School board reviews testing, career prep

School board reviews testing, career prep by M. Jill Sundstrom In his overview of this year�s SAT 9 testing in the Vermillion School System, Len Griffith noted that improvement is obvious in most areas, but there are �dips� as well.

The Vermillion High School counselor showed a series of graphs to the Vermillion School Board Monday night, comparing each grade that had been tested this year to the same grades last year.

�There are some comparison problems,� he said. �These aren�t the same kids.�

However, �the scores are phenomenal,� said Superintendent Robert Mayer.

SAT 9 tests are given to grades two, four, six, eight, nine and 11. When compared to the state and national averages, Vermillion students consistently scored higher this year, with the exception of reading and language skills in grade two.

�I�m not sure why there are dips there,� Griffith said. �But reading and language arts are of great concern.�

Second-graders did, however, show a significant jump in math. Last year�s grade two scored 48, while this year, the second-graders averaged 68.

�That means learning is taking place,� Griffith said. �I don�t think we�re missing the boat. There�s nothing out there that suggests that. But we do have to go back and see if we can increase the language arts skills.

�Things can improve,� he continued. �Look at the second-grade math � that�s what we worked on last year. Now that�s what we�ve got to do in language, and that�s already in place.�

Several programs are under way in the Vermillion School System to enhance reading and language skills � Reading Recovery and Reading Round-up give kids more time to read in school, while �Unplugged,� encourages parental involvement at home.

In review, School Board President Tom Craig said testing and subsequent changes in curriculum are positive for Vermillion students.

�You�re using these tests to a good benefit � to help make curriculum decisions,� he said. �You�ve done a lot of good things and I think we�re heading in the right direction by dealing with problems that have been identified. But I also see that you�re willing to go back to the drawing board if that�s necessary.�

High School counselor Lea Gustad also visited with school board members, reviewing career preparation programs at the high school level.

Career guidance starts in the ninth grade, when students are surveyed and then tested according to their interests.

�We try to focus on where they want to be in four years,� Gustad said. �The state-mandated career planning test allows the students to pick out and explore different career areas.�

Sophomores are encouraged to take the optional Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, which includes math, language, clerical and health components. Sophomore Tech Day is another program for Vermillion 10th-graders.

�Tech schools are now becoming more academic,� Gustad said. �Some are offering two-year associate degrees that can be rolled over into four-year college programs and we�re seeing that. Some students go to tech school, get their associate degrees, work for awhile and then go on to a four-year college.

�Tech programs are hot,� she continued. �Our Sophomore Tech Day allows us to show students what these schools have to offer.�

Career Fair and Shadow programs are also available to Vermillion students.

�About 80 different career representatives came to the Career Fair last year,� Gustad said. �It�s a good program for students to learn about certain jobs from people who are actually in them. They find out what education is needed, what the job is all about and future trends � will there be jobs out there when they graduate?�

The Shadow program is also popular. Students are able to �shadow� a professional � whether it�s nursing at Sioux Valley Vermillion Campus, or any one of several occupations in Sioux Falls. The program has a curriculum in which students must research the occupation they are shadowing, send a cover letter and resume and prepare a list of questions for their shadow experience.

�Having a curriculum makes this program more successful,� Gustad said.

CEO � Career Experience Options � allows students to have a longer experience in three different work settings.

�When we sent out a survey of businesses for this program, 130 responded favorably to take students,� Gustad said. �In it, the employer and teacher work together to write expectations for the students who are then evaluated on them.�

Overall, Gustad said, career planning is an important component of the education process at Vermillion High School.

�Whether students are college-bound or not, we encourage them to keep their options open,� she said. �We try to show them what careers are available, what education is necessary for those careers and help them get on track for what possibilities may be out there for them.�

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