Rummel adds two career-track subjects to curriculum
Archbishop Rummel has beefed up its academic curriculum for the 2013-14 school year. Incoming freshmen now have options of year-long courses in law studies and biomedical sciences through senior year.
“Part of the purpose (of offering these courses) is to get students thinking about careers,” said Dr. Sarah Ross, assistant principal for academics at Archbishop Rummel.
Other reasons prompting the addition of these two courses of study include: alumni requests and student career surveys; a general sense in the community that Archbishop Rummel’s curriculum wasn’t quite as strong as its competitors; and national and statewide lags in science scores on the ACT subtest.
“Part of it was we wanted to improve our science outcomes and tie into career opportunities in the city,” Ross said.
What will be taught
Rummel started from scratch on the law studies curriculum, creating it in collaboration with area legal professionals. For biomedical sciences, Rummel teamed with the nonprofit Project Lead the Way and is using its proven computer software curriculum that has developed strong (STEM) science, technology, engineering and math programs for high schools but added a component that will include frequent interaction with the biomedical industry.
Professionals in each field will advise students, be guest lecturers and provide internship opportunities for students taking upper-level courses in each discipline.
Specifics in each segment
The components of law studies to be taught over a four-year sequence include: speech and debate in freshman year; principles of free enterprise sophomore year; civil and criminal law junior year; and forensic sciences, working with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s and Coroner’s offices the fourth year.
The biomedical sciences program will incorporate the principles of biomedical sciences; human body systems; biomedical innovation; and medical interventions. Ross said Archbishop Rummel is working closely with Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge and Acadian Ambulance.
The 1,500-acre BioDistrict New Orleans, which is being developed around the Tulane corridor in Mid City and includes the new Veterans Administration Hospital and proposed state hospital complex, was a huge factor in adding the biomedical discipline.
“By 2020, there will be 34,000 new jobs because of the Bio-District,” Ross said. “This is our way to prepare our students to come back home (after college) and have a good job.”
Ross said the skills students will learn are invaluable, whether they ultimately pursue a career in either field or not. Take, for example, debate skills and seeing them in action at real trials in the law curriculum. That can transfer to just about any profession.
Dr. Nicholas Bazan is a professor and director of the LSU Neuroscience Center of Excellence and heavily involved in the new program. He can’t stress enough the exposure students will gain from participation, not to mention the contacts.
“I believe it will be an extraordinary experience,” Dr. Bazan said “This is the time of life when students need to discern their profession. I don’t think we are doing enough to expose them to the medical careers or intellectual inquiries into them to ask, ‘Can I do that?’ We really need to awaken a vocation in them. The younger a person gets interested in the medical sciences, the better for their future. There is so much to learn and understand.”
Ross said Christian Brother Gale Condit, president of Archbishop Rummel, was a huge advocate of adding the new disciplines, even considering the huge financial commitment of more than $100,000. He was familiar with Project Lead the Way while at St. Paul’s in Covington, where the engineering component of that program was added. Brother Gale became aware of the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses after seeing ACT scores in science rise after only a few years of engineering.
Takes place of electives
Each segment will take the place of electives such as art or band and earn students one Carnegie credit annually. The new disciplines do not replace course requirements for the state or TOPS. Students can choose to continue the same track all four years or take as few or as many courses in each field as they can manage.
“If students decide not to stay with it, they do not have to,” Ross said.
Archbishop Rummel initially has opened two sections of each curriculum, meaning up to 40 students will be accepted in each discipline.
“If demand increases, we will add more sections,” Ross said.
Teachers who teach in either the biomedical or law track will have intensive training and resources available to them, Ross said.
Rummel alumni Joseph Burckel, a biology teacher, will lead the first-year biomedical track. In addition to teaching biology, he taught medics how to do first-line care in Afghanistan during the Gulf War, Ross said.
Tony Taffaro, who facilitated the Pave the Way curriculum at St. Paul’s, will join Rummel’s staff as a science teacher and assist with the biomedical segment. He has a master’s degree in nursing.
The knowledge gained in the two disciplines will strongly position Rummel students in career readiness and awareness, Ross said.
“By having the four years in high school, it shows the early interest in the career cluster, and students will develop relationships with people in the field,” Ross said. “By networking with professionals, they will have a solid idea of what they want to do and how to get there.”