In discussions about literacy standards and core subjects, career/technical education (CTE) often is the wallflower at the prom. Not so under the rollout strategy for LDC by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), which placed a CTE teacher on each four-teacher team at its eight high school pilot sites in Arkansas. In fact, they are having as much success with LDC as core subject teachers, according to Carol Ann Duke, SREB coordinator in Arkansas. One reason is that CTE fosters project-based, analytical learning; once CTE teachers realize that this is what is expected in LDC modules, they reach a comfort level with LDC, she says.
An exemplary convert is Danielle Stevens, business teacher at Heritage High School in the northwest Arkansas city of Rogers. In her sixth year of teaching (including coaching volleyball and chairing her department), Stevens accepted the request to be part of the LDC team but felt “overwhelmed” after an orientation meeting with other teams in Atlanta. She worked through chunks of tasks and skills, with actual use of modules beginning last January.
Over the next several months, her business law students tackled three modules, starting rather shakily at first with the new expectations for learning. “I watched students’ work grow from the first time to the third module,” she says. “They began to push themselves, and while I guided them at first, they were leading the process on their own by the third module.” Stevens also says that she found it possible to go into greater depth on topics and “grow” her teaching. For example, her mini-task on analysis of the death penalty used to be a minor unit out of the textbook, but using it with the reading and writing demands in LDC, the subject became a way for Stevens and her students to be much more engaged in analysis.
Stevens highly praises the support she has received from SREB and her own school and district. LDC team facilitators made several classroom visits, giving her feedback each time. She “bounced ideas around” with other LDC teams at a regional meeting in Fort Smith, received guidance and resource help from her school’s literacy instructor, and took a leadership role within her department. At a year-end professional development session with colleagues, she shared her experience with the modules and helped them see where they could use modules. “In CTE,” she points out, “the initiative has to be custom designed because CTE covers so many areas.”
Heritage High’s Principal Karen Steen believes LDC (and its math counterpart) have brought her teachers “the best professional development we have ever had. The state and SREB have been with us all the way.” She received a conference call immediately after each site visit, followed soon thereafter by a webinar addressing any problems. Teachers could contact LDC trainers directly. She is working, teacher by teacher, to “tease” her faculty into using LDC. In the meantime, next year’s school calendar will list when teachers are using module instruction and be placed on the Web so that not only her teachers, but also teachers from other schools in the area can visit LDC classrooms in action.