The Kansas State Board of Education is considering a mandate that all students in eighth grade and above create a graduation plan.
For local school districts, this kind of planning is nothing new.
Students in both Canton-Galva and Smoky Valley school districts already complete such a graduation plan. For students in McPherson School District, the planning begins in sixth grade.
The state mandate would require students to develop a plan to help them choose classes they will need in high school and beyond to pursue their goals. It has considered this mandate since 2010 as part of a new accrediting model.
Randy Watson, superintendent of McPherson School District, said such a mandate might require more formal forms or changes, but he doesn't expect the overall process to change should the board enact the mandate.
Students in McPherson County meet with counselors to discuss their career goals, interests and skills. For students who have a career goal in mind, counselors help them pick classes that will prepare them for college coursework and give them exposure to what is required to be successful in that field.
If students don’t have clear goals, counselors work with them to explore various possibilities that match their interests or skills.
“Once they say they want to go into a field, we help them explore,” said Mark Williams, principal at Smoky Valley High School. “It’s better to do that in high school than pay thousands of dollars to do it in college.”
Some critics question whether all schools in Kansas should require the plans for their students. Workers today change jobs about every 4.4 years, according to labor data. Designing a plan around a specific career goal may not be the best option, critics say.
Watson said while people change jobs more frequently than in the past, most stay within a certain career path that uses most of the same skills and knowledge.
“Instead of being a nurse, they might become a physical therapist,” Watson said.
Bill Seidl, superintendent of Canton-Galva School District, said the plans aren’t so much about specific job training as they are about developing the students’ in terests, abilities and skills.
“It’s about learning skills like study, work ethic and research,” Seidl said. “Those are going to be helpful no matter where you go.”
Seidl also said exploring a career in high school can help students rule out careers they might not enjoy or that might prove difficult.
“If you want to be a doctor but you’re not good with math and science, you might have a tough time,” Seidl said.
Watson said the goal of a graduation plan is to help students explore options and develop transferable skills so they don’t have to do it post-graduation.
Page 2 of 2 - “A student who goes to college with no idea of what they want to do ends up with a lot of debt,” Watson said. “We’re helping them figure out what they want to do now so they can avoid debt later.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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