Plant Science Career Pathway Secondary Student Enrollment Trends
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to define enrollment trends of secondary students in courses under the Plant Science Career Pathway. Specifically, student ethnicities and gender were analyzed along with sub-groups to encapsulate the barrier these programs face when recruiting and retaining a more diverse population. The data were collected from the Texas Education Agency’s fall enrollment reports from the academic school years 2013, 2014, 2015 and were evaluated using descriptive statistics. The population consisted of secondary students enrolled in Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Plant Science Career Pathway Courses. It was conclusive that while student enrollment is increasing, there is a greater percentage of students of a white ethnicity when compared to all other ethnicities combined. While the female enrollment percentage has declined slightly over the years observed, females still make up the majority enrolled. Students representative of special populations by federal career and technology education legislation – such as those who are economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient, and/or those enrolled in special education classes – represented more than half of all students enrolled. These results suggest the ‘traditional’ student is a myth regarding students enrolled in the Plant Science Career Pathway. Recommendations resulting from this study include: incorporating educational philosophies like Diversity Inclusion, providing diverse representation in presented material, and tailoring activities to appeal to a broader definition of a plant science student. With these actions, this will not only diversify the horticulture programs; but will also help develop students’ soft skills, like cultural competency, which is highly sought after by horticulture employers. The pathways are designed to prepare students in content; however, increasing diversification in the program will help prepare students more holistically to navigate the workplace’s ever-changing diverse platform.
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