At Mineola High School, College and Career Readiness has taken on a whole new meaning. While we offer a host of options for our students including multiple "elective" classes, we now offer a specific direction for students, a "strand" that leads to both a high school diploma and a college certificate.
After looking at our community college persistence data and number of students requiring remedial coursework upon entering college, we knew we needed a better plan, one that could prepare them for their future in an ever-changing market. In a market where the jobs we prepare them for either do not exist, or are in fields that our current system is not familiar with. Jon Oringer, founder and CEO of Shutterstock reminds us, “There is a lack of talent in technology, and we need to be encouraging kids in school to learn how to code. We need to encourage computer science as a major. We need to encourage entrepreneurism.”
We also need an increased focus on student interests. So... where do you start? We wanted to identify a field of study that provided students with an excellent experience that would either ignite a passion for further study in college or prepare them to enter the workforce. We also wanted an area that would allow students, once interested, to choose from a wide range of opportunities in the chosen field of study (figure 1). We began with computer science where students are interested, and the job outlook is bright.
CNNMoney describes the best jobs in America in their May 2017 story. Their list of the top 100 careers with big growth, great pay and satisfying work includes mobile app developer, systems engineer, database analyst, and others in the IT field (see figure 2).
We knew we needed a partner in higher education and we looked 8.4 miles to the west of our school to Queensborough Community College. Our initial discussions began in the summer of 2014 and involved developing a partnership where students left with more than just a few college courses under their belt like a traditional dual enrollment program. Through our work with the Connect to College Program, Vice President for Pre-College, Continuing Education, and Workforce Development and the Chairperson of the Engineering Technology Program, we developed a pathway for our high school juniors and seniors to graduate with a high school diploma as well as a New Media Technology Certificate from the college. This is the first program of its kind in our region and an extremely exciting opportunity for our students.
Planning and Preparation
We planned to launch this program in the 2016-2017 school year with "Cohort A" and needed to prepare. We spent a great deal of the 2015-2016 school year working out the college articulation agreement and planning to serve the students in a Cohort type program. We needed to backwards plan, beginning with the end in mind while involving our stakeholders in the entire process in order to establish buy in (figure 3). What courses could we teach at the high school? What courses need to be taught at the college? Did we have the right teacher or did we need to hire someone? How would the students get to and from the college? How would we identify students? We knew we had the support of our Board of Education, in fact three of their goals were:
Recruitment of both the right teacher as well as the right students was essential. We conducted an extensive search and hired a dynamic teacher with an extensive computer science background. We also had multiple outreaches within our district in order to explain the program and opportunity it would provide for our students to our community.
What does the program look like?
The program is designed for students to complete as a cohort, in their junior and senior year. We also begin by exposing all students to an Exploring Computer Science course in the ninth grade as well as opportunities in robotics in order to keep an eye on interest and identify potential candidates early on in their high school career.
In their senior year, students follow the same structure but are taken by bus to the Queensborough Community College Campus during the afternoon time slot (10:30-2:20) where they take Network Fundamentals I, Introduction to C++, Personal Computer Technology, Architecture, and Troubleshooting (A+ Certification) as well as Economics.
The final piece to truly solidify a college and career readiness experience was to create a meaningful internship experience for our students. We looked to our friends at Core Business Technology Solutions for their expertise. They too were "All-In" from the moment we mentioned it. We conducted multiple focus group meetings that once again included our Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Guidance Director, Principal, and Core Team to hash out our vision and logistics. Core was able to provide three experiences that the students would rotate through (figure 4) over the course of the school year.
This year long internship experience takes place on the days that students do not have class on the college campus (periods 5 through 9). In the tech services cycle, students work with our district technicians, learning about network operations, hardware, software, and the tech ticket system with hands-on experience. In the marketing cycle, our students meet virtually using Cisco TelePresence in our school with the marketing team at Core to develop strategies to use with the company's programs. Finally, on the sales/business side of the operation, students are taken to Core's office to work with the business team on site. All of the students are treated like real employees of the company and wear uniform shirts and ID badges.
We’d like to think we are preparing our students for their future through this unique program and giving a whole new meaning to College and Career Readiness.
Hear our program featured on "Spotlight on Long Island Schools."
Whittney Smith, Ed.D.
Dr. Smith is the Principal of Mineola High School in Garden City Park, NY. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Ruth Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University.