JACKSON TWP — Schools all over Pennsylvania are trying to help students determine their potential career goals with tools like “career clusters” and larger numbers of course offerings.
Seneca Valley is one district that continues to utilize and expand these opportunities to help students decide what they want to do — or even what they don’t.
“The best lesson you can learn is what you don’t want to do,” said Seneca Valley Assistant Superintendent Matthew McKinley about the additions to the high school’s curriculum and career clusters.
McKinley presented new courses to be offered at the high school in the upcoming school year, including more Advanced Placement (AP) and college courses, to the Seneca Valley School Board at the Jan. 7 board meeting.
The new courses — all electives meant to guide students into or away from potential careers — at Seneca Valley are a cyber offering of AP European History, College in High School (CHS) chemistry, CHS film studies, a second anatomy course and TV and Movie Production, which is a name change for Performing Arts 7.
McKinley said these changes will be most helpful to students who have already determined their career clusters and want to earn credits or simply further their experience in their chosen fields before attending for post-secondary school. For example, the second anatomy course will be something of interest to many students in the health services career cluster.
Students and parents will be able to see these options and make mock schedules on Seneca Valley’s website and possibly “map out” their next years of school, McKinley said.
The board also discussed the differences and preferences between AP and college courses, which has been a hot topic for college-bound students who are curious about what will give them the biggest advantage after high school.
McKinley said the “rigor of your transcript is important for schools,” but the weight of an AP or college in high school class will vary for each higher education institution.
Superintendent Tracy Vitale said state schools and big colleges tend to prefer AP courses, “but that’s only if you score a three or better.”
“So if you’re taking an AP course, that doesn’t mean you’ll get credit at that school,” Vitale said. “So it can be very confusing. If you know you’re going to a small liberal arts school, the trend we’re finding is they’re taking more of the CHS classes.”
Vitale recommended students who have a general idea of where they want to go for higher education to look at their top schools’ preferences, but she said this wouldn’t work for every student.
“It depends where your child wants to go to school, but it’s really tough because they don’t know until the junior or sometimes senior year,” Vitale said. “So we do tell children — number one, foremost — challenge yourself, year after year.
“It’s just different at every school so it’s tough to advise students other than saying ‘challenge yourself.’ If they can tell us early on about those career clusters, we can advise better.”
Vitale said she greatly appreciates the number of elective options the district offers because it gives students a chance to see other career fields, even after they have chosen career clusters or if they may still be deciding what they want to do.
She said most of the feedback she has received from juniors and seniors has also been about how happy they are with the number of class choices offered at Seneca Valley.
New options at the Butler County Vocational-Technical School also were mentioned during McKinley’s presentation. These changes include the merging of the graphic arts and advertising design programs to form a graphic design program; a name change from Computer Networking and Telecommunications to Computer Networking and Security; the addition of a sports medicine track; and the ability to earn OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) certification.