Greenfield-Central High School students Lee Paschal, left, and Brock Thomas work in an HVAC classroom in 2019. Schools in Hancock County are reporting increased enrollment in vocational and technical programs like GC’s HVAC course. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter file photo) Tom Russo | Daily reporter
HANCOCK COUNTY – More and more students are enrolling in vocational and technical education programs in the county’s four public school districts.
The annual school performance reports released last month reflect this trend among their multitudes of other data on enrollment, performance, disciplinary action and additional benchmarks for the 2019-20 school year.
But with a freeze in letter grades the state assigns to schools following a problematic new standardized test and the COVID-19 pandemic, education officials believe it will be some time before the reports do not give an accurate description of the performance of schools. Yet the performance reports, which can be viewed online, present a wealth of information. This story is based on an examination of some of the numbers.
A different path
In Greenfield-Central schools, 1,159 students were enrolled in vocational and technical programs last year, up from 870 the year before.
The District’s junior high school rose from 0 to 190, which Superintendent Harold Olin attributed to a career class that eighth-graders take on college and technical programs offered by GC.
In high school, about 100 more students enrolled in vocational and technical programs. Principal Jason Cary told the Daily Reporter in an email that the school has made a concerted effort to develop such programming, recalling the aviation and HVAC offerings that have been added in recent years. The school also promotes programs at the Walker Career Center in Indianapolis.
“I think the move to graduation pathways has put more emphasis on this type of course,” Cary added, referring to the state’s change to graduation requirements a few years ago. years, which includes an on-the-job learning option.
The Southern Hancock School District had 721 students enrolled in vocational and technical programs in 2019-2020, up from 640 in 2018-2020.
Southern Hancock spokesperson Wes Anderson also attributed the increase to Graduation Pathways.
Southern Hancock has not only expanded its vocational and technical education offerings, Anderson said, but the state has also expanded what qualifies as vocational and technical education.
He added that the trend also represents a growing understanding of current workforce needs.
“Our workforce needs people to work in the trades, to work in some of these more practical technical positions,” he said. “We know our workforce needs it; our government tells us.
Eastern Hancock Schools saw the number of students enrolled in vocational and technical education increase from 267 to 324 in 2019-2020.
Adam Barton, director of Middle and High Schools at Eastern Hancock, said the district offers vocational courses and has students attending the New Castle Career Center.
He agreed that schools are responding to the changing needs of the workforce.
“Everyone has been pushing four-year colleges for years, but I think we know there are other options for other students and we would like to make sure they leave here with a few options,” Barton said.
Due to Graduation Pathways, Eastern Hancock is developing a series of courses in areas of study such as business, agriculture, and food science. Introductory courses are starting, Barton said, and the goal is to be able to offer several years of them in order to qualify as a graduation path.
Mt. Vernon’s vocational and technical programs grew to 814 students from 769 in the last year of reporting.
Jack Parker, superintendent of Mt. Vernon, told the Daily Reporter in an email that the district is constantly working to improve and expand such programs. A program that allows students to obtain a Certified Practical Nurse certification was recently added to high school.
Certifications and dual credit opportunities help prepare students for life after high school, whether they are attending college, receiving additional training, or entering the job market directly, he said.
“Currently the four schools in Hancock County send our students out of our county to five different vocational schools,” Parker said. “As many students would prefer not to have to travel outside of our county for these types of courses, we are constantly growing and working in partnership with other schools in the county to provide these opportunities for Hancock County students in our own buildings. “
Suspension numbers improved at one of the county’s colleges for the 2019-2020 school year, and worsened at one of its high schools.
The number of suspended students at Mt. Vernon Middle School was in the hundreds from the 2016-2017 to 2018-2019 school year, before dropping to 64 for 2019-2020.
Parker said the decrease is likely due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the third quarter of last year to be completely virtual. He expects continuous improvement after the college spent a lot of time last year revising its discipline plan.
“This plan was implemented at the start of the 2020-21 school year and has already demonstrated the success of our faculty and staff working more effectively together to support students with behavioral issues,” Parker said. .
A life coach was also hired for the college earlier this year to interact directly with students and their families to gain support and serve as a liaison between parents, students and staff.
Greenfield-Central High School recorded 23 suspensions in 2016-17. This figure has increased over the years and stood at 60 in 2019-2020. Cary said he believed a factor contributing to this increase was the growing popularity of vaping among teens.
The AF accountability scores that the state assigns to schools for the 2019-2020 school year remain the same as the previous year due to the schools remaining under a ‘holdback’ agreement. Part of what determines these grades is the ILEARN exam, which most students failed when it was first administered in the spring of 2019. The state has passed a law to allow schools to avoid losing an alphabetical grade during two years.
The ILEARN scores as well as other standardized tests like ISTEP + and IREAD are not available for the 2019-2020 school year, because the COVID-19 pandemic forced their cancellation last spring.
These problems lead education officials to believe that it will be some time before annual reports give an accurate picture of school performance.
The school these factors have affected the most for Greenfield-Central is its junior high school, said Olin, the only “C” school in the district for the past four years.
“Not giving us the opportunity to get out of this C category hurt us the most on this site,” he said.
Anderson said Southern Hancock is still adjusting to the new ILEARN exam and that the pandemic has not helped matters.
“I think it will probably be 2023, 24 before we really have a firm grip on this – two or three years of good hard data for every child in our system who has been through this,” he said.
Barton, from Eastern Hancock, agreed.
“I think it will be a few years before things calm down and we understand again what our numbers really mean,” he said.
Parker said the information in annual performance reports is only part of the data Mt. Vernon uses to make adjustments and adapt to the needs of students and the community.
“While standardized assessment scores may help us make adjustments to our program, with changes in recent years to our standards, test delivery and the spring 2020 test skip, we are not relying on this data to help us. understand how our students are progressing in their learning, ”he said. “Our formative assessments as well as our joint end-of-unit tests can provide additional data that may be more valid and reliable.”
The annual school performance reports for public schools and schools in Hancock County, as well as public schools in the state, can be read in their entirety at inview.doe.in.gov.
By the numbers
Number of students in vocational and technical programs
Source: Indiana Department of Education