Penn College Helps Philadelphia Schools Upgrade Career/Technical Education

Published 01.31.2005


Pennsylvania College of Technology is working with the School District of Philadelphia and the Community College of Philadelphia to create a technical curriculum for Philadelphia public high schools and at the same time establish a resource for teachers across the nation.

"The administration at the high school level (in Philadelphia) has really put a focus on upgrading and rejuvenating the career and technical programs in the school district," said Dr. Jeannette L. Fraser, director of Outreach for K-12 at Penn College.

Penn College is in the second year of a three-year consulting contract with the Philadelphia Tech Prep Consortium to write curricula for 10th- to 12th-grade students in seven career and technical areas, each of which has an associate-degree match at the Community College of Philadelphia. The goal is to help prepare high school students to pursue associate's degrees in the seven technical areas.

Faculty from the School District of Philadelphia and the Community College of Philadelphia are writing the curricula, with assistance from a limited number of teachers outside the Philadelphia area. Dr. Glenn R. Spoerke, curriculum specialist in Penn College's Outreach for K-12 office, is coordinating the development and distribution of the curricula.

Before tackling curricula, though, Penn College facilitated meetings between the school district, the community college and industry leaders from Greater Philadelphia to develop lists of competencies that high-school students should master before entering the college or the local workforce. Some of the lists also include skills the students will need to pass industry standards and tests, such as the Automotive Service Excellence certification test.

Those competency lists have been developed, and now teachers from the school district and the community college are creating teacher planning guides that list performance standards, classroom activities, resources and textbooks to help students gain those skills.

Dr. Spoerke said each teacher typically writes six to seven guides, one for each competency. The guides show teachers especially those new to the field how at least one experienced educator helps students learn a skill.

He recommends that the teachers create a library of two or more teacher planning guides for each competency, so that others may find a guide that fits their own teaching style.

The Tech Prep Consortium is making sure the guides identify state-mandated academic standards. Curricula are being developed for the fields of automotive-mechanic technology, CAD/architectural drafting, computer systems networking, culinary arts, graphic design, health professions, and Web and multimedia design.

Dr. Spoerke said curriculum review and revision is a never-ending process for Philadelphia schools, as it is for every educational institution. But now the groundwork is being laid, making future changes less cumbersome.

"Curriculum is something that should be constantly updated, because the competencies needed for the jobs in the industry are constantly being updated and changed," he said.

Teacher planning guides and scope and sequences are already completed for level-one students, usually 10th graders, and are available free for downloading from Penn College's Web site . The three-year program competency lists for all program areas are also available.

"Even though the resource was developed for Philadelphia, there is no reason schools all across the nation can't use this information to upgrade their technical programs," Dr. Fraser said. "It is applicable anywhere."

Dr. Fraser said it is exciting for Penn College to be a part of a program that will impact so many students.

"The reality hits you when you consider that every morning a quarter of a million students go to school in the School District of Philadelphia. It is the fifth-largest school district in the nation, and it has more than 11,000 career and technical students," she said.