Teachers from all of the Bradley County Schools system’s career and technical education programs met Thursday to discuss the challenges their students have been facing and look for ways to help.
Representatives from the system’s 18 programs met at Bradley Central High School’s Fine Arts Building as a large group before splitting up to talk about individual programs.
County middle and high schools offer classes in subjects like agriculture, cosmetology, health science, business and culinary arts to teach students about possible career fields.
Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel welcomed the teachers and said he is proud of the number of programs offered in local schools, including 11 that offer opportunities for certification in their respective fields.
The discussion then turned to a problem that has plagued many school systems — high school dropout rates.
Arlette Robinson, director of the school system’s CTE programs, said the dropout rates for students heavily involved in CTE programs was significantly less than the rates for students who were not. She said one statistic she had read said the overall graduation rate for students who had taken three or more CTE courses was about 97.5 percent.
She also said she wanted teachers to continue to look for new ways to prepare students for their lives after college by giving them more chances to gain experience while in high school.
“We want to challenge each of our areas to think outside of the box,” Robinson said.
After Robinson cited an example of an “out-of-the-box” solution, the group watched a short film about a school system in Carroll County, Ga., that faced an especially high number of dropouts. One solution that the Georgia school system came up with was a partnership with a company there called Southtree. The company employed students, and they were able to earn high school credit at the same time.
The teachers then made their way to classrooms to discuss their individual areas.
In a meeting of Bradley Central High School business technology and marketing teachers, the idea of a partnership like the one they had just seen in the video was met with positivity.
“It kind of gave me chills,” said teacher Brittany Cannon. “I would love to see something like that happen here.”
Cannon also shared how Bradley Central is in the process of combining its two separate business and marketing CTE programs. She said many students are taking classes in both programs, and the combination would allow teachers to “target more students.”
As the discussion continued, teachers said curriculum was not keeping up well with technology. For example, marketing curriculum did not include enough information on marketing using social media websites, something Cannon said had already been embraced by the marketing field as a whole. Teachers said they wanted to look for ways to use social media more in the classroom so students can learn those marketing skills.
While the business and marketing group wanted students using social media more, health science teachers wanted students using it much less.
One of the main topics of discussion in the health science group was teaching students how to behave responsibly, both at work and on social media websites.
A problem teachers have run into has been making sure students know the importance of showing up for work and doing what needs to be done instead of playing with a cellphone. Many hospitals and care facilities prohibit cellphone use, and some would even fire an employee for having cellphones with them over fear of staff exploiting patients in photos and other forms of media.
“The rules in the workplace are 10 times stricter than they are in the schools,” said Christy Critchfield, who serves on the Bradley County school board and works for a medical company.
The technology engineering group discussed ways to make sure students get valuable experience in their field through internships. The major concerns are making sure students could manage those with their school schedules and still have adequate time to succeed on the job.
It is especially important to make sure students know they must be able complete a certain amount of work within a certain amount of time, said Chris Turner, a school board member who has worked as the general manager of a local manufacturing plant.
“You have to know you’re going to hit within the expectations,” he said.
In all, 16 different groups of teachers met to discuss challenges and look for solutions to them. Large meetings like Thursday evening’s happen annually, but teachers will meet with their individual program groups later in the school year as well.