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West High expands career-development, AP course offerings

BY AUDREY SMITH | FEBRUARY 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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Students at West High now have the opportunity to register for seven new classes — ranging from Aerospace Engineering to Advanced Online Media — to take during the 2011-12 school year.

The expanded course selection will provide more opportunities for students who, by their junior or senior year, have exhausted the school’s class offerings, said Renato de Leon, the lead guidance counselor at West High, 2901 Melrose Ave.

“It’s really just trying to give them some options,” he said.

West is not alone in adding new career and technical courses; they’re becoming a national trend.

“There’s been an increased demand for high-quality career-development courses in high schools in the past decades,” said Gene Bottoms, a curriculum expert and senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board.

Bottoms said the some of the largest increases in career and technical courses have been in pre-engineering courses, which are offered by more than 3,000 high schools in the United States. He said health-science and technology-related courses have also been popular in recent years.

West High’s new class offerings include Aerospace Engineering and Digital Electronics, both of which are included in Project Lead the Way, a program that offers pre-engineering courses at the high-school level. City High, 1900 Morningside Drive, also introduced the Aerospace Engineering course in 2009 in addition to expanding its Advanced Placement course offerings.

Students at West High will have the opportunity to earn college credit through the new Pharmacy Technician Academy and an Architecture and Construction course, which are provided through Kirkwood Community College.

Bottoms said schools have added more career and technical courses over the years because they provide a “different way of learning,” including a more hands-on approach to career-focused education.

“It also gives a real jump-start toward an advanced degree,” he said.

In addition to career development, students will have the opportunity to explore possible college interests through new course offerings in language arts and foreign language.

The school’s German language instructor, Linsey Choun, said the addition of Advanced Placement German will allow students who have surpassed the school’s current German levels to continue exploring their interests in the language.

“They get a small taste of the university, [and find out] if they have that desire to continue with a minor or major,” she said.

Assistant Principal Molly Abraham said the improved dual enrollment course selection will also expand career-development opportunities for students who do not plan to pursue a college education.

“We are trying to ‘hook’ kids [whether they] are going on to work or more schooling,” she said.

And de Leon said that while the school is still in the process of registration, students have already shown interest in the Aerospace Engineering class, as well as Advanced Placement German.

“Especially when it’s new like this, we hope we can get enough students to really make it grow,” he said.


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