$1 million grant could mean change for Georgia tech schools

Paving the path to a technical school education just got easier for Georgia students. Aided by a $1 million grant from Gov. Sonny Perdue, technical schools in the state of Georgia will be partnered with middle and high school students to help them develop career paths.

“We’re working to help kids early on visualize what the end result of staying in school will be,” said Mike Light, spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education. “We’re giving them the tools to see what the results will be as they move along through middle school and high school.”

Through the expanded Stay In School Initiative, eighth grade students will take a career interest survey to determine the career paths that match their interests and skills. A viewbook is then created for each student and their parents that outlines courses they should take in high school to best prepare them for their chosen career. These career surveys will be administered with the assistance of Georgia’s technical schools. The Initiative will also fund dual enrollment courses for high school students.

Research has shown that students are making the decision to drop out of school as early as the eighth or ninth grade, Light said. The program hopes to reduce Georgia’s 40 percent dropout rate by reaching out to students during this decision-making period.

“It’s our first and foremost goal to reduce the dropout rate in Georgia,” Light said. “We want to interest these kids in what their end result will be whether it’s through a technical college or state university.”

If the Stay In School Initiative is successful, technical schools in Georgia may need to update their educational approach to accommodate higher numbers of younger students.

Sandersville Technical College in Sandersville, Ga., is already adapting its programming based on its experiences working with the Stay In School Initiative last year. The School has developed an orientation program for its instructors to teach them how to handle high school students in the dual enrollment program, said Erica Harden, Vice President of Educational Services for the School. The program teaches instructors who are used to dealing with mostly adult learners how to deal with the difference in maturity levels, different learning needs and the discipline system for high school students.

Harden said technical schools will need to broaden their scope of what a customer means if they are going to successfully accommodate the potential increase in younger students. Broadening the concept of who a school’s customer base is will help it adapt to any changes that result from the new initiative, she said.

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