Explore Arlington ISD - specialized programs

Posted in on November 16, 2021

To Christian Dipert Jr., it was the coolest thing ever.

To his parents, not so much.

The Martin High School junior found a way to hack into his own computer system and completely shut down the router, wiping out virtually everything.

After a verbal scolding from his parents, Christian had an epiphany.

Maybe he could do this sort of thing for a living.

STEM Academy at Martin

As it turned out, Christian was already enrolled to take a cybersecurity course in the STEM Academy at Martin, which he is doing now “and learning tons of stuff,” he said during Explore Arlington ISD, the annual event held at the Dan Dipert Career and Technical Center (CTC) where students and parents learn about the district’s array of specialized programs. Well over 1,200 registrants attended, perusing tables set up to provide information on everything from the International Baccalaureate and early college programs to fine arts and world languages.

Explore Arlington ISD

Next fall the district opens the doors for students to take an even deeper dive into the rapidly growing field of cybersecurity, as well as business.

P-TECH (Pathways to Tech)

The first batch of students will begin classes at Lamar’s P-TECH (Pathways to Technology) program where they can earn a high-level certificate for entry-level jobs in cybersecurity.

P-TECH is similar to Arlington Collegiate and Arlington College and Career high schools. It allows students least likely to attend college an opportunity to receive both a high school diploma and an industry-based certification and/or an associate degree with the added bonus of stockpiling up to 60 hours of college credit free from Tarrant County College Southeast.

What sets the P-TECH model apart from early college schools is its laser-focused career concentration and provision of work-based education. The program is aligned with regional workforce opportunities and allows students to gain experience through internships, apprenticeships and other job training programs.

Another P-TECH enticement: unlike Arlington Collegiate, it offers more of a traditional high school experience, which allows students to participate in extracurricular activities like sports and band.

As for its curriculum, “We will be more specific in our content,” Lamar Assistant Principal Carolyn Longoria.

Explore Arlington ISD - specialized programs“For instance, we are pitching the business portion to students who one day want to own their own business. We will teach them the skills to help to organize and manage that business.”

Students Thoughts on Programs

Students who lined up to visit its information booths were told how the business portion will include both business management and accounting.

Not interested in cybersecurity or business? P-TECH is already in its second year at Bowie High School where students can choose among four career pathways in the medical field, including pharmacy technician.

“I’m really interested in pharmacy,” said Sydney Tucker, a Gunn Junior High eighth-grader visiting the P-TECH booth with her mother.  Sydney isn’t sure if college is in her plans.

“I guess I just like the idea of working behind a counter and helping people get the right medicines they need to help them with whatever they are having trouble with.”

Explore Arlington ISD - specialized programsDr. Cavazos Speaks

This annual information smorgasbord of Arlington ISD specialized programming is essential, said Superintendent Dr. Marcelo Cavazos, partly because students are often encouraged by the prospect that their future doesn’t have to include college if, like Sydney from Gunn, it is not on your radar.

On hand at Explore Arlington ISD were instructors of CTC classes where students are able to earn industry certifications in fields like welding, veterinary assistance, patient care and emergency dispatch. All are jobs they can step into right after leaving the graduation stage.

“We all have different plans, different pathways,” Cavazos said. “It is important that each student within our district is being met where they are and then help them find their path. These specialized programs are a great way to do that.” 

There’s a lot to choose from, and many start early.

Parents who feel that a better academic fit for their child is an IB curriculum that focuses on molding well-rounded, self-motivated students no longer have to wait until high school to get that type of education.

Crow Leadership Academy starts with kindergarten.

“The IB framework is about student ownership of their own learning and developing that critical thinking that’s going to set them up for success in that high school program,” said IB Coordinator Jen Ruby. “We develop the curriculum for a free base framework involving questioning about their learning, creating plans and drawing connections. So they own that process. The other way is through service and leadership. What makes it a little different from high school is that it is for every child at our school. It is not a program within the school.”

Connecting specific learning throughout a child’s educational career is the goal, whether it is technology, the sciences, or fine arts.

Fine Arts and Dual Language Academies

In fact, kindergarten students starting the fine arts and dual language programs at Jones and Corey academies can now continue that educational thread at Gunn Junior High and Fine Arts and Dual Language Academy, and eventually, high school.

Explore Arlington ISD - specialized programs“They are able to take piano, dance, all the things they can take at Jones and Corey,” said Gunn principal Dr. Matt Varnell. “Students from both of those schools are meshing together very well.”

Varnell’s educational philosophy at Gunn also covers the overall philosophy of Arlington ISD’s specialized programming and touches on Cavazos’ “different pathways” approach to education.

“The question education asks is how smart are you?” Varnell said. “That’s the wrong question. What we do in these academies is we ask, how are you smart? If we don’t teach a kid that being artistic is a way of being smart, or being athletic, or being scientific or a writer or a strong communicator, those are all ways of being smart.

“We’ve always known that. But for some reason we don’t always send that message. So, we strive to send a message loud and clear that there are lots of ways for you to be smart and successful.”

If one of our specialized programs interests you, you can find out more information on our specialized programs page. You can also join us for a virtual meeting on early college high schools and P-TECH Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. You can register for that here.