Published Online: April 28, 2004
Published in Print: April 28, 2004, as Vocational Education

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Flying Lessons

Officials at a high school in Clearfield, Utah, had sought to help incoming sophomores plan for future careers through a federally financed class known as "Falcon Focus."

But some parents of students heading to Clearfield High next fall have sought to clip the falcon’s wings, arguing that their children’s time could be better spent in other areas of study.

At last count, 75 out of 900 students scheduled to enter the high school, which serves students in grades 10 through 12, have sought to opt out of the career-oriented class, administrators say. John G. Mills, an assistant principal at Clearfield High, said that while school officials regard the class as an elective, they strongly encourage sophomores in the 1,900-student school to take it.

"We [see] it as an opportunity," Mr. Mills said.

Students in the class listen to guest speakers, such as stockbrokers and veterinarians, talk about careers, and learn about financial management and debt. They receive assignments and a grade for the class, which is named after the school’s beaked, winged mascot.

Some parents have maintained that the school has tried to make the course mandatory. Some feared it would take away opportunities for elective classes; others worried it would detract from college-preparatory work, Mr. Mills said.

Yet school officials don’t believe Falcon Focus requires students to make those sacrifices. The class is held for one, 90-minute block out of a four-block day, every other day, Mr. Mills said. "There’s plenty of time" for academic honors, he said.

The class is supported by a three-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Smaller Learning Communities program, which promotes smaller classroom settings within large high schools.

Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the department, said in a statement he did not believe that the school’s federal funding would be jeopardized by the student withdrawals, as long as the school, and the 59,000-student Davis school district to which it belongs, remained committed to keeping learning communities small, as outlined in the grant proposal.

And despite the parent pullouts, Mr. Mills said, Falcon Focus will stay aloft as an elective class at Clearfield High.

—Sean Cavanagh

Vol. 23, Issue 33, Page 6

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