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Students to begin career pathways this fall

McDONOUGH — High school freshmen around the state will start the year with a blueprint to potential post-secondary education and careers.

The Georgia Department of Education developed courses for career pathways in which students — with the help of parents, teachers and guidance counselors — choose a pathway in one of 17 career clusters, or in advanced academics, fine arts and world languages.

The courses are part of a law passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 2011, which will be implemented in the new school year.

School officials said students will be able to select their career pathway based on what they want to do after graduation and take a core set of classes coupled with electives based on their chosen field.

Students also would be able to switch pathways or clusters if they discover a particular area is not their passion, and they can choose pathways that lead to two-year or four-year colleges, technical colleges or directly into careers.

State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said he believes career pathways could help improve high school graduation and dropout rates.

“Too many students drop out of school because they can’t make the connection between what they’re doing in class and what they want to do after graduation,” said Barge. “We have to make high school relevant for students. Our new career pathways will keep students engaged and on the road to graduation.”

Sharon Bonner is the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education coordinator for Henry County Schools. She said the career pathways concept also reaches down to the elementary and middle school levels.

“As a result of the BRIDGE Bill and College and Career Ready Performance Index requirements, all students K-8 receive an introduction to the 17 career clusters in order to expose them to the variety of careers available in each,” she said.

Bonner said students in middle school complete at least two career interest surveys to determine their preferences and interests through Georgia College 411.

The information is used to guide eighth-grade counselors and parents in developing individual career plans for individual students before they register for high school, she said. The plans are revisited and revised each year until graduation.

“High schools use the individual career plans to help guide high school registration and to assist students in selecting courses, or pathways, that will match their career/college interests and goals,” said Bonner. “In addition to CTAE, students may select academic, fine arts or world language pathways.”