R-3 board makes update to graduation requirements; NCC aims to add program

The Platte County R-3 School District decided to make a minor alteration to its graduation requirements, hoping to make a change that not only gives students better options but helps regenerate interest in other elective classes.

During the December board of education meeting, members unanimously approved changing a one-credit requirement from technology to practical arts. This helps align the district with current Missouri Department of Secondary Education (DESE) recommendations and provides an update to focus on college and career readiness for students.

The current 15 courses under technology remain included, but the high school will add 16 more classes that would also fulfill the practical arts requirement. Students will still need 24 required credits to graduate.

“This is one of those win-win-win type of moments. Really, the why I think is outlined very clearly here,” Platte County High School principal Chad Sayre told the board. “I think originally the technology credit requirement comes from the 90s when it was a new and important part. Keyboarding was the important part. It’s just part of the students’ daily life now. 

“Pulling out that technology piece was forward-thinking at the time. I think it’s an outdated practice at this point.”

In addition to better alignment with DESE’s current practices, Sayre also noted that most colleges no longer require technology credit for acceptance.

Administrators also believe the change could help spread out crowding in certain courses and spawn renewed interest in practical arts classes like foods, parenting and family leadership.

Technology was previously a big part of curriculum well before the current practice of “one-to-one” electronic devices in classrooms, supplying students with tablets or laptops.

Sayre called the change more about semantics than structure.

“The original intent of the (technology) requirement was to ensure that our students had exposure to technology before graduation,” a memorandum suggesting the change to the board reads. “Now more than ever our students are exposed to technology in authentic ways throughout their time at Platte County High School. This recommendation will offer an opportunity for our students to explore more diverse college and career paths as they accumulate their 24 credits to graduation.”

Current technology classes include computer applications, desktop design and web design.

The practical arts additions will allow all NCAPS courses, family and consumer sciences courses, marketing and business courses, and multiple journalism courses to fulfill the requirement.

Contributed photo An example of a classroom for motor and manufacturing control at Metropolitan Community College’s Business and Technology Center in Kansas City, Mo. Northland Career Center plans to partner with the school on a new program offering starting next school year.

Contributed photo
An example of a classroom for motor and manufacturing control at Metropolitan Community College’s Business and Technology Center in Kansas City, Mo. Northland Career Center plans to partner with the school on a new program offering starting next school year.

In addition, the board also approved another new program at Northland Career Center (NCC).

For the third time in four years, administrators have attempted to expand the curriculum at the facility serving multiple Northland school districts on Platte County’s campus. The board unanimously approved the concept of adding production technologies for the 2017-18 school year, pending interest level.

Production technologies would focus on certification for manufacturing careers. 

NCC administrators started looking at the concept eight months ago, and the NCC advisory board recommended the new program in November.  Focus groups and research showed that business partners in the community were asking for the manufacturing certification.

NCC has added agriculture and aviation technology during the past four years, building the new programs based on interest level and need in the workforce.

“This fits very well within our vision,” NCC director Brian Noller said. 

The program will be housed at the Metropolitan Community College Business and Technology Center in Kansas City, Mo., located just off Interstate 435 near Front Street. The facility offers state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment that would be nearly impossible for NCC to replicate with its space and budget.

The program would be college level with dual credit offered to second-year students because of the relationship with MCC, which would offer the program to other career and technical centers in the area.

“Student misperceptions and overall misperceptions about manufacturing being dirty and very much assembly line work,” Noller said. “With technology these days, it’s really changed the skills manufacturers are looking for. They’re looking for industrial maintenance technicians, robotics and working with machines."

Enrollment would start in spring of 2017, and with enough students, a teacher would be hired and a budget built to have the program in place for 2017-18. The largest budget element would be for teacher salary and benefits because the teacher would work at MCC’s business and technology center.

Bus routes would also have to be arranged for students at different districts for the fairly lengthy trip south for some.

The district has safeguards in place to make the program budget neutral and possibly beneficial. The value for administrators seems to be in adding a program that truly offers participants a clear career path after school at a facility that has immense resources. 

NCC will hire the teacher and won’t be charged to use the MCC facilities. MCC will hope that students continue in the college program and receive further certification through the school.

“It seems students are interested primarily in areas where we don’t have a real workforce needed,” Platte County superintendent Dr. Mike Reik said. “Since this is a career center, we want to try and put students in position to gain credentials, experiences that will articulate into an area where there will be actual need.

“Our challenge now is for us to frame this in a way that kids look at this as a viable option for a career pathway.”