High schools send 3 of 10 students to Career Center

Almost three of every 10 Warren County School District students in grades 10 through 12 attended Warren County Career Center last year.

The completion rate is nearly 100 percent and students come out ready to face their futures.

The school has a reputation for excellence with many students receiving industry certifications and a handful every year excelling at state- and national-level competitions.

In tough economic times, opportunities for WCCC completers are plentiful. The school placed 100 percent of its 2014 graduating students in either jobs, post-secondary education, or the military.

The Career Center offers the opportunity for college credit and cooperative work experience through a number of local businesses.

“There’s a very good working relationship with the business community,” Principal Dr. Darrell Jaskolka said. “We need to continue to nurture that. How we do that is to continue to provide a good product – which is good students who will provide a good work force for them.”

There were 334 students enrolled last year including one of Warren County School District’s valedictorians. Charleigh Smith of Eisenhower High School was a Career Center completer.

The district’s tenth through 12th grade enrollment was 1,158. That means 29 percent of the district’s student body attended the Career Center.

Jaskolka expects enrollment to bump up, perhaps by as much as 30 students next year, which would bring the ratio to just shy of 33 percent, depending on district-wide enrollment.

According to Jaskolka, fifth graders throughout the district visit the Career Center. Then, students visit again during their middle level years. He asks that students and families “consider the Career Center as an option.”

Almost 30 percent are already there and the numbers keep going up.

At the beginning and end of each school year, Career Center students take the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute exams. In the fall, it’s a written test only. In the spring, the test includes hands-on proficiency.

NOCTI is “the test that career centers across the country give to their students to see how they measure up,” Jaskolka said. “It’s our way to assess how our program is doing.”

Warren County Career Center measures up well. “Consistently, we’re above the state average,” Jaskolka said.

Of the 65 seniors in Career Center programs in May, 51 (78 percent) demonstrated advanced skills on their NOCTI exams. Another seven (11 percent) scored in the competent category while seven (11 percent) scored at the basic level.

The school’s scores have been trending upward for seven years.

“These students are prepared,” Jaskolka said. “They know the material. The data says so.”

Although it falls slightly short in “(gender dominated) non-traditional participation” – girls in “boys” programs and boys in “girls” programs – the school exceeds all other statewide expectations. The school’s non-traditional participants exceed expectations for completing programs.

The indicators, state expectations and WCCC performance (with statewide performance in parentheses) are:

PSSA reading: 44 percent, 51.56 percent (48.12 percent);

PSSA math: 30 percent, 46.88 percent (39.48 percent);

NOCTI: 72 percent, 88.52 percent (84.06 percent);

diploma: 95.50 percent, 98.55 percent (98.91 percent);

graduation: 94.50 percent, 98.55 percent (98.79 percent);

placement (post-secondary education, military, job): 97 percent, 100 percent (89.41 percent)

non-traditional participation: 17.50 percent, 12.79 percent (15.87 percent); and

non-traditional completion: 12.50 percent, 15.22 percent (12.70 percent).

The NOCTI written pre-tests allow Career Center personnel to evaluate students.

“I look at this as a diagnostic tool similar to what a doctor does,” Jaskolka said. “If you come in with a broken arm they’re not going to MRI your whole body.”

When the preliminary data arrives in October, teachers work on goal-setting.

“Using the data you can differentiate instruction to address student needs,” he said.

“It allows you to strategically address areas of need,” Jaskolka said. “Teachers need to allocate their time more efficiently.”

“If students do not do well on the assessment, we need to re-teach,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to remediate areas of deficiency.” But, “don’t hold others back. Differentiating allows others who are ready to go ahead with another competency.”

The skills build upon one another. “Everything’s competency based,” Jaskolka said. “It’s a building block.”

Missing one block can prevent students from reaching higher.

The test results are provided on a school, program, and student basis. “We can drill down – how our students did in comparison with the state. We’re going to be able to know our areas of strength and weakness,” Jaskolka said. “Then you end up looking at the individual students and see where they are potentially weak.”

Combining the before and after tests allows teachers to strengthen curriculum over the years. “It makes you think about your assessment, it allows you to differentiate your instruction, ‘Maybe I need to change how I present information,'” Jaskolka said. “The ultimate benefit is the kids’ – they’re being provided a better education because of data.”