In the day and age of SMART boards, Chromebooks and web surfing a group of Oakdale Junior High seventh graders are spending a bit of their school year Career Cruising.
Under the guidance of English teacher Danessa Menge, more than 75 students are being given an opportunity to explore their ideals and choices in the way of career possibilities. Career Cruising is an on-line program offering students: a questionnaire/career evaluation; review of college and education alternatives; skills needed; income potential and video feed of professionals in any given field.
“This has been eye opening for the students,” Menge stated of the students taking the assessment and exploring options. “Some have found they are right in line with what they want to do and some not so much. It’s thought provoking.”
The program is in alignment with the new Common Core Standards and its goal of students graduating high school with skills and knowledge to be college, career and life ready.
“There is a growing disconnect between the classic American dream (however that may be defined by a student) and how the student has access to get them there,” Oakdale Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone stated. “The disconnect is with marketable skills. The only way you get that is through education; we need to stress that to kids.”
Malone has spent much time both on campuses speaking to students, as well as researching alternatives and tools to place OJUSD in position to fully embrace all aspects of the Common Core principals. The ‘big’ picture of Common Core, so to speak, and how it translates from one grade level to the next.
“Through the history of education we have seen the disconnect and it seems to be growing,” Malone added. “Financial literacy is a piece of that. That is the big picture.”
Malone noted his shock and concern after discussions with junior high students over the cost of a home. An answer which was so nominal, he said, it brought the mission even further to the forefront for him.
“We’ve embraced Common Core because of the college and career readiness piece,” he said. “Until we’ve provided the opportunity to the students, it’s on us.”
Menge honestly shared her thoughts on the idea early on, including the challenge of working yet another piece into her existing curriculum, and on how the students would or wouldn’t embrace a program for something which may seem so far off.
“When I was their age, I didn’t care because my mom was putting it as priority,” Menge recalled. “If the student takes control of it they care more. With this program they choose.
“It’s good for them to see the variety and to see there’s a tech school, mechanic school or beauty school. It gives that validity.”
Seventh grader Jaden Chau shared her love of dance and dream of someday attending Juilliard in New York to be a professional dancer. The student acknowledged while it is a goal, she was surprised by the survey results.
“When I took the test that’s what it said, Juilliard,” Jaden said. “I was totally surprised. It showed the requirements and what I need to do to get in. I was really surprised that it showed me so much. I really like it.”
Classmate Riley Miller confessed to having a special interest in Oregon State for college choice, but recognized the test may be his better guide.
“I thought it was cool when we looked up the colleges,” he said. “When we looked at the careers in the computer, all the information it offered about careers in math and engineering. The colleges were Stan State and Fresno State, so I may have some thinking to do.”
“Awareness,” Menge summed up in one word. “That’s what this program does, because seventh grade is hard. They’re changing classes and learning. They’re still trying to figure it all out.”
Based on the early feedback and results with the early test programs, Malone has faith in the program.
“We’ve just touched into one piece of the overall curriculum,” he said. “We need to stay current. This program is to increase awareness to help the student make the optimum decision to take them to the next step in life.”
It may take a while for all students to buy in, but Malone said it will be worth it.
We’re not here to be a dream crusher,” he continued. “Maybe you wanted to do ‘x’, but can you make a living doing that? Is that going to provide enough to earn a living? That’s a discussion we need to start in the classroom and at home.
“It allows us to address the career component. We as a district do a great job at the college piece. We need to do a better job at the other piece and that’s where we begin.”
The current plan is to roll the program out to all students in grades seven through 12 in the 2015-16 school year, ultimately optimizing the potential of the Career Cruising program.