Lawrence County CTC marks gains in extracurricular participation and core academic skills
Lawrence County Career & Technical Center has seen a sharp increase in the number of students taking part in extra-curricular activities this year as well as in the number who are academically eligible. Both improvements owe a nod to an initiative a team of the CTC’s educators undertook as part of their work in The Forum.
The Forum is a network the Consortium organizes to help educators develop leadership skills while pursuing projects that support high priority goals in their schools or districts.
One of Lawrence County CTC ‘s overarching goals has been inclusivity. In support of it, the school’s Forum team set out this year to get more students involved in extra-curricular activities and more on solid enough academic footing that they can participate, said Brad Windhorst, a math teacher and Forum team member.
Enlisting student voice was a critical factor in designing a successful initiative, he added. The biggest hurdle to expanding extracurricular participation seemed to be that the activities the CTC offered just didn’t hold wide appeal, Windhorst noted.
Before embarking on an overhaul, the Forum team used a student survey to find out what activities kids actually wanted. It then sought support from teachers to broaden the options for the current school year. The upshot is an extracurricular menu of 48 activities that now encompasses interests as disparate as cooking, classic movies, weightlifting and woodwork.
The Forum team set a goal of 75% participation, which aimed for all students who were academically eligible when the school year began. At the time, the other 25% were required to spend their free periods in study halls getting help to improve skills in one or more core academic courses.
As anticipated, tailoring the extracurricular offerings to address kids’ interests has helped attract eligible students–participation quickly hit the Forum team’s 75% goal.
But it’s also apparently served as an incentive to those whose academic performance was lagging when the school year started. As a result, some 92 percent of students are now both academically eligible to participate in extracurricular activities and also regularly doing so.
“It was amazing how dramatically the number changed,” Windhorst said, quickly adding that the Forum team’s work was just one of several factors driving improvement. Others included a new school Principal and a concerted effort the school is making to reinforce core academic lessons even in unrelated classes.