Midlothian Independent School District is using a new career counseling service to prepare its students for the future.

Becky Wiginton, MISD’s director of college and career readiness, briefed the MISD board of trustees at its recent meeting on Naviance, a college and career technology solution for students to explore their strengths and interests for post-secondary planning.

“Naviance is a tool for students to use in order to research, explore their interests … and determine what their strengths are and where their interests are,” Wiginton said.

Deputy superintendent Judy Walling said MISD has used Naviance since 2010, but is in its second year of using it as its primary resource because of its new features.

With Naviance, students are able to use feedback from assessments to help guide them when making decisions regarding post-secondary options that are a fit for them as well as possible fields of study. An added benefit, Wiginton noted, is that students can access Naviance from home.

“Students can do many things in Naviance,” Wiginton said. “They can build resumes, search for colleges, search for careers, and set and track goals. When they complete an assessment, they’re getting the results themselves, and then they can look at those results and explore further.”

Tools within Naviance allow counselors to assign tasks specific to students as they explore options. Students can create goals, build resumes, discover career paths, investigate colleges, explore careers and take assessments/surveys to better understand their personal learning style and interests. Parents can also access their children’s results.

Students can enter Naviance as early as sixth grade and can track their progress all the way through high school. MISD is embracing Naviance by establishing “scopes and sequences” by grade level starting at seventh grade, Wiginton told the board.

Sixth-graders at both middle schools are focusing on career exploration, while seventh- and eighth-graders are diving a little bit deeper. The curriculum gets progressively more extensive with each grade level, with an eye on post-high school goals.

“What I like about this is it drives home the fact that we’re not only focusing on academics and academic success,” Wiginton said. “Sometimes (students) struggle post-secondary, so they did a research-based study to look at what six competencies they wanted to drive through tasks and surveys and exploration for students.”

Those competencies include social/emotional learning, interpersonal skills, academic/career/college knowledge, and transition skills — that is, the transition from middle to high school, or from high school to college.

Paying for college is another item that Naviance covers, with college tuitions, scholarship and grant opportunities listed. For district counselors, the service also tracks alumni and their progress through college.

An overview of the program is available at www.naviance.com.

CTE updates

Related to career readiness, MISD director of secondary learning Nikki Nix gave an update to the board on the district’s career technical education (CTE) program.

Nix told the board that the 16 “career clusters” identified by the Texas Education Agency has been updated to become to 14 “programs of study,” realigning those items with the ever-evolving job market in the state. Of those programs of study, MISD offers courses aligning with 13 of them, with the newly-announced Energy program the only exception, Nix said.

Inside the programs are 24 “pathways” that are offered at each of the district’s two high schools, Nix said. The only pathways that aren’t offered at both campuses are civil engineering, which is offered only at Midlothian High School, and aerospace engineering, which is offered only at Heritage High School.

Nix said five new courses were added for the 2018-19 school year and this year, 10 new courses have been added. Certifications have also grown, with CNA, EMT, cosmetology, welding, food handling and automotive service available for students.

“In addition to that we had 2,381 students earn a cybersecurity certification … in both middle and high school,” Nix told the board. “This year this will move into career tech classes in middle school and high school … That’s something to celebrate, that many students earning that certification.”

MISD’s CTE program is also reaching out to local industry partners, Nix said, with group breakfasts focusing on different industries in the area and an innovator’s launch last April, as well as donations and other interactions with community businesses.

As the current school year progresses, MISD’s CTE program has some big plans, including a community education program where CTE students teach courses to adults on topics ranging from cookie decorating to FBI crime scene investigation.

“Moving into this year, our focus is to expand the CTE experience … and promote that to the community and students,” Nix said. “We want to plan a CTE awards banquet; we want those students to have the same experience that athletes do to be recognized for being the top in their program.”