Portage’s class of 2018 more inclined to enter workforce, according to the numbers

August 21, 2018

Compared to the class of 2017, members of Portage High School’s most recent graduating class proved more likely to enter the workforce or technical college rather than enrolling in a four-year college.

Eighty-two percent of the school’s 189 graduates from 2018 were deemed “career ready” compared to 73 percent of 175 members from its class of 2017, Principal Robin Kvalo told the school board Aug. 13. For its data, the school uses National College and Career Readiness Indicators, which employ metrics beyond test scores, including attendance, community service, early college credits, advanced placement courses and more.

Only 35 percent of this year’s graduates took a math course beyond Algebra II, compared to 63 percent the year before. Kvalo said the difference shows this year’s class is more inclined to enter the workforce or pursue technical education.

“They just didn’t see the need for taking math courses beyond Algebra II, and that’s really no surprise to any of us who’d been working with them for the past four years,” Kvalo said.

The percentage of students taking a math course during their senior year dropped from 86 percent in 2017 to 77 percent this year. Kvalo initially wondered if fewer students taking math courses would be something that affected one gender more than the other, but “we found the numbers were pretty even,” she told the board.

The percentage of students who gained workplace learning experience jumped from 4 percent in 2017 to 39 percent in 2018, which curriculum administrator Matt Paulsen credited to a concentrated effort involving things like taking more field trips to local businesses and working more regularly with community and business leaders to boost programming opportunities. Kvalo said other workplace learning experiences for the class of 2018 included youth apprenticeships, college visits and participation in the school’s building trades program, where students construct homes on School Road in Portage.

Paulsen — who served last year as high school assistant principal — said he does not believe the class of 2018’s higher preference for the workforce or technical college suggests any specific or significant trends going forward.

“Because the other classes behind them don’t follow suit,” he said. “If we were to see this two or three years in a row, then maybe that’s different.

“In general, I think our students are seeing they can go right into good-paying jobs with minimal education beyond high school, and that these are great careers.”

“I think we’ve done a nice job at the high school implementing new coursework, such as the STEM program that really sets up the pathway for some of these kids,” Paulsen added, referring to the science, technology, engineering and math program called “Enterprise,” which enters its third year in 2018-19. The three-credit course provides hands-on activities for sophomores interested in the skilled trades, allowing them to earn credits in core subject areas and opens up their senior years for apprenticeships.

The percentage of students who took dual-credit courses classified as career pathways — such as the path to becoming certified nursing assistants — climbed to 32 percent in 2018, up from 19 percent in 2017.

Predilection for working is probably the reason the school saw fewer students participating in two or more co-curricular activities, down from 59 percent in 2017 to 43 percent in 2018, Kvalo said in an email.

The percentage of students participating in 25 or more hours of community service also fell from 31 percent in 2017 to 22 percent this year. Kvalo said the school is considering offering more whole-class opportunities for community service to get that number higher.

More comparable numbers between the two graduating classes included 58 percent of the school’s 2018 graduates being deemed “college ready” compared to 59 percent from the class of 2017. The percentage of students deemed both college- and career-ready rose from 66 percent in 2017 to 69 percent in 2018. The percentage of students with 90 percent or better attendance dipped from 86 percent in 2017 to 83 percent in 2018.

In ACT exams, 22 percent of this year’s graduates met all four benchmarks — math, science, English and reading — compared to 32 percent last year.

Graduates who earned an A, B or C in AP courses climbed from 68 percent in 2017 to 92 percent this year, while 48 percent of the 2018 graduates took dual-credit courses through either Madison College or UW-Whitewater, compared to 51 percent in 2017.

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