County schools focusing on CTE, facilities updates

By KAITLIN GEBBY
Posted 2/18/20

Bradley County Schools is sharpening its focus on career and technical education as it prepares to break ground on the Partnerships in Industry and Education (PIE) Center later this year. 2019 …

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County schools focusing on CTE, facilities updates

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Bradley County Schools is sharpening its focus on career and technical education as it prepares to break ground on the Partnerships in Industry and Education (PIE) Center later this year. 


2019 brought numerous accolades to the county school system’s CTE programming. Bradley County Schools was among a collection of  high schools across the state to receive a Tennessee Pathways Certification. But, Walker Valley High School and Bradley Central High School were among only a few to be designated as “Excelling” in their pathway offerings, the highest level of achievement given by the state. 


Tennessee Pathways is a program that focuses on college and career advancements throughout K-12. It provides “rigorous early postsecondary and work-based learning opportunities in high school” and  “seamless vertical alignment between K-12, postsecondary programs, and career opportunities.” 


Bringing STEM programming and the idea of a STEM career to the elementary school level is key in maintaining that designation, according to CTE director Arlette Robinson. 


Robinson said they are beginning to bring the idea of STEM careers to the elementary level using carts, shadowing programs and just talking to students. 


“One of my favorite things to ask a student is what they want to be when they grow up,” she said. “You get a lot of interesting answers.” 


Before, she said students would say they wanted to be a doctor or teacher. While there’s nothing wrong with those much-needed careers,  she has encouraged the schools to teach students more about STEM careers, too. Now she’s hearing a wider range of desires among students, some still declaring themselves the firefighters of the future, and others showing a captured interest in robotics, engineering and mathematics. 


Also new this year is a fifth-grade CTE day, where all fifth-grade students take a day away from their normal classroom to explore and shadow students at the high schools. Robinson said this allows them to take a look at their future studies, the only difference being the students shadowing at the high school will have the opportunity to explore a STEM career in the PIE Center. 


Assisting with this career pathways process is a new aptitude test. Robinson said the exam offers an inventory of possible career interests based on the strengths and skills shown at the time it’s taken. 


“Those inventories will help us as we guide students toward the PIE Center and toward their career pathways that we have,” she said. 


Career exploration carts at the middle schools feature lesson plans and activities in multiple career fields as well, Robsinson said. Currently, every 10th-grade student in the county school system has taken the new career aptitude test; but that will soon expand to include every eighth-grade student, too.  


She said if the current work-based learning is maintained, it will be a big help in the transition to the PIE Center.


“We have more than 300 students in total in work-based learning classes, with many of them directly related to business and industry which will help us move over into the PIE Center,” she said. 


Bradley County Schools, which serves over 10,000 students,  is recognizing a need for facilities updates this year. 


At Black Fox and North Lee Elementary schools, portable classrooms have been in place as additional teaching space. They’ve done away with most of them, only using the remaining ones for storage rather than instruction. Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash said the new classrooms will be ready before the start of the 2020-21 school year. 


Each school will receive an additional four classrooms and two bathrooms, as well as storage space inside each room. Dr. Cash said some changes have already been made in preparation for the construction, like moving the playground at Black Fox to make way for equipment. 


Lake Forest Middle School, Bradley County’s newest middle school, is undergoing a refacing process so  the external brick matches the newly laid brick on the gymnasium. Giving both a “facelift” not only solves some moisture issues they had in the original design, according to Dr. Cash, but also gives the new building a “uniform look.” 




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