Allentown’s three high schools scored well below the state’s average in career readiness, but not because the district doesn’t teach students about careers. At the district’s innovative, collegeand career-focused high school Building 21, for example, most students spend their afternoons at internships at Lehigh Valley Health Network or The Baum School of Art in Allentown.
The scores might in part reflect the district’s difficulty in documenting required information for nearly 17,000 students, Dieruff High School college and career counselor Jeanne Grieger said. Dieruff, scoring a 78 percent on career readiness, has almost 2,000 students.
“It’s a huge challenge because of our large population,” Grieger said. “It’s a monster.”
A lot of the work, such as portfolios or essays on careers, is paper-based, Grieger said. Now teachers need to log it as evidence for each student.
So far, not all qualifying activities are being logged, Grieger said. Art teachers, for example, have portfolios for students that include peer evaluation and presentations.
“We knew the work was being done,” she said. “Individual teachers are now aware that we have to keep that piece of evidence and be more deliberate and overt.”
Another challenge for schools is balancing the time for these activities against the rest of the school day.
East Penn Assistant Superintendent Doug Povilaitis said it’s a matter of finding ways to integrate career readiness into the regular curriculum.
“We feel getting ready for after school is critical,” he said.
Despite the extra paperwork for districts, state officials hope the new benchmarks will better prepare a generation of students as they enter the workforce.
“Students have been graduating high school and find themselves struggling to identify the right career to pursue,” Stem said. “Collecting this evidence is so important.”