Because grades and test scores don’t tell the whole story, Sheboygan Falls School District officials are rewriting the definition of a high school graduate who is ready for college and career success.
The district is in its third year of fully implementing a program that expands the indicators used to determine how prepared a high school student is to enter college or other academic training or go directly into the workplace on graduation. By completing a series of “credentials” – ranging from attendance rate to extracurricular participation – students can prove that they are ready for life after high school.
“Grades can certainly be good indicators of readiness, but for many that is not always the case. There are so many other factors that are at play when you ask’Are students ready for after high school?’", explains Sheboygan Falls High School counselor Janis Jarosch. “We ask 16, 17, and 18 years olds to make huge decisions that affect their lives and what they will do. To me, being ready means that you have what it takes to show up, persevere when obstacles arise, make informed decisions, and do your best to achieve your goals.”
Jarosch says that the district began exploring the process of Career and College Ready Credentials after reading about a national effort called “Redefining Ready” that seeks to use research based metrics to assess college, career and life readiness of students. Sheboygan Falls began implementing the credential program six years ago and the class of 2018-2019 was the first class to be awarded credentials. That year, 21 students, or 16% of the graduating class, earned the credentials. In the 2019-20 school year, 16 students, or 13% of the graduating class, earned credentials. Students who earn the credentials are recognized with a medallion at graduation.
To earn the recognition, students must:
- Have a 90% attendance rate over 4 years
- Be involved in at least 2 organized co-curricular activities in 4 years
- Complete at least one work-based activity such as job shadowing, youth apprenticeship or co-op program and prepare a written reflection on it
- Complete an Academic and Career Planning portfolio using the district’s web-based system
- Complete 25 hours of service based activities and prepare a reflection on one of them
- Make at least one visit to a college campus or career fair and complete a reflection on the experience
- Achieve a 2.8 grade point average over 8 semesters
- Have a soft skill evaluation completed by 5 people
- Achieve a grade of C or higher for both semesters of Algebra 2 and Algebra 2/Trig
According to Jarosch, these credentials help determine whether a student is college and career ready by proving that students are able to apply what they have learned, demonstrate employability skills and the fact that they can be responsible citizens and build connections with others, and are able to understand their own abilities, skills and interests and link them with a career path.
“The credential to me says: ‘I'm more than just grades. I'm involved. I provided myself opportunities to grow in my career planning. I'm informed. I care about what happens next.’”, she says.
Helping students to be more prepared for life after high school through the credential program also means that the district is responding to a local shortage of employees by creating students who have identified possible career paths by the time they graduate, says Mary Lofy Blahnik, Sheboygan Falls’s Director of Instruction.
"We're working with INSPIRE Sheboygan County and the employers in our area. We hear from business and industry in Sheboygan County about what the workforce shortage needs are here and then try to help build pathways and opportunities to show kids there are jobs right here in the county," she explains. "Many times students are not even aware of opportunities, and getting them to experience INSPIRE’s virtual job shadows, work co-ops, and other career-based venues goes a long way in expanding their thinking about local careers."
And when they find the right job, they will be ready.