Students must choose career pathway before completing eighth grade


The age-old question asked of children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is one that soon will be taken much more seriously as all eighth-grade students will be required to choose a career pathway for their high school courses.

Griffin-Spalding County School System Assistant Superintendent Denise Burrell said the new requirement is a result of state legislation – the Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy (BRIDGE) Act – which was signed into law in May 2010.

“We’re thankful we’ve had two years. The state Board of Education spent one year operationalizing it and now, we’ll be implementing it,” Burrell said.

She explained the BRIDGE Act requires each student to have an individualized graduation plan that will map out the coursework for their four years of high school, with their chosen career pathway playing a pivotal role.

Students will continue to take core classes each year including English, math, science and social studies along with two electives. Electives will be determined based on students’ chosen pathway.

“That area of concentration really becomes the beginning of their pathway,” Burrell said.

As an example, she said students who choose the business pathway will study introduction to business technology as their ninth grade elective.

“The electives are already designed and set up based on what’s available on the local level,” she said.

Overall, the state of Georgia has established 17 career pathways including such options as agriculture, food and natural resources; architecture and construction; arts, audio/visual technology and communications; business management and administration; education and training; energy; finance; government and public administration; health science; hospitality and tourism; human services; information technology; law, public safety, corrections and security; manufacturing; marketing; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and transportation, distribution and logistics.

GCSC is prepared to offer all of these pathways except energy; finance; human services; public safety; manufacturing; and marketing.

“The local systems’ constraint is you can only teach what you have the staff to teach,” Burrell said. “We would like to teach public safety, but we don’t have the instructors. We could probably come up with that, but we would have to have enough students request it.”

GSCS has the ability to teach the following pathways:

One area of concern is that students will be required to choose their career pathway during spring semester of their eighth-grade year, and will have limited time to change that decision.

“The only flexibility you really have is between ninth and tenth grades. Otherwise, you won’t have enough time to complete the three courses required to be a pathway completer,” Burrell said.
Though some parents are concerned with this pending requirement, Burrell stressed that there are positive aspects.

“It looks really good when colleges see the career pathway choices. It asks students to think about what they’re really interested in. I don’t want people to think it’s all bad; it’s not,” she said, citing students who opt for health science. “After taking that pathway, they’re a licensed CNA (certified nursing assistant) when they graduate.”

Burrell said although the BRIDGE legislation requires the career pathway education process, she is uncertain what consequences may occur if a student does not complete the required elective courses.

“I guess they still graduate, but they’re not a completer, which is what they’re really pushing us to be. It is a requirement that we put this on here and have them choose to begin a pathway,” Burrell said. “I don’t think it prevents them from graduating, but I haven’t read anything that says what happens if they don’t complete a pathway.” Ω


  1. Jason Westmoreland says:

    this is a ridiculous idea, not only putting undue stress on kids, but making it that much more difficult to excel much less graduate…”I guess they still graduate, but they are not a completer” are you kidding me? BRIDGE…more like Building Resentful Individuals to Devalue Georgia’s Economy.

  2. Teresa Hancock says:

    I agree with you both. It is important for students to start thinking and planning about the requirements to get into college at an early age. Your senior year in high school is definitely too late. But to think it is realistic for an 8th grader to choose a career path, that is just absurd! And this article says by 9th or 10th grade your choice should be finalized or you won’t be able to complete your pathway, even more absurd! So now the student will have another title – an incompleter. It seems the legislators should at least be able to answer the question, “what happens if you do not complete the path?”

    I think it would be much more beneficial to expose the students to all pathways, giving them education requirements, salary expectations, careers within each pathway, etc. Sometimes children are sheltered to only see what their family members have experienced. Why not open their eyes to so much more?

  3. Anne Hendricks Childress says:

    My focus is a bit off the subject, but still on the subject: I’m not crazy about this BRIDGE program. AT ALL. And I have an 8th grade male. BUT….I think something should be done in MIDDLE SCHOOL in Connections to prepare the students on what types of career choices would be to do the BRIDGE program. So many of our students do not know the variety and extent of career options. And my biggest concern? The females. Here’s why: When I taught public school – middle grades especially – I had many females have no clue what their future careers would be when I would talk to them. Being a librarian, I had many conversations about this subject with the middle school females. I’d often “booktalk” biographical information about women like Alice Paul, Sandra Day O’Connor, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Oprah Winfrey, and Elizabeth Dole (among many others – a real woman who used her brain, not her body or a talent) to give the females an idea of “someone besides a singer, an actress, or the housewife idea.” What we needed – and still need – is a Women’s History Course for girls REQUIRED as a Connection in 7th or 8th grade so these young ladies can get an idea of careers. Just my two cents. 😀

    • James Black says:

      My interpretation of this article is that eighth grade students must choose a firm career path extending through high school graduation. It says nothing about what career choices they have from which to select. It is great that there are some staff members, such as librarians, who can help expose students to possible career choices. It is something entirely different to expect these children to make a life-changing decision at that point in their young, highly-transitional lives. Instead of forcing students to make this important decision, perhaps the school system of Spalding County should spend more money on career counselors beginning in the sixth grade or sooner. Perhaps having a Career Choice class as a required weekly or bi-weekly course every other year, beginning no later than seventh grade makes better sense and I’m surprised such a distinguished group of legislators had not thought of it first.

      • Anne Hendricks Childress says:

        BRILLIANT COMMENT and I LOVE IT:” Perhaps having a Career Choice class as a required weekly or bi-weekly course every other year, beginning no later than seventh grade makes better sense and I’m surprised such a distinguished group of legislators had not thought of it first.” I think that is PERFECT!!!!

  4. James Black says:

    This plan is preposterous. I went to college with two career pathways that I was considering in high school and neither one was anything like the other. College preparation for the two plans could not be any more different. Many of my friends who attended college (including myself) graduated from college with degrees that had nothing to do with their future careers, many with no definite careers decided by college graduation.

    I applied to two colleges, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. Ironically I got accepted to both schools on the same day. So the plan was to either go to Tech and study architecture or go to Georgia for pre-med. Though my high school preparation allowed me to make a choice, it was pretty much a flip of the coin where I ended up going. To limit a student’s college choices based on a decision made in the eighth grade is unfair and will lead many students to be unprepared to study at college things that are based on future experiences.

    These important decisions should be made when they are more mature and have been exposed to more career choices. There are enough pressures on high school students to drop out of school, than to force them to study things based on decisions made while clearly most are not prepared to make such choices.

    To expect eighth graders to know what they want to do after their education is complete puts unnecessary pressure and stress on kids who should be worrying about more relevant issues than some nebulous future that likely will never materialize.

    I challenge Griffin-Spalding County School System Assistant Superintendent Denise Burrell and ALL those who developed the BRIDGE Act to state truthfully whether they knew at the age 14-15 what career path they wanted to pursue and did they follow that path? Now you talk about a waste of educational resources, this has got to be one of the most outrageous ideas I have ever heard.

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