School district completes CTE needs assessment

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LEDGER – Administrators of the Career and Technical Education, or CTE, program for Mitchell County Schools, have completed a Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment to meet new requirements of its updated federal funding, Perkins V.

At the Wednesday, April 29, regular meeting of the Mitchell County Board of Education, Executive Director of CTE Kim Hodshon presented her process of completing the assessment and the results and goals that came out of it.

To complete the assessment, Hodshon formed a leadership group of CTE representatives and administrators from the county who met with 21 separate focus groups looking at 21 different areas. These ranged from labor markets to facilities and equipment to work-based learning. Hodshon said they would ask each focus group different questions based on its area of expertise.

“We started with the labor market, so we brought together people from economic development,” Hodshon said. “To that group, we would ask which industries are projected to grow the most in our area, what occupations and how do my CTE enrollments match those qualifications for those jobs?”

Hodshon and her leadership team used the answers from these focus groups to determine what the CTE program was doing well and where it needed to improve. The team also looked at how the success program is measured. These range from graduation rate, English and math proficiency, the number of credentials students earn and where students go after high school. From there, several goals were determined for the CTE program. 

The first goal is improving “soft skills,” which Hodshon described as non-technical abilities such as problem-solving, interviews, and written and oral skills. 

The second goal is creating pathways to three growing industries in the area: financial securities and investments, entrepreneurship and computer programming. The program will add more classes focused on those careers and work with Mayland Community College to ensure they can continue their focus in higher education to achieve this goal.

The third goal for the program is to offer four more CTE honors courses in the next four years to “provide challenging, higher-level instruction for students to aspire to an advanced level of learning.” Hodshon said many “GPA-seeking students” had not taken CTE classes in the past because doing so would not boost their grade-point averages, which they feared would hurt their chances of getting into college.

Even though the school already offers an array of credential opportunities, another goal is to increase the total number of student credentials earned by 50 percent over the next two years. 

Hodshon said next year, every course offered will have a credential opportunity. 

The next goal is providing additional work-based opportunities across all career pathways beginning with activities starting in the fifth grade, such as job shadowing with a parent, and continuing through 12th grade. Hodshon said this would help students have a “better idea of what they want to do” by the time they graduate.  

Another goal is to expand Career and Technical Student Organization, or CTSO, opportunities to more career pathways. The Future Farmers of America, or FFA, and Future Business Leaders of America, or FBLA, at Mitchell are highly active, Hodshon said, but they want to “beef up” Skills USA and health sciences. 

“I can tell you that if you get them in – if they drink the Kool-Aid – they are going to have an improved skill set,” she said. “Those soft skills, that’s where they’re going to get those. The teamwork, the problem-solving and the critical thinking activities are inside of that.”

The final goal is to improve the retention of CTE teachers through an exit interview process. 

Hodshon said the interview would help them understand why a teacher would choose to leave and they can “possibly make adjustments to help retain employees.”