South Summit High charts a new path forward
To Rob Patrick, a counselor at South Summit High School, it doesn’t make much sense for students or schools to think of graduation as an end goal.
The objective, he says, should instead be ensuring students are ready for success in whatever happens after they shake the principal’s hand and receive their diplomas. That’s why Patrick has revamped the school’s college and career readiness program. The hope is that it gives students a 10-year plan, comprising of the four years of high school, then the six following years, which may include attending a four-year university, going to a technical college or entering the workforce.
"The problem is school is supposed to be preparing you for whatever you do after, and that is supposed to be preparing you for the workforce," Patrick said.
To be effective at that, Patrick says schools must be able to first identify what careers students are interested in pursuing after high school. The next step is to find the path that best gets them there, whether it’s through a university or a technical college or otherwise.
Patrick’s program is designed to do just that, by having students fill out a broad questionnaire about their future goals. Students start by selecting careers they’re interested in, then they choose the post-secondary educational paths that will get them there — for instance, someone wanting to be an architect might choose a four-year university, while a student with ambitions of being a welder might pick a technical school.
From there, students map out their high-school careers, charting their class schedules through their senior years, to find the best path to get them to their goals. This allows student to chart paths to graduation that allow for taking more classes related to their desired field.
Students will take the questionnaire yearly, allowing them to track their progress and change their desired career, if necessary. The tracking also allows the school to see what its students are interested in, which may, in turn, affect which classes it offers.
"This way you’re keeping up-to-date with your students and not choosing for them," Patrick said. "It changes over time. It’s not something that’s static."
The most important aspect of the evaluations is that it allows students to progress through their education with a goal in mind, Patrick said. It’s a much more effective means of preparing them than the cookie-cutter model of "graduate high school, get a four-year degree, enter the workforce" that does not account for the individual needs and best fits for students.
To Principal Steve Camp, the program represents a shift in the way the school thinks about educating students.
"It’s a key tool to getting kids to where we want them to be," he said.
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