Beattie boosts advanced manufacturing program

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To provide A.W. Beattie Career Center students with skills and certifications for jobs in advanced manufacturing, the school's joint operating committee has approved the purchase of equipment.

In January, the McCandless school serving nine north school districts received a $44,000 grant from the state Department of Education to buy a humanoid robot and a robotic arm used in manufacturing and industrial operations.

Assistant director Sandra Niggel said another state grant for supplemental equipment will cover $30,000 of the $41,000 cost for other new equipment, which will support the science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM, curriculum.

It will be used to teach students the fundamentals of systems used in industrial, agricultural and mobile applications along with modern technical skills in plastics and polymer science using injection molding.

"Along with the expansion of our robotics and advanced manufacturing programs, this equipment will help take students on additional career paths in the field of advanced manufacturing," Mrs. Niggel said.

Beattie also has accepted an invitation from NOCTI, a provider of curricular and instructional improvement tools for secondary and post-secondary institutions, to become one of four schools in the state to participate in a program that will provide professional development to educators for the purpose of making instructional improvements.

Mrs. Niggel said the program involves five Beattie teachers and will help students increase their performance levels on the NOCTI exam, which she described as an inter-program occupational competency test given at the end of students' three years at Beattie.

"We're trying to create a culture of NOCTI awareness," said Mrs. Niggel, noting that eight years ago, students didn't hear much about the exam until it was time to take it.

"Now we realize how important it is," she said. "It's a way of letting industries know that our kids are competent or advanced in particular areas."

Beattie has a statewide agreement with many colleges and post-secondary institutions. Students need to do well on the NOCTI exam to qualify for college credits.

In working to improve students' success in taking the NOCTI, Beattie organized curriculum sessions with teachers to identify areas where they could boost test results.

"This action appeared to make a significant difference," Mrs. Niggel said. "In 2012, 69 percent of our seniors tested as competent or advanced. In 2013, that number rose to 81 percent. Along with increasing NOCTI scores, last year we gave out 885 industry certifications to students."

Last month, in an initiative supported by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Career and Technical Education, NOCTI announced that it was teaming up with MAX Teaching Inc., a staff development provider for classroom instructional improvement, to focus on effectively interpreting NOCTI reports to spur individual and program improvement.

"MAX Teaching is good at prioritizing instructional strategies," Mrs. Niggel said. "They help students take better notes and pull out critical information through active involvement."

NOCTI President and CEO John Foster said the collaboration with MAX Teaching will help to elevate the importance of NOCTI reports by showing instructors how to easily mine their data and focus on improving instruction in the classroom and individually.

"We have always used MAX Teaching, and now NOCTI has asked us to be one of the sites where their group of researchers and instructional strategists will work with our teachers to develop an action plan for instructional improvement," Mrs. Niggel said. "Our goal is to see [NOCTI] scores in the 90s."

education - neigh_north

Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com. First Published October 17, 2013 1:28 AM


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