"The legislature passed House Bill 186 this session, signed by the governor a couple of weeks ago, and that legislation will require, beginning in the fall of 2012, every entering ninth-grader to have a career pathway," Barge said.
Barge explained a career pathway is an organizational model that will not change the state curriculum or standards, but will essentially require students to pick from about 17 different career choices they will focus on while continuing standard course work.
"[A career pathway] basically helps organize course work for students around a specific area of interest," Barge said.
He said reasons behind initiating the statewide career pathways include the drop-out rate, the need for having students more prepared to pick a major in college and to encourage seniors to continue taking challenging courses versus easier courses that simply fulfill graduation requirements. He added students who feel disinterested in school are more likely to drop out if they cannot make a connection between their classroom and a future in the workforce.
"We can do a better job linking career education with the academics that our students are doing," Barge said. "We should not be sending masses and masses of students off to college without a clue in the world of what they want to do, so in order to make a career pathway work we have to have [kindergarten through 12th grade] career education, we start talking to students in elementary school about career awareness, we expand that in middle school to career exploration, and then we expand that in high school into career development."
He compared the career pathways to the post-secondary education model, with the key difference being students are free to change their pathway without any repercussions to their current academic career.
"I know this will help our graduation rate because students will see relevance in what they're doing," Barge said. "They can see what lies ahead."
Statewide, schools currently offer Career Technology and Agriculture pathways. Bartow County and Cartersville City schools offer CTAE programs ranging from video production to the healthcare industry.