New High School Class Creates Confusion And Controversy

Careers class provokes teacher, student complaints

“I would like to see you convene a committee of teachers and students to keep what works and leave what doesn’t.” Jim Quinlan

“I would like to see you convene a committee of teachers and students to keep what works and leave what doesn’t.” Jim Quinlan

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Discontent has seethed under the surface of Payson High School (PHS) since the beginning of the school year over the new Career and Technical Preparation (CTP) class.

PHS Principal Anna Van Zile created the class, with staff input, to comply with the Arizona Department of Education’s new requirement that students graduate with a career or college plan, a resumé and the knowledge of how to apply for a scholarship or business loan.

To make the idea work, Van Zile cut a few minutes from each class on Tuesdays to create an extra hour dedicated to addressing these requirements.

“This is a chance for teachers to give students one-on-one time,” said PHS teacher Kristi Ford.

Van Zile wants the CTP class to keep students with the same teacher for all four years of their high school career as they develop their plans.

Each CTP class has from 20 to 22 students, said Ford. The CTP teachers review progress reports, spotlight scholarships, help students create a resumé, sign them up for the SAT or ACT college entrance tests and administer career exploration questionnaires. In essence, the CTP teacher augments the understaffed high school counseling department, said Ford.

But some teachers and students have objected to the class — and the loss of class time.

During her presentation to the school board on Feb. 25, Van Zile faced tough questions from board member Jim Quinlan.

“The CTP program has lots of complaints from teachers and students,” said Quinlan. “Your plan is to keep the CTP class?”

“We went too far in one direction and planned every minute,” said Van Zile. “It was supposed to be about building a relationship with students with the potential to be with that student all four years ... that’s where the communication piece has to come in.”

“I would like to see you convene a committee of teachers and students to keep what works and leave what doesn’t,” said Quinlan.

Ford agrees. “This is the first year and it needs to be tweaked,” she said.

Ford said one of the big gaps was in teacher buy-in.

“Many say, ‘This isn’t my job,’” said Ford.

However, Ford believes the class will boost student achievement, one of the board’s top goals.

To understand the state of the district, for the past few meetings, each school site and district department has presented the state of either student achievement and/or customer service to the board.

Quinlan did say that he had heard that staff and students appreciated Tuesdays as a set time each week to hold the numerous assemblies PHS hosts.

“Yes. Everyone likes knowing when assemblies will happen versus interrupting class lessons,” said Van Zile.

But the CTP period has been used for projects neither students nor teachers understand, such as creating door decorations for Homecoming. Many felt this was a waste of time.

In defense of the program, Ford said teachers need more time to prepare for the CTP class.

“Sometimes we get a CTP lesson the day before the class,” she said. “Teachers need at least a week to prepare.”

Ford hopes the kinks get worked out for the class, because she said if CTP does not work out, the English classes would suffer.

“This stuff still has to be done,” she said. “In the past, it was always done in the English class and with the Common Core writing, will become more critical. It will hurt students and teachers if English is shorted.”

Ford only sees positives for the CTP class.

With the latest failure rates at the high school showing about 40 percent of each class failing one or more classes, something radical has to change.

“Progress reports come out every three weeks,” said Ford. “The CTP teacher can sit with failing students and help — and AzCIS (Arizona Career Information System) is not going away.”

Comments

John Lemon 1 year, 1 month ago

During my years of teaching and administrating at the high school level I saw multiple attempts to achieve goals that seem analagous to the goals stated in the article. In every case, the across-the-school classes did not live up to expectations. Why? First, the buy-in from the Staff was limited or was by a minority. Second, curriculum materials such as expected outcomes, source materials, lesson plans, evaluations, and so on, were basic or non-existent. Third, there were no effective ways of supervising the process of teaching/learning. I would ask the Principal : 1.Was there a consensus by Staff that the concept was workable and valuable to students? 2. Are materials available that deliniate goals, expected student outcomes, lesson plans and evaluation intruments? 3. Are the materials listed in question #2 in the hands of every teacher? Are there alternative manners of scheduling class minutes in order to reach for the same goals? For example, one could reduce the class minutes of selected classes and transfer those minutes to classes in a particular subject area rather than assign the new course to classes across the curriculm. Creative scheduling could offer multiple alternatives. I suggest that Staff consensus and developed curriculum/materials are critical and the article leads me to believe that those ingredients do not exist in this case.

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