Education is essential for strong economic and social development in any society. A good education system not only leads to a skilled workforce, but enables people to make good decisions about personal and family health, to elect responsible and effective leaders, and to help understand the complicated world in which we live.
Public schools have been the principal providers of K-12 education in the United States since nationwide public education became mandatory in 1918. Our public schools, which are administered primarily by local and state governments, are designed to provide all of our youth with a relatively standardized curriculum that leads to a state recognized high school diploma. Analysis of any community shows that strong economic and social development requires more than the standard curricula found in the public school system. There is a general need for alternative and additional education programs that complement and extend the standardized curricula. In response to this need, local leaders established the Archuleta County Education Center in 1988.
Today, Archuleta County High School, the largest Ed Center program, focuses on individuals who failed in the public school system. Only 75 percent of Colorado students who are tracked from the ninth grade graduate with a high school diploma within four years. According to results available through www.schoolview.org, the graduation rate in Archuleta County is about the same. This very high failure rate leads to a great financial burden on society. The National Center for School Engagement estimates that each high school dropout will likely cost the community more than $200,000 over the course of his or her life.
The Ed Center provides three different paths for these students who have already failed in the public school system to continue their education. Some students take Ed Center classes that cover the same material they would have taken had they remained in the public school system. Satisfactory completion of this program leads to a high school diploma certified by the State of Colorado. Other students take classes that prepare them for the five exams required for the General Education Development (GED) high school equivalency diploma. Although not as rigorous as the state certified diploma, the GED does require a specified level of understanding in reading, writing, math, social studies and science. Other students use computer based instruction to study Reading For Information, Locating Information and Applied Math to prepare for exams that qualify them for both the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate, as well as the new CareerReady Colorado Certificate.
The education tools used to prepare high school dropouts for success are also used in the Ed Center Outreach programs. For example, people incarcerated in the county jail can work on their GED or Career Readiness Certificates. The Archuleta County Department of Human Services coordinates a program that allows some unemployed or under employed adults with families to study for their GED or Career Readiness Certificates. The Ed Center also serves that part of our community which needs instruction in speaking, writing and reading English. It is the only local organization that provides instruction and testing for the ESL (English as a Second Language) exam.
In addition, the Ed Center serves local businesses that want to improve the skills of their current employees or to screen the skills of potential applicants. This project uses the ACT WorkKeys computer program to assess a person’s skill levels in nine areas of learning. Skill levels within these areas of learning have been correlated with over 15,000 jobs often found in the workplace. Employers can use this program to determine if employees have the necessary skills in the nine areas of learning required to perform a specific job. Testing an employee with this program may reveal that the employee needs more training in two or three areas, but has a satisfactory understanding in the other areas of learning. This approach for assessing a person’s skill level in nine areas of learning has also been used by employers to determine which applicants have the basic skills required for a particular job, and by individuals who want to change careers. Another computer program, WIN Career Solutions is available to provide interactive training in each of the nine areas of learning.
The Ed Center also plays a leading role in community education. Some of these activities, such as training in First Aid, CPR, bookkeeping, computer classes and construction contribute to our community by raising the skill level of our workforce. Other activities, such as foreign languages, cooking, fly fishing, chair caning and dance contribute to the quality of life in our community. After-School tutoring is available Monday through Friday for students in the Elementary School. Student tutors/mentors from Pagosa High School work under certified teachers to tutor students recommended by their regular classroom teachers. Another part of the Ed Center After-School Program coordinates education enrichment activities for students in the Elementary and Intermediate Schools.
The Ed Center has also been working with the town and county to establish a high definition video conference facility in Pagosa Springs. This facility will provide high speed, two-way communications with similar facilities located anywhere in the world. This new capability will be used by the Ed Center to access a wide range of on-line education programs. In addition, local businesses can use this capability to communicate with partners and clients located around the world.
More information on all of the Ed Center programs will be presented at its ninth annual luncheon, which will be held on Tuesday, April 13, starting at 11:45 a.m. at Centerpoint Church on U.S. 160.
This annual Ed Center event serves two purposes. Proceeds of the luncheon are used to support the Ed Center, which is the principal provider of education that is either an alternative to the public school curriculum, or that extends beyond the public school curriculum. The luncheon also provides an opportunity for our community to learn about Ed Center programs and to discuss educational needs of our community.
The community is invited to purchase tickets for a donation of $50 each. You may buy individual tickets or invite friends to make a table of eight. This is an event that will enlighten you to some of the trials that ordinary people go through and the steps people take to help themselves or help others. It will make you proud of your community. The ACEC board has planned an exciting program that will highlight a presentation by Dr. Teresa Chasteen, CEO and president of Worldwide Interactive Network, Inc. Tickets are available at the ACEC (4th and Lewis streets) and at the Chamber of Commerce (402 San Juan St.).
For more information, call the Ed Center at 264 2835.