Oregon has nearly the worst graduation rate in the country. Measure 98 is our chance to fix it. Measure 98 will establish and expand vocational and career technical education classes in high schools throughout the state, including agriculture education at rural schools.
Measure 98 would make Career Technical Education classes, or CTE, available to every high school student in Oregon. As an agricultural science and technology teacher at Crater High School in Central Point, I’ve seen firsthand how such classes can transform students’ lives.
For some kids, sitting down in a math class or reading a book in English class is not what they were cut out to do. CTE courses are different. They provide these students with challenging, hands-on classes that help keep them engaged. Specifically, agriculture education and technology is an intra-curricular program that combines classroom instruction, supervised agricultural experiences and FFA, the largest career and technical student organization in the state.
CTE classes also make the rest of school more relevant. Classes like mine show students how their learning from other courses can be applied.
For example, in my classes, students use math and chemistry to figure out how much fertilizer they would need to apply to a field. They use reading to decipher complex planting instructions. They use critical thinking to evaluate livestock and then defend their placings through oral reasons.
My students see why math, chemistry, reading and critical thinking matter. As a result, they’re much more likely to take their other classes seriously. This is one reason Oregon students who take CTE courses have a 15 percent higher graduation rate than students who do not take CTE courses.
Furthermore, when they do graduate, CTE students are more likely to find high wage jobs in growing industries. That’s because when they take classes like mine, they graduate with more real world skills and experiences that prepare them to make critical decisions about their future educational goals. They learn about trade school options and already have experience in industries that have a need for more workers.
These are just some of the reasons we need CTE classes in high school. Unfortunately, budget cuts have meant many high schools have lost these important training opportunities and career paths.
Measure 98 will fix this, making sure Oregon high schools expand access to CTE education that lets students learn real world skills in a variety of fields, such as engineering and design, computer coding, robotics, agriculture mechanics/welding, medical biotechnology, veterinary medicine, plant science and more.
This way, all students can get education they need for good-paying jobs with local businesses.
In addition, Measure 98 will make sure Oregon’s high school graduates are well prepared for college. Measure 98 means many more students can take CTE dual credit and advanced placement classes that let them earn early college credit — which gets them ready to succeed in college. They start college with coursework under their belts and a competitive edge when applying to colleges across the country.
Once in college, they have a head start, which saves them money and increases the chances that they’ll actually graduate.
Finally, Measure 98 will help students stay in high school by providing for additional tutors or counselors. Students will understand their options, take charge of them and be more likely to succeed.
Now is the time to do something about our depressing high school graduation rate. Every year we wait, more than 10,000 students fail to graduate high school. Please vote yes for Measure 98. The futures of thousands of students are at stake.
Kristin Kostman is an agricultural science and technology teacher at Crater High School in Central Point, Ore.