While there were more than 138,000 secondary school enrollments in some type of career tech program over the last year — and even though statewide, enrollment is growing — figures at the Moore Norman Technology Center are trending the opposite direction.

And that trend has school officials concerned.

Recent figures from the area’s four main high schools — Norman High School, Norman North High School, Moore High School and Westmoore High School — all show steep declines in secondary enrollment from 2004 to today.

“It’s not an easy solution,” said Susan Gladhill, Moore Norman’s director of educational services. “We don’t think we’re at the point of alarm, but we are concerned, certainly, about addressing this issue.”

During a last month’s Moore Norman Technology Center board meeting, Gladhill presented figures which paint a gloomy picture of the center’s secondary student enrollment over the past few years:

• Westmoore High School — from 90 students in 2004 to just above 50 students last year.

• Moore High School — 150 students in 2005, 200 students in 2006, 160 in 2007.

• Norman North High School —130 students in 2004, less than 100 in 2005, about 115 in 2007.

• Norman High School —140 students in 2003, about 120 in 2007.

And though Gladhill was hesitant to point a finger at any specific reason for the decline, she did say a number of factors contributed to the decrease, including new academic standards passed by the Oklahoma Legislature; the state’s ACE (student exit) test, which goes into effect next year; difficulty with school schedules, and athletics added back into some school’s daily schedule.

“It’s a combination of several things,” she said. “For example, some new legislation limits the number of electives that students can have.”

Because students are required to take more core classes, the number of electives has been reduced and fewer students can take career tech classes. Even so, career tech officials, Gladhill said, “support and encourage” academic rigor in their students.

“We want that academic rigor,” she said. “We support that fully.”

The difficulty seems to lie in scheduling.

When school officials in Moore put athletics back into the school day, the options for those students, Gladhill said, decreased. “It has made it more difficult for some students who want to come here.”

However, Moore school administrators say the change was requested by parents and needed to give students time with their families.

“That change was made at the request of our school patrons,” said Moore Superintendent Deborah Arato. “Before we changed the schedule, we had students who weren’t getting home until late in the evening. They had no family time.”

New curriculum and testing requirements have put public school and career tech officials “between a rock and a hard spot,” Arato said.

“We really need to be sure that we’re sending students out who are prepared for a post secondary education. We know for a fact that students need post secondary education. The onus is upon us. We have to make sure our students have the right education.”

And the issue, she said, is not going to be easy to fix.

“We have people working with career tech officials right now. But we don’t have a solution yet.”

Career tech officials praised the effort.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with how they (Moore officials) are working with us for a solution,” Gladhill said. “And we’re certainly not putting anything on the Legislature, but we’re trying to address the fact that it’s becoming more difficult for students to have a variety of options.”

Paula Bowers, a spokesman for the state Department of CareerTech, agreed.

“We know that that all technology centers are concerned about giving students the opportunity of coming to the center,” Bowers said. “But as students choose and look at what they have to do to graduate, they find more requirements placed on them.”

And despite the changes, statewide enrollment figures are showing an increase.

In 2005, the department recorded 135,359 secondary enrollments in some type of career tech program. Those figures increased to 138,444 in 2006 and 142,804 in 2007.

“Some of the tech centers are doing innovative things,” Bowers said. “Some are going to high schools and others have reduced their three-hour classes to two hours.”

The schools, she said, are working closely with the state’s higher education and common education systems and officials in their local districts.

“Each of our technology centers, hopefully, has a relationship with their area high schools. They are asking what would be advantageous for your child. Career tech is a great option for many students, but they know it’s not for everyone.”

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