PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Port Arthur

March 31, 2014

PAISD partners with college

PORT ARTHUR — Jarrell Collins leans over a scroll saw, meticulously making sure the edges of his latest manufacturing systems class project — a jewelry box for his mother — are perfectly sanded.

This — not textbooks and scantrons — is the face of post-secondary education in the age of House Bill 5.

HB 5, which will take effect at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year, not only whittles down the amount of tests students must pass before graduation, but also offers more post-secondary avenues rather than zeroing in on college readiness. Students can now focus on one of five endorsements — STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), business and industry, public services, arts and humanities, and multi-disciplinary studies.

“It allows us to look at children in a broader sense,” PAISD Superintendent Mark Porterie said. “We’re looking at what is in the best interests of each and every child in the district and meeting those needs.”

PAISD’s Career and Technology Education (CATE) program is partnering with Lamar State College-Port Arthur to offer CATE students the opportunity for dual college credit without ever setting foot on campus.

This opportunity has long been available for core classes, such as English, math and social studies, but this is the first partnership that involved CATE students.

“There was always an articulated agreement that these students could receive college credit, but they usually had to fight for it,” Bert Lamson, CATE instructor of engineering design and presentation, said. “Now they get it automatically.”

Presently, students can take dual credit courses in welding and computer-assisted engineering. Juniors and seniors can receive up to 20 hours of college credit and apply those hours toward an associate’s degree at LSC-PA upon graduation.

For CATE director Raymond Polk, this arrangement is long overdue.

“It took them long enough to realize that there is no one size fits all in high school education,” Polk said. “But everyone should be able to go through a program in high school that provides them the opportunity to make a living and make a contribution to our community.”

When the plans are finalized, it may be possible for seniors to simultaneously obtain a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in drafting or welding, thus becoming eligible for the programs’ more advanced courses, Gary Stretcher, LSC-PA vice president for academic affairs, said.

“It’s easy to get students to start the program, but working to get them into some more advanced courses is problematic,” Stretcher said. “This will provide us with a good core of students coming into the program to help sustain it.”

LSC-PA and PAISD are in the process of comparing drafting and welding curriculums, with Stretcher making the necessary changes to the college’s certification. The curriculum will wrap within the next week, Stretcher said, and both the college and PAISD will spend the final two months of the academic year informing high school students about these opportunities.

Stretcher said that the college and PAISD are collaborating to provide an educational foundation that exceeds entry level positions.

“If they continue their education at college, they'll have advanced skills training in a credential that's recognized across the state,” Stretcher said. “It provides for much more than entry-level training into an occupation.”

The Port Arthur Industrial Group is providing scholarships to PAISD students who enter the program so that they won’t be responsible for their tuition while in high school, Stretcher said.

Polk said that he hoped to see this partnership expand to include all of the district’s CATE programs, which include auto collision, automotive technology, building trade shop, dentistry, engineering CAD, hospitality, machine shop, media tech, welding shop and woodshop.

“My hope is to see students leave Memorial High School with more than just a high school diploma,” he said.

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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