Each year, Smyrna High School sends a new group of graduates out into the real world. Some graduates will attend high school, some will get a job and others will join the military. Regardless of the path students are on, administrators and teachers in the Smyrna School District are continuously looking for ways to make sure graduates are prepared for life after school.

Over the last several years, students at Smyrna High School have had more and more options available for them to find a path forward. Smyrna School District Curriculum Director Sandy Shalk believes it's important to incorporate new programs into the academic structure in the district.

"By offering all these pathways, all the AP courses, all the college preparatory classes, it's a roadmap for students to be successful. But it's incumbent on the students and the parents to take advantage of what's offered here," Shalk said.

Increasing advanced placement courses

Roughly 10 years ago, students at Smyrna High School had their choice of three AP courses: European History, Calculus, and Studio Art. Now students can choose from upwards of 14 classes from AP Spanish, AP English Literature & Composition, AP Chemistry and more. This year was the first time students could take an AP Environmental Science course. Next year, students will have the chance to take AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics.

District Instructional Specialist Mike Feldman said when considering adding AP courses, there needs to be interest from both students and teachers. Feldman said the district has now formed teams that look into ways to better prepare students for advanced placement classes before entering the high school.

Smyrna High School Principal Stacy Cook said there has been in increase in the number of students enrolling in AP classes partially due to the work of the district in increasing knowledge of AP classes. The high school has open enrollment for AP courses so any student can take a class.

"We reach out to students who may not even think about taking AP classes. By using PSAT scores, we're able to see a student's AP potential," Cook said. "We express to families that the scores are showing a student has the ability to do well in AP class."

The numbers prove that there is a growth in the AP program at Smyrna High School. In 2005, there were less than 100 students enrolled in AP courses; currently there are 481 students. In 2005, less than 20 AP exams were passed; last year nearly 100 AP exams were passed.

More career pathways

While in high school, students are required to choose a career pathway in which the student will take at least three classes in an area of study. Pathways range from art to accounting to agricultural structures.

Cook said there are more pathways now than when she graduated and maybe even more than there were five years ago.

"This is part of us trying to make sure we're offering the best courses we can for our students," Cook said.

Pathways for allied health and S.T.E.M. will be added next year.

Shalk and Feldman said the additions of the two pathways are an extension of what's already offered at the high school. There are currently some S.T.E.M. related courses while health is the one area missing from the pathways.

Smyrna School District Superintendent Debbie Wicks believes now is the time to add both pathways at the high school.

"Both of those are key to our students' future employment and we're excited about both of them," Wicks said.

Since there are a number of health care providers in the area, administrators felt this would be the opportune time to add a health-related pathway. As for S.T.E.M., Cook said it's the big buzz word in education right now; schools across the nation are looking for ways to introduce the program into classrooms.

Smyrna Middle School started a S.T.E.M. class this year that has been welcomed with excitement from students. Cook said she's heard of the excitement for the class at the middle school and is already seeing similar interest from high school students.

"The biggest problem for the pathway is that we'll probably only have one class due to the number of staff and there may be more interest than the seats available in one class," Cook said. "It's a good problem to have but a problem we'll have to figure out."

A well-rounded student

The district's focus on finding more programs for students is all part of a desire to help students become well-rounded students.

"I think it's always part of the conversation, finding ways to give kids the most and best opportunities that they could have for whatever they think their vision of success is, and putting the best teachers in the best position to help those kids prepare for their journey," Feldman said. "Which is why the idea of the well-rounded student is what every conversation revolves around."

Smyrna High School Career Pathways for 2014-2015 school year

AccountingAllied HealthAir Force Junior ROTCAgricultural StructuresAdministrative ServicesAnimal ScienceDigital Business CommunicationsExploring ChildhoodFamily & Community ServicesJobs for Delaware GraduatesMarketing ManagementNatural Resources & Environmental SciencePerforming & Visual ArtsPlant ScienceProfessional AcademicPower & Technical SystemsS.T.E.M.World LanguagesAdvanced Placement Courses for 2014-2015 school year

English Literature & CompositionEnglish Language & CompositionEuropean HistoryU.S. HistoryU.S. Government & PoliticsWorld HistorySpanish LanguageStudio ArtBiologyChemistryCalculus ABStatisticsEnvironmental ScienceMicroeconomicsMacroeconomics