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home : news : education July 17, 2019

4/6/2019 12:11:00 AM
Gaston Earns High Rankings In Career & Technical Education
School district ranks first for CTE student proficiency among 10 largest districts in the state

GASTONIA, N.C. – The N.C. Department of Public Instruction has released Career and Technical Education (CTE) test data for the 2017-2018 school year, and it provides “good news” for Gaston County Schools.

Among the 10 largest school districts in the state, Gaston County had the highest proficiency rate of 87.8 percent.  A student must earn a score of 70 or higher to receive proficiency status. 

Gaston ranked fourth last year in student proficiency and was sixth in 2015-2016.  Gaston’s mark of 87.8 is the highest proficiency rate for any of the 10 largest districts in the past three years.

For the 2017-2018 school year, 8,534 high school students in Gaston County were tested in 58 CTE courses – approximately 7,500 of them (or 87.8 percent) scored a 70 or higher. 

Additionally, Gaston County ranked second in the state for the number of CTE credentials earned by students.  Gaston had 12,566 credentials earned by students.  Wake County, the largest school district in the state, was first with 16,534 credentials earned by students.



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It is possible for a student to earn several credentials in one course.  For example, a student in a Microsoft course can earn two credentials (Word and PowerPoint).  Gaston County ranked ninth in the state (among all school districts and charter schools) for the percentage of students (161.5%) earning more than one credential in a particular area.  The percentage represents the number of credentials earned (11,524) compared to the number of Gaston students (7,135) enrolled in CTE courses that offer credentials. 

“We are extremely proud of our students and their performance in our Career and Technical Education program,” stated Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker.  “Having the highest student proficiency rate among the 10 largest school districts and also having the second highest number in the state of credentials earned by students indicate that we are experiencing great success in Career and Technical Education.”

According to Booker, the district’s “good news” is the result of a multi-year effort to focus attention on Career and Technical Education.  In 2015, in response to the community’s request for more technical (vocational) training for students, the Board of Education established the CTE oversight committee, which involved school, business, and community leaders.  The committee reviewed CTE programs and offered feedback to ensure that the courses/pathways being offered were the ones students needed to be career and college ready.

Booker added, “Not only do we want our students to be successful while they are in school, we want them to be ready for success when they graduate.  Through Career and Technical Education, students gain valuable knowledge in a particular career field and have opportunities to earn industry-recognized credentials – this gives our students an advantage as they enter the workforce after high school or go on to college to pursue their career interests.”

Brett Buchanan, director of Career and Technical Education for Gaston County Schools, said he is proud of the accomplishments that students are making.  As a former CTE teacher, Buchanan knows how important it is for students to be prepared for the workforce.

“We have expanded the number of CTE courses in our middle schools and high schools in an effort to get students to thinking about what they want to do after graduation,” said Buchanan.  “We also are placing a career focus on several of our new school choice programs as another way to provide students with opportunities to explore career possibilities and gain skills and credentials.” 

Buchanan said it is important for schools to have connections with the business community, and he points to three programs – the Manufacturing Career Expo, Students@Work, and Educators in the Workplace – that have been instrumental in showing students and teachers what careers are available in Gaston County.

“We want our students to know that good jobs are available right here at home,” said Buchanan.  “We want to provide training for students, and we also want to introduce them to potential employers and let them see what career opportunities they can take advantage of in Gaston County.”

The CTE oversight committee morphed into the Gaston County Schools Business Advisory Council, which all school districts are required to have by the state.  The council is responsible for fostering a partnership between the school district and local businesses to ensure that students are prepared for life after graduation and have the skills necessary to be competitive in a global workforce. 

The Business Advisory Council members are:

  • Tim Gause, retired, Duke Energy – chairman
  • W. Jeffrey Booker, Superintendent of Schools
  • Greg Botner, Wilbert Plastics
  • Brett Buchanan, director of Career and Technical Education – secretary
  • Bryan Denton, principal, Hunter Huss High School
  • Steve D’Avria, Gaston Regional Chamber
  • Cindy Easterday, American & Efird
  • Susan Farmer, Pharr Yarns
  • John Lowery, Lowery Financial
  • Tony Powell, Firestone
  • Julie Roper, PSNC Energy
  • Patricia Skinner, president, Gaston College
  • Chris Tolbert, Tindol Ford

Business Advisory Council chairman Tim Gause said, “The local business community is pleased to partner with Gaston County Schools to support Career and Technical Education programs.  For business owners, these programs are important because they help to teach, train, guide, and empower students – our future employees – in a particular career area.  We are proud of the progress we have made in recent years, and we look forward to seeing how Career and Technical Education grows and thrives in the years ahead.” 

One project the council has implemented over the past year is a billboard campaign to promote high school CTE programs.  The council has supported a variety of special events and activities, including masonry and automotive apprenticeship programs and the district’s first Career Signing Day.

Buchanan added, “Students cannot wait until they graduate from high school to decide what they are going to do with their life.  They have to start thinking about their future in middle school and high school.  That is why Career and Technical Education is so important because it introduces students to potential careers and helps to prepare them for their professional life.”

Career & Technical Education (CTE) test proficiency for 10 largest school districts
Percentage of students scoring proficiency (70 or higher) on CTE tests 

Rank         2017-2018                               2016-2017                               2015-2016
  1        Gaston County – 87.8             Union County – 86.7              Wake County – 85.3
  2        Union County – 85.4              Wake County – 85.1               Union County – 84.5
  3        Wake County – 85.3               Cabarrus County – 81.7          Johnston County – 81.9
  4        Cabarrus County – 82.5          Gaston County – 81.5             Cabarrus County – 79.6
  5        Johnston County – 78.8          Johnston County – 80.2          Cumberland County – 78.5
  6        Cumberland County – 76.6     Cumberland County – 78.4     Gaston County – 77.4
  7        Forsyth County – 74.8            Forsyth County – 74.7            Forsyth County – 74.5
  8        Guilford County – 71.0           Guilford County – 73.3           Guilford County – 70.3
  9        Charlotte-Meck. – 68.2           Charlotte-Meck. – 68.1           Charlotte-Meck. – 67.9
 10       Durham – 67.6                        Durham – 63.3                     Durham – 56.0


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