Stu­dents’ fu­ture is schools’ busi­ness

State adds em­pha­sis on ca­reer train­ing, start­ing in the el­e­men­tary years

The Morning Call (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jacque­line Palochko, Michelle Mer­lin and Sarah M. Wo­j­cik

At Wescosville El­e­men­tary in the East Penn School Dis­trict, fourth-graders are in charge of run­ning a dough­nut shop.

It’s all pre­tend, but as part of the as­sign­ment, the stu­dents have $5,000 to start the busi­ness from the ground up. They’re re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing rent and util­i­ties, buy­ing bak­ing sup­plies and pay­ing em­ploy­ees’ salaries.

The 9- and 10-year-olds dis­cuss what peo­ple look for dur­ing the hir­ing process, re­search wages in food ser­vices, write in­ter­view ques­tions and con­duct mock in­ter­views. They fo­cus on eye con­tact, smil­ing, speak­ing clearly, pos­ture, ap­pro­pri­ate greet­ings and strong, con­fi­dent hand­shakes.

It’s not new for dis­tricts to ex­pose stu­dents to skills needed to find and land post-ed­u­ca­tion ca­reers. But na­tion­wide, dis­tricts now are graded on how well they do it. The first re­port card came out in Novem­ber. An­other one — set to a higher stan­dard — comes out in the fall. Schools, in­clud­ing char­ter schools, need to show the state that stu­dents, start­ing in kinder­garten, are learn­ing such job skills as mak­ing re­sumes, writ­ing re­ports on in­dus­tries and job shad­ow­ing.

After the Wescosville fourth­graders are done with their as­sign­ment, East Penn of­fi­cials will log each stu­dent as hav­ing re­ceived ca­reer readi­ness and send that in­for­ma­tion to the state Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

The new ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem is called Fu­ture Ready Pa In­dex and doc­u­ments on a state web­site how well schools pre­pare stu­dents for ca­reers.

Beth­le­hem Area As­sis­tant Su-

“We feel get­ting ready for after school is crit­i­cal.” — Doug Povi­laitis, East Penn as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent

per­in­ten­dent Jack Silva sees the bench­marks as a pos­i­tive step.The state has tracked how stu­dents do aca­dem­i­cally on stan­dard­ized tests, so it should also mon­i­tor whether schools are putting stu­dents on a ca­reer path.

“The ca­reer stan­dards have the abil­ity to be more suited to what the dis­trict’s goals are and that re­lates to the lo­cal econ­omy and ex­ist­ing pro­grams,” Silva said.

The ca­reer readi­ness bench­marks ad­dress feed­back from in­dus­try lead­ers about re­cent grad­u­ates.

“We’ve heard very loud and clear from busi­nesses and cham­bers of com­merce they’re find­ing gaps in skilled work­ers,” said Matt Stem, deputy state ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary.

Em­ploy­ers have re­ported young em­ploy­ees’ not show­ing up on time or lack­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, said Alex Halper, di­rec­tor of gov­ern­ment af­fairs at the Penn­syl­va­nia Cham­ber of Busi­ness and In­dus­try.

“We are en­cour­aged by the re­newed fo­cus on the fed­eral and state level on in­cor­po­rat­ing ca­reer readi­ness into ed­u­ca­tional in­struc­tion at a young age,” Halper said.


Fourth-graders Caleb Brown and Gra­ham Lovett prac­tice firm hand­shakes in Kendy Schiffert’s Wescosville El­e­men­tary class.

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