Information Technology Program
York County School of Technology
Overview of Initiative
In September 2013, York County School of Technology launched an integrated information technology program for high school students. This program, created by combining three stand-alone information technology (IT) programs, was developed in response to the demand for more versatile, well-rounded IT employees in the local workforce.
Prior to the new IT program, students at York County School of Technology selected one of three distinct IT programs and remained in that program for the duration of their time at the school. The redesigned program offers students a broader education with two years of foundational courses (eight classes, one per marking period) followed by two years of instruction in a specialty area. As a result, first- and second-year students gain a foundation in the fundamental areas of IT, including computer repair, programming, networking, and management. Third- and fourth-year students take more specialized courses by selecting an area of concentration in Computer Networking, Computer Repair Technology, or Computer Programming. In addition, students may earn certifications that allow for the waiving of certain college classes at Penn College and Harrisburg Area Community College.
This program strives to meet several goals. First, students who complete the Information Technology program will be better prepared to make postsecondary training and/or career choices because of the cross-training obtained during the foundational coursework. Second, the program is designed to create a pipeline of skilled workers for local employers, many of whom are small- to medium-sized businesses that seek versatile IT employees who can accomplish a range of tasks. Finally, because students undergo a more intensive interview process with the instructors prior to acceptance into the program, those who enter the program are aware of, and agree to, the program’s high expectations. This may result in a higher level of student engagement and a higher program retention rate.
School administrators indicated that the support from local businesses and input from the program's strong, active advisory boards were key elements in the redesign of the IT program. Previously there were separate Occupational Advisory Committees (OAC) for the school's three IT programs. An early step in the process was to combine these OACs into one group.
Lack of clearly defined curricula for the newly created foundational courses presented an initial challenge. In preparation for the new program, the four teachers in the IT department reviewed the task lists of each of the three existing programs and identified knowledge and skills that would form the integrated foundation of the program. A critical part of curriculum development was identifying the appropriate required Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) Codes that align with the standards set in Pennsylvania.
The instructors also created a screening process for the program, which provides an opportunity to interview prospective students and provide them with a better sense of the requirements and expectations of the program.
In the first year of program implementation, school administrators reported an increase in overall program enrollment and retention. In addition, there was an increase in attendance among freshmen enrolled in the program, with many students reportedly having perfect attendance.
Instructors indicated that at the completion of the foundational courses, students seemed to have a stronger sense of direction when choosing a specialty. They also noted an increased sense of community within the program since all of the students now have classes with all of the instructors over the first two years. Additionally, the instructors themselves have a higher level of interaction and camaraderie because of the new program structure.
Instructors and administrators are planning to enhance the program by offering CISCO networking systems and offering certifications that match the needs of local businesses. They are also looking for sponsors to help expand the equipment available for students.
The instructors are working with an oversight committee and local businesses to identify more opportunities for students to engage in work-based learning experiences. Currently, there are four in-school IT cooperative (co-op) positions available, but the number of students who are able to complete co-ops with local businesses is limited. This is due in part to age restrictions (many positions require students to be at least 18 years of age) and transportation limitations.
The instructors at York County School of Technology agree that collaboration and flexibility are key elements to the success of this new program. They continue to meet together twice a month for common planning time. During these sessions, they review the overall development of the program and talk about student performance, including how to accommodate students who may wish to change specialties.
The instructors strongly believe that an integrated foundation of IT skills is typically needed in order for students to find employment in a small business environment and to be ready for postsecondary education. The comprehensive IT program meets and exceeds the expectations of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s "task lists" for computer science programs, providing students with a broad foundation of hardware, software, and networking skills.
York County School of Technology
Dr. David Thomas, Director