A smart approach for kids

Published 11:15 pm Friday, November 7, 2014

Considering the adjustments students must make between eighth and ninth grades, it would be tempting for educators to try to focus all the attention of those new high school students on academics, the hard skills learned from books and lectures and then evaluated through standardized tests.

To be sure, studies reveal that the transition into high school is one of the hardest and most critical times of a student’s pre-college education. That first year in high school can mean the difference between a student who excels and one who just gets by. Seeds of disappointment and mediocrity that are planted in the ninth grade can sprout into full-fledged discontent in just a couple of years, even resulting in students who drop out of school before graduation.

So in a very real sense, the things that take place in a high school student’s freshman year can be life-changing.

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With that in mind, one of the unusual and refreshing things the Suffolk public school system arranges for its high school freshmen is a chance to connect with potential future employers during the annual Career and Technical Education Professional Student Conference. The conference, which was held Thursday for the seventh consecutive year, puts the young students together with some of Suffolk’s biggest and most important employers.

Students who attend the event attend various sessions intended to help them improve their soft skills — those that aren’t taught in lectures or from schoolbooks. The skills include work ethic, integrity, being a team player, problem solving, reading and writing and communication skills and others. They’re the kinds of skills that might not cause one to land the job but whose absence can certainly keep him out of the running for it.

Considering all the pressures ninth-grade students experience in their new schools — and all the pressure school administrators face in connection with making sure those students succeed — choosing to continue holding programs like the CTE conference takes a measure of courage. But the choice to do so shows a refreshing and laudable creativity in the system’s approach to education.