Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2007

Grad survey: USD 232 needs more career classes

November 1, 2007

Recent graduates of the De Soto USD 232 said they would have liked more elective classes to explore more career opportunities -- something De Soto school board members also expressed concern about at a goal-setting meeting last month.

A selection of 223 seniors graduating in 2007 participated in senior exit surveys for the district. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said there were not enough classes offered to explore different careers.

Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said offering more elective or special classes was sometimes dependent on the size of a district.

"The bigger you get, the more you are financially able to offer them," she said. "Would students like to have more? Sure. We are continually looking at our offerings and determining what to offer."

More options will be available for the 2008-09 school year when the district begins Project Lead the Way. The program includes a sequence of courses that introduces students to engineering before college. Zoellner said teachers would be trained next summer for implementation in the fall.

Students in the district have been surveyed since 2002 in order to get feedback for administration, Zoellner said.

"What we are doing is sharing it with building principals," she said. "We share individual building responses as well as districtwide responses so they can compare them."

The survey is prepared by LifeTrack Services, a company based in Clarkston, Wash., that builds customized surveys based on questions the school district submitted. The company attempts to contact graduates by mail and telephone and compiles the data collected for the school district. Current students complete the surveys at school.

Questions are developed by building principals and then adjusted to make a districtwide survey, Zoellner said. This year the district paid $12.50 per survey and attempted to get input from all students in the class years selected. Students are surveyed before graduation and then three years after graduation.

The district receives the survey results as a paper copy, but Zoellner said she hoped they would get an electronic copy next year, which would be easier to work with.

The 2007 survey also asked recent graduates if they felt their school maintained a drug-free environment. About 47 percent of students answered below average or needs improvement.

Zoellner said addressing drug and alcohol use has to be a community effort.

"If anyone believes there are high school students out there without drugs and alcohol issues, they are woefully misled," she said. "The school alone can't handle all the issues that happen out of school time. We can only go so far, so we need the entire community to help us stand up with this issue.

"There needs to be community awareness and community support and getting a handle on the problem so that we can make sure that our students are coming to school in a safe environment."

The district saw an increase in response between classes 2003 and 2007 when both were asked if high school prepared them to utilize technology. About 84.6 percent of the class of 2003 answered average or better to the question, compared to about a 93.7 percent response from 2007 graduates.

"Over the four-year time from 2003 to 2007, we definitely have improved our opportunities to students through providing laptops, wireless technology and providing access at home through our portals," Zoellner said. "I hope we do not go backwards as a district and look at what we need to be doing technologically to make sure our students are prepared for life after high school."

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