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State Supt. Evers Visits Classroom Of The Future At LUHS

Dean S. Acheson photo

State schools superintendent Tony Evers stepped into the future of classrooms Tuesday with a visit to the Lakeland Union High School to promote Career and Technical (CTE) Education Month in Wisconsin.

Holding a stylus in front of a computer monitor and wearing special glasses, he got a glimpse of what Lakeland students experience in the school’s zSpace Lab, which combines elements of virtual reality and augmented reality. The students in the lab were “dissecting” human hearts and “tearing apart” the inside of internal combustion motors without getting their hands bloody or stained. Or, doing harm while learning the internal workings of both. The hardware and software that comprise the desktop computer allows students to manipulate virtual, 3D objects as learn STEAM concepts applicable to math, physics, engineering and biology. The acronym STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. The building tour led by administration included the graphic arts dual platform class (Mac and PC computer systems), LUHS Productions Studio, 3-D printer room, pre-engineering coursework with a youth apprenticeship capstone, and other CTE offerings at the 710-student body school.

During the welcome phase in the school’s auditorium with students, staff and school board members, the state schools superintendent praised the school’s CTE’s offerings. “The career technical education programs at Lakeland Union High School are recognized as some of the best in the state,” he said. They allow students to start careers immediately after graduation or enter college and technical schools better prepared. “Students that are involved with career technical education tend to graduate at a higher rate than any other students in the state, and tend to achieve at higher levels than any other students in the state,” he said. “If you’re involved in career technical education you are involved in applying those academic skills that you learn K through 12. Seeing where math fits in the world, being able to read blueprints, and other issues.”

Student Council president Haley Fritsche was on stage to tell the state superintendent what she and other students have gained from their CTE experiences, as well as her personal career goals. Starting from middle school, students get exposed to career choices and planning, she said. At the high school, there are over 20 extra-curricular activities and clubs to engage and challenge students. “Each one allows students to find their niche and to use skills for day-to-day life.” She said her participation in student council and DECCA has helped her the most. “Combined, these two clubs have taught me responsibility, how to be positive, how to be professional, but most importantly, the confidence that every person needs to move forward and to be happy with the choices they make.” The business department’s internship program gives students valuable work experience while earning high school credits, she noted. She has decided to pursue a career as an elementary teacher, and her work at a local day care has helped in that regard.

LUHS Board President Tom Gabert in his welcoming remarks highlighted the school’s improving graduation rates. “Over the last 20 years our staff, our students and our families have helped move our graduation rate to over 95 percent; even the most challenged students have graduation rates over 85 percent,” he said. “But we are ready to take the next step and build bridges not just with our communities, but with Nicolet Technical College, the UW system and beyond to help our students be successful going into the future. So we see you here as a bridge between what we have been doing so far and moving into the next new round.”

Upon his arrival, the state superintendent fielded a few questions from reporters, including thoughts about the Senate confirmation of Betsy DeVos that Tuesday as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. “As a state superintendent, I have to work with the new secretary. I am very hopeful that she is open-minded. You hear what she stands for, but I don’t think we are hearing the whole story because she has not had much vetting yet. “So I believe that when we move forward we’ll be in a position to probably influence her in her thinking around public instruction. I am looking forward to working with her, but I think we have a knowledge gap to bridge.” Regarding the number of school choice facilities in Wisconsin, he said: “We have to make sure that choice schools have accountability systems and all the other pieces. We also have to make sure our constitutional responsibility to fund public school comes first.”

He praised Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to allocate millions more of financial aid dollars for K-12 public schools in the 2017-18 budget, although he favored a different method of distribution to help struggling districts and students. Nor does Walker’s plan take into account local property values when determining how much state aid they will get – wealthy and comparatively poorer districts would get the same amount per pupil. Walker’s proposal would increase per student payment from $250 this year to $450 in the 2017-18 school year and $654 in the 2018-19 school year.

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