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Gaston ranks first in Career and Technical Education


Gaston takes top rankings in Career and Technical Education 

When it comes to credentials, school district is first for highest number and highest percentage

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction and State Board of Education have released Career and Technical Education (CTE) credential performance data for the 2019-2020 academic year, and it provides “good news” for Gaston County Schools.

Gaston County is first in the state for the number of CTE credentials earned by students and first in the state for the percentage of students earning more than one credential in a particular CTE area.  It is the only time since the state began tallying credential performance data in 2010-2011 that the same school district has earned top rankings in both categories in the same year, according to the State Board of Education. 

Highest number of CTE credentials

Gaston County had 14,986 credentials earned by students during the 2019-2020 year – the highest amount in the state among all school districts and charter schools.  Wake County, the largest school district in the state based on student enrollment, was second with 12,895 credentials.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the second largest school district in the state, was fifth with 7,016 credentials earned by students.  Gaston County is the tenth largest school district in the state.

In 2018-2019, Gaston County was second in the state with 10,811 credentials earned by students and was second in 2017-2018 with 12,566 credentials.  When the credential numbers were first calculated by the state in 2010-2011, Gaston County had only 386.

Highest percentage of CTE credentials

Gaston County ranks first in the state for the percentage of students (219%) earning more than one credential in a particular area.  The percentage represents the number of credentials earned (14,986) compared to the number of students (6,843) enrolled in CTE courses that offer credentials.  It is possible for a student to earn multiple credentials in one CTE course – that’s why the percentage can exceed 100.  For example, a student in a Microsoft course can earn two credentials (Word and PowerPoint), and a student in a construction course can earn eight credentials (basic safety, construction math, hand tools, power tools, construction drawings, material handling, communication skills, and employability skills).

Four high schools rank in the top 15

Additionally, Gaston County has four high schools that rank in the top 15 statewide for the number of credentials earned by students during the 2019-2020 year.  Hunter Huss High School is ranked second in the state with 2,976 credentials.  Ashbrook High School ranks fifth with 2,297 credentials, Forestview High School ranks 13th with 1,721 credentials, and Stuart W. Cramer High School ranks 14th with 1,706 credentials.

“Once again, our students’ performance in Career and Technical Education exceeds expectations,” stated Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker.  “We are very proud of our students and commend them for their outstanding achievement.  We also would like to recognize and praise our CTE teachers, coordinators, and other personnel for their commitment to excellence.  Leading the state in CTE credentialing does not happen overnight – it is a concerted effort that has taken vision, hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm for preparing students for success after graduation.”     

According to Booker, the district’s “good news” is the result of a five-year focus to give more attention to Career and Technical Education.  In response to the community’s request for more technical (vocational) training for students, the Board of Education established the CTE oversight committee in 2015.  The committee, which involved business, community, and education leaders, reviewed CTE programs and shared feedback to ensure that the courses and pathways being offered were in alignment with the current workforce demand.  Also, the committee wanted to ensure that CTE courses were relevant and equipped students for career and college readiness.

The CTE oversight committee morphed into the Gaston County Schools Business Advisory Council.  The council is responsible for fostering a partnership between the school district and local businesses to ensure that students are prepared for life after graduation and have the skills necessary to be competitive in a global workforce.  The state now requires all school districts to have a business advisory group and used Gaston County’s oversight committee as a model.    

The Business Advisory Council members (listed in alphabetical order) are:

  • Dr. W. Jeffrey Booker, Superintendent of Schools
  • Greg Botner, Wilbert Plastics
  • Brett Buchanan, director of Career and Technical Education – secretary
  • Steve D’Avria, Gaston Regional Chamber – chairman
  • Dr. Bryan Denton, principal, Hunter Huss High School
  • Susan Farmer, Coats/Mannington (formerly Pharr Yarns)
  • Tim Gause, Duke Energy (retired)
  • Dr. John Hauser, president, Gaston College
  • John Lowery, Lowery Financial
  • Julie Roper, Dominion Energy
  • Chris Tolbert, Tindol Ford 

Dr. Booker added, “Not only do we want our students to be successful while they are in school, we want them to be ready for success when they graduate.  Through Career and Technical Education, students gain valuable knowledge in a particular career field and have opportunities to earn industry-recognized credentials – this gives our students an advantage as they enter the workforce after high school or go on to college to pursue additional education and training in a particular career field.”

Brett Buchanan, director of Career and Technical Education for Gaston County Schools and a former CTE teacher, knows how important it is for students to be prepared for the workforce.

“Students cannot wait until they graduate to decide what they are going to do with their life.  They have to start thinking about their future.  That is why we have expanded the number of CTE courses in our middle schools and high schools,” said Buchanan.  “We also are placing a career emphasis on our school choice programs as another way to provide students with opportunities to explore job possibilities and gain skills and credentials.” 

Buchanan says he is pleased with the progress that has been made over the past several years.  He points to partnership programs like the Manufacturing Career Expo, Students@Work, Educators in the Workplace, and Career Signing Day as well as apprenticeships and internships that have been instrumental in showing students and teachers what careers are available in Gaston County and building relationships between schools and the local business community.

“Career and Technical Education is key to student success because it introduces them to potential careers and helps to prepare them for their professional life,” explained Buchanan.  “Our CTE programs teach, train, guide, and empower students in a variety of career fields.  In addition to providing quality programs, we want to connect our students with potential employers so they can see the job opportunities available to them right here in Gaston County.  CTE really is a win-win situation.”

Number of CTE Credentials Earned by High School, 2019-2020 

Ashbrook High School                       2,297               (school ranks fifth in the state)

Bessemer City High School               1,287

Cherryville High School                     1,051

Stuart W. Cramer High School          1,706               (school ranks 14th in the state)

East Gaston High School                      865

Forestview High School                      1,721               (school ranks 13th in the state)

Gaston County Virtual Academy            40

Highland School of Technology            486

Hunter Huss High School                   2,976               (school ranks second in the state)

North Gaston High School                 1,082

South Point High School                    1,318

Warlick Academy                                   157

Total for Gaston County Schools       14,986             (district ranks first in the state)

Career and Technical Education Presentation