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New Utica Community Schools initiatives focus on safety, preparing students for jobs of the future
New Utica Community Schools initiatives focus on safety, preparing students for jobs of the future
Posted on 09/07/2018
Kindergarten teacher welcoming a new student

Important changes for UCS families and students were in place when the doors in Michigan’s second largest school district opened this week for the 2018-2019 school year.

This year, Utica Community Schools students will benefit from a series of changes focused on career and college readiness, including new Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, a safe learning environment, enhanced computer science instruction, and a new elementary mathematics series.

Utica Community Schools remains a destination district by ensuring our students receive unique experiences that will open doors to them throughout their future,” Superintendent Dr. Christine Johns said.

Career and Technical Education (CTE)

The district has introduced new programs – a high school cybersecurity course and Stevenson Center for Manufacturing, Automation, Design and Engineering (MADE) – that prepare students for careers in high demand by employers.

The cybersecurity course will allow high school students to explore and earn certification in a field where demand for frontline specialists in southeast Michigan has grown by more than 400 percent since 2010.

Students completing the course will have the ability to earn CompTIA A+ certification, a globally-recognized industry standard.

Stevenson MADE is a four-year program that blends rigorous academic content with relevant, real world applications by making use of strong business relationships and post-secondary partners in the field of Advanced Manufacturing.

Students participating in the program can earn college credit. They will graduate with practical workforce experiences in fabrication, automation and design engineering, as well as industry recognized certifications.

Coding and Programming

UCS will continue to expand computer science offerings through its partnership with Code.org.

The district was among one of the first in the nation to work with the non-profit organization for professional development resources to integrate coding lessons in elementary media programs and expand courses for secondary students.

This year, the district is providing all junior high school students a course that will allow students to explore introductory concepts of coding and computer science.

The course, called Computer Science Discoveries, also promotes computer science as a medium for creativity, communication and problem solving.

According to Code.org, there are more than 550,000 computer jobs available nationally and less than 50,000 computer science graduates. In Michigan alone, Code.org reports that there are 14,345 jobs available today and only approximately 2,000 graduates.

Over the past two years, the national non-profit organization has been working with elementary media center teachers to integrate coding lessons.

Elementary lessons begin as early as kindergarten and include concepts such as algorithms, digital footprints, vocabulary strategies and problem solving.

Secondary teachers have been trained on integrating coding concepts into Algebra 1 courses taken by every UCS student. The district will also expand an Advanced Placement Computer Science Course to include all comprehensive high schools (Henry Ford II, Eisenhower, Stevenson and Utica) and the Utica Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology.

Safety and Security

The district is continuing its collaborative work with its law enforcement partners.

This year, all UCS sixth graders will take part in a preventative program that is focused on positive decision making.

The Sterling Heights Police Department is introducing Skills Mastery and Resistance Training (SMART Moves), this year through a nine-week program at 13 schools.

Students will continue to receive Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) in Shelby Township and Utica from the Shelby Township Police Department and through the Macomb County Sheriff ’s Department at Macomb Township elementary schools.

Both programs are focused on the importance of decision making and address issues such as bullying, substance abuse and responsible use of digital devices. SMART Moves content includes such topics as friendships and healthy relationships, refusal skills and media influences.

The prevention programs are part of the district’s Unified Security and Emergency Management Plan, developed in conjunction with area law enforcement.

Recently, the community partnerships resulted in the placement of School Resource Officers at the district’s four comprehensive high schools (Eisenhower, Henry Ford II, Stevenson and Utica).

As a result, the district’s in-house security specialists provide greater support to elementary and junior high schools.

Math Expressions

Elementary teachers are introducing a mathematics series - Math Expressions – that engages students in a comprehensive research-based mathematics program that addresses the rigor of all Michigan Academic Standards and the eight Mathematical Practices (http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice/).  

This series integrates student inquiry, discussions focusing on mathematical thinking and hands-on learning and problem solving, as well as the pairing of modeled examples and practice.

Math Expressions enable teachers to develop skills through experiences that create understanding through models, discussion, exploration, inquiry, and guided instruction.

The program was successfully piloted in UCS during the 2017-2018 school year.