Tyler ISD didn’t just meet the state’s goals for career and technology certifications, the district is years ahead of them.

Where the state goal was for Tyler ISD to have 37 Texas Education Agency approved certifications completed by students in the 2017-18 school year, Tyler ISD delivered close to 10 times that many with 352 completed and more expected over the summer as students turn 18 or retest.

On top of the state certifications, Tyler ISD also delivered 629 federally recognized certifications, which the district offers to help meet local needs. Some examples of federally recognized certifications include 911 Telecommunications Level 1, American Heart Association CPR, Artistic Nail Design and Serve Safe, which is a food and beverage safety training. 

TISD Superintendent Marty Crawford said he initially was concerned the localized offerings might negatively impact the district in state accountability indexes, but those fears have been laid to rest. 

“I was scared to death that that would sink us, but I think we’re going to be OK,” Crawford said. “We’ve got some local expectations and local involvement and demand to meet. The governor wants portability, can you take what you learn in Texas and get a high-earning job in North Dakota?”

Crawford spoke about the issue during the school board's July workshop on Monday. During the meeting, Gary Brown, TISD's executive director of college and career, presented the trustees with an update on the district's career and technology education progress.

Before the state even launched its 60x30 initiative, which aims to have 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds have some sort of post-secondary credential by 2030, the district already was building its ambitious career and technology plans.

Crawford said the current projections for the 60x30 completion is actually closer to 2051, which means Tyler ISD has a significant advantage with its CTE offerings.

Some of the offerings not counted by the state include the district’s robust criminal justice and culinary programs. The culinary program has more than 200 students involved in grades nine through 12 and the district had more than two dozen students earn 911 telecommunication certifications this year. 

“Some of those things are not listed even though we need a more diverse police force and fire force, not just locally but on a state level,” Crawford said. “If we have a culinary student who wants to own their own business they’re taking cooking classes, they’re taking business classes, but they don’t hit any of the marks on that list (from the TEA).”

The district also will have a large amount of students beginning to specialize with certifications in plumbing, welding, carpentry and other trade skills after finishing an introductory certification this year.

Last school year, 80 percent of Tyler ISD students participated in at least one CTE course, Brown said. Brown said that number included more than 75 percent of the district’s economically disadvantaged students. He also noted that about 75 percent of special education students had taken at least one CTE course.

The district is looking to add more courses for the 2018-19 school year.

Some new offerings will include EMS training, with a paid internship component, an anatomy and physiology course and possibly an industrial technology pathway.

Brown said local businesses such as Sanderson Farms and Ingersoll Rand have offered input to help ensure students are trained and ready for what the workforce demands.

The biggest challenge the district faces is finding qualified professionals to teach the career and technology courses. Crawford said many of the professionals would be losing tens of thousands of dollars per year at the average teacher salary of $45,000.

In addition to helping students become career ready, the CTE also offers certification that can boost students’ earning potential while in college.

One example Crawford gave was the pharmacy technician program, which many future nursing or medical students opt for, allowing them to earn an average of $13 per hour at pharmacies while they continue their education.

“Those are jobs that are well-paying for kids in college, so they don’t have to work delivering pizza like we did,” he said.

Brown also said the CTE is looking to create summer courses for students in the future.

“The goal would be offering STEM type and CTE summer programs with a mechanism for students who can’t afford it,” Brown said.

Next year also will see the first cohort of seniors spending their entire day at the CTC, with the district adding core classes and dual credit courses for students. They still will be considered students of their regular high school campus, but not have to lose time during the day commuting back and forth to Robert E. Lee or John Tyler high schools.

"It’s good to see goals being crushed, not just met," TISD Board President Fritz Hager said.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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