High schools stay on the cutting edge

DOWNEY - A huge gathering by invitation-only of local educators and school officials, nonprofit figures, businessmen, city and legislative representatives, and other guests on Wednesday heard and saw first-hand what DUSD's Career Technical Education (CTE) program was all about, with its tour portion at the end drawing raves from just about everybody.With lunch provided by the program's culinary arts students, support programs and concurrent Downey Adult School/CTE program director Phil Davis aroused the interest of the audience with a well-articulated power point delineation of the blinding pace of technological progress that's simply transforming today's world. The venue was the newly-built WHS library. Framing CTE's relevance in context, mixing humor and harsh fact, Davis began by pointing out the following, among other things: "Given the size of their populations, the 25 percent of the population in China with the highest IQ's is greater than the total population of North America; during the course of this presentation (exceeding ten minutes), 60 babies will be born in the U.S., 244 babies will be born in China, and 351 babies will be born in India; the top 10 in-demand jobs right now did not exist in 2004; we are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist…using technologies that haven't been invented…in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet; there are over 500 million active users on Facebook where 50 percent log on daily - if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world (between India and the U.S.); Google answers over 2 billion search requests worldwide each day; the number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the total population of the planet; there are about 540,000 words in the English language, about five times as many as during Shakespeare's time; the amount of new technical information is doubling every two years-for students starting a four-year technical or college degree, this means that half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study; and that predictions are that by 2013 a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computation capability of the human brain, and that while technical predictions further out than about 15 years are hard to do, predictions are that by 2049 a $1,000 computer will exceed the computational capabilities of the entire human species." This is proof, Davis said, that "shift" happens, obviously meaning a definite paradigm shift that jars existing realities and traditional expectations, not the least of which is the transition from a vocational education orientation to a more realistic, more future-oriented pathway that combines academic rigor and practical skills. This is where the district's CTE program, in collaboration with ROP, comes in, he said. The CTE program runs at both Downey High and Warren, the pathways at Downey High offering architectural technology, careers in education, health occupations, landscaping occupations, sports therapy, law enforcement and Project Lead the Way engineering (architecture), while Warren's pathway programs include film and TV production, construction technology/building trades, culinary arts/hospitality, alternative energy/audio engineering, engineering (aerospace), and small business management (entrepreneurship). Both DHS and WHS principals, Tom Houts and John Harris, stressed the fact that there is no duplication of effort whatsoever at all, and that there is close collaboration between them even in such matters as class scheduling, and the like. Split into five groups, the guests lapped up fascinating demonstrations by lively students in the workings of animation, film and TV production, construction methods, aerospace engineering, as well as the wonders of the kitchen. At one point, I commented loudly that "This is good!" "No," rejoined Jerilyn King-Brown, the assistant superintendent of instructional services, who belonged to my tour group. "It's awesome!" And so it was. And, as superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty said in her welcoming remarks, kudos to the many people, both inside and outside the district, who are making all this possible. Wednesday was definitely a high watermark for students, for the district, indeed for the future.

********** Published: March 3, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 46