethic, Mississippi and America’s workforce will benefit.”
According to a “Dual Credit and Exam-Based Courses in U.S. Public High Schools: 2010-11,” study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, Sprague and Dawson are two of 600,000 students in the nation pursuing dual credit through CTE-college partnerships. And like many of their college counterparts, Sprague and Dawson carry college-student credentials, including student IDs, giving them access to the college library, bookstore, computer labs, free athletic and art events on the Co-Lin campus, and in the future, they hope to the job of their choice.
Connecting core academics with CTE at McKellar Technology Center
Melanie Ford teaches Health Science I and II at the McKellar Technology Center in Columbus. She is the first CTE teacher ever to earn the Columbus Municipal School District’s Teacher of the Year Award. Ford earned this recognition because she and Laurie Davis, McKellar’s CTE counselor, worked together to develop a course they call Medical Technologies III that bridges the educational gap between high school and college.
“We realized during their sophomore and junior years, our students were taking the two levels of classes that teach the basics of health sciences, but during their senior year, we didn’t have an advanced class to help them continue their forward progress into a job or a college health profession program,” explained Ford. “Veterinary school, nursing school, physical therapy, and radiologic technology programs have high entrance standards, yet our seniors were missing a whole year where they could take advantage of making themselves more competitive.”
Ford witnessed disappointment after disappointment when students earned low ACT scores that denied them entrance into a college program. After conducting and reading student surveys to learn what course the students really wanted to take during their senior year, Ford created the Medical Technology III health professions class with three components to help place students in a job or a college health-science program. The first component is aimed at improving ACT scores.
“We help them raise their ACT scores. Even if they decide they don’t want to pursue health education after high school, a higher ACT score would help them no matter their major,” offered Ford. “We conduct ACT remediation, where the students practice with online ACT test software that provides diagnostics of areas where improvement is needed. Then we have subject-area teachers help them sharpen their skills. We give pre- and posttests, and some of these students have improved their ACT scores by seven points.”
The second component of the course is a dual-credit program. The students will earn credit for college-level Anatomy and Physiology I & II, which means Ford, a CTE instructor, is going above and beyond the call of duty facilitating and being a mentor to the students in the Medical Technology III class because the curriculum is core, academic-based rather than CTE-focused. Nonetheless, it was Ford and Davis, the CTE teacher and counselor, who collaborated with the district and with East Mississippi Community College to offer Anatomy and Physiology I and II classes online, giving their high school students the chance to earn dual credit. Ford, also a registered nurse, stays late and facilitates the two-hour class in the afternoons at the McKellar Center.
“If you are going into the healthcare field, you have to have Anatomy and Physiology I and II. We thought what better way to bridge the gap between high school and college academics then to offer our students a chance to take these college classes for free here at the high school,” said Ford.
“We have 12 seniors enrolled, and all want to pursue some form of health science after high school,” said Davis. “Most of our students come from families of extreme poverty, so many of them cannot afford the transportation, books, or online fees to take a college course. In fact, many of their role models and parents have never set foot in a college classroom or even on a campus, so they have no resources to help them navigate through the college experience, let alone the entrance requirements. This program gives them the opportunity and a person they can rely on to help them become college and/or career ready.”
Senior Taylor Woods is enrolled in the A&P II online class. She and her 11 classmates gave up their senior privilege of early release from school to take this Medical Technologies III class each afternoon.
“I have plans to become a physical therapist. My parents never went to college. I’ll be a first-generation college student and college graduate. I never dreamed of going to college before this class. I didn’t think I could do it, but with Ms. Ford’s encouragement and help of raising my ACT scores and then showing me I could earn college credit after completing my first A&P class, I found out I could handle college.”
For many students like Woods, the soaring cost of college has put a postsecondary education out of reach. Woods said the free college credits she is earning now while in high school will help her pay for college, along with the third component of the class, earning a Certified Nursing Assistant license. The pre-requisites of completing the health science I and II courses and labs combined with the med-tech III class and lab components qualify the students to earn a CNA license. The national certification will give her an edge over other job candidates in the labor market. This stackable credential also will help Woods find a job that will help pay for her associate degree, provide valuable on-the-job experience, and she can use it as a stepping stone to continue her education, if she chooses, at a four-year institution.
“East Mississippi Community College has been great in helping us set up this agreement and online class to meet all of our students’ needs. This is our first year, and last semester all 12 of my seniors in the class earned an A or a B average for the A&P I course. We’re on track to do the same for the level-two class,” said Ford. “These students are learning good study habits and time management and technology skills. I think they realize that when they go to college, they are on their own, and so they are learning all they can now to set themselves up for a successful future.”
The student online registration, tuition, lab fees, books, and CNA certifications are paid for by the Columbus Municipal School District. EMCC provides the online access and instructor for the A&P dual-credit classes at no cost to the district or students.
Brookhaven and Columbus School Districts’ academic and CTE educators are working together to blend strong academic courses with demanding, high-tech CTE classes with the goal of linking them to real-world experiences and to relevant, valuable college credit and career preparation. Soon, experts predict the school systems that put students’ needs first, will be the ones who are successfully closing the work-skills gap, reducing remediation costs for both school districts and employers and, most importantly, preparing our next generation for the demands of a new economy.