Graduation rates for Bartow County students enrolled in career pathways far exceed the overall graduation rate for each school district.
A report released Monday by the Georgia Department of Education showed 100% of students in Cartersville High School's Career Technical and Aviation Academy's Class of 2019 walked across the stage in May to receive their diploma, topping the school's overall graduation rate of 90.4% by 9.6%.
"CHS is very proud of our CCTAA graduation rate," CCTAA Director/Assistant Administrator Marc Collier said. "It has been 98%-plus for several consecutive years. We believe that when students plug into a pathway, it gives meaning and purpose to their education. The student can relate their educational skills to the workplace via CCTAA pathways."
Being able to make that connection will, in turn, "prompt better attendance and help students find a deeper purpose in their educational endeavors," Collier said.
"At CHS, we actively seek input from our local businesses and industries for connecting careers to education," he said. "In our discussions with them, our local businesses and industries have stressed to us that good attendance is highly valued. Our CCTAA students' participation and attendance is certainly reflected in their graduation rate."
For Bartow County, the graduation rate for last school year's career, technical and agricultural education students was 95.7%, 6.5% higher than its general graduation rate of 89.2%.
"We are proud of that number," CTAE Director Greg Doss said. "It shows that our CTAE students are engaged in real-world application and graduating with, in some cases, job-ready certificates. This gives them immediate value in the job market."
Work-Based Learning Specialist Lisa DiPrima has a good explanation for why so many CTAE students complete their pathways and graduate.
"Bartow County College and Career Academy Principal Paul Sabin says it best: 'When students have a connection and purpose, they’re more likely to succeed in coursework and graduate. Our career tech teachers tend to build strong relationships with students because they have similar interests and passions that enrich their lives,'" she said. "That strong support system reflects our high CTAE graduation rate."
All three Bartow high schools' CTAE rates were higher than their overall graduation rates.
Adairsville had the highest rate at 98.1%, which was 6.4% higher than its general graduation rate of 91.7%, followed by Woodland at 96.2%, 9.8% higher than its overall rate of 86.4%, and Cass at 94.8%, 4% higher than its overall rate of 90.8%.
AHS Assistant Principal Ray Reece, who oversees the school's CTAE program, said students enrolled in career pathways "see the relevance in what they are learning in the CTAE classrooms."
"They see the success that can happen after graduation in a career or interest," he said. "Our CTAE teachers also build those relationships with students over multiple years in their program of study. A student may have a different teacher every year for science, but they will have the same teacher for every construction, agriculture, JROTC, education, cosmetology, work-based learning or business class. This allows teachers to follow a student's progress more closely, similar to the affect a coach has on players. Our CTAE teachers do a great job of making connections with and for students."
Senior Army instructor Maj. David Sexauer agreed that students seek CTAE pathways because they can "see immediate application in the lives after high school."
"They have aptitudes in those areas, and the teachers here at Adairsville are passionate about their programs, and students sense that," he said. "Our CTAE teachers nurture those interests, and students find their niche. Students apply themselves more in all classes because they want to continue through to graduation. It's a winning formula."
As for how the two systems stacked up against the state, Cartersville's rate topped Georgia's CTAE graduation rate of 96.5% by more than 3% while Bartow's rate landed less than 1% below the state. Adairsville and Cartersville high schools were the only schools to exceed the state rate.
"It certainly feels great to score higher than the state norm," Collier said. "However, I am more gratified to know that 100% of the students in our CCTAA programs graduated. It is a satisfying feeling to know that the hard work our teachers have invested into our students helped them to reach a very important milestone in their lives."
He also gives much of the credit for the success of the program to the instructors of the 12 career pathways offered at the high school: allied medicine, sports medicine, light automotive maintenance and repair, graphic design, marketing, business-entrepreneurship, video broadcasting, aviation with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, work-based learning, engineering, teaching as a profession and public safety.
"I am exceedingly proud of our CCTAA teachers and their efforts to connect the workforce environment with education," he said. "Our CCTAA instructors provide relevance and application for students and their future career choices. It is a privilege to work with dedicated professionals and students that will shape our future workforce."
Doss said Bartow County students are "competitive with their peers statewide."
"They’re graduating with entry-level employment skills and, if applicable, authentic apprenticeship program experience and industry-recognized credentials," he said.
The county has roughly 410 CTAE students enrolled in a number of pathways, many that offer a technical certificate or industry-recognized certification upon completion: cosmetology, criminal justice, phlebotomy, patient care technician, sports medicine, pharmacy, noninvasive diagnostic technology, allied health, exercise physiology, JROTC, engineering and robotics, audio video technology, early childhood education, teaching as a profession, agricultural mechanics, food and plant science, animal science, construction, business and technology, computer science, cybersecurity, culinary, food and nutrition, web design and graphic communication.
Dual-enrolled students can select pathways in automotive technology, air conditioning technology, PC repair and network technology and welding technology.
Georgia's CTAE graduation rate bested the statewide Class of 2019 graduation rate by 14.5%, according to a news release.
"Our goal in education is to prepare students to live fulfilling lives," State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in the release. "We want students to find careers they love. We want them to use their skills and talents to contribute to their communities and build the future of our state. Career, technical and agricultural education makes that happen by connecting Georgia's K-12 schools with business and industry and helping students see the relevance of their education. This year's graduation rate shows the program continues to succeed."
The state's CTAE students can take courses in more than 100 career pathways within 17 career clusters, earn industry-recognized credentials, participate in work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities and serve as leaders through membership in co-curricular career and technical student organizations.