Archive

ShareThis Page
Students at odds over whether high school prepared them for life | TribLIVE.com
News

Students at odds over whether high school prepared them for life

Katishi Maake
| Sunday, September 13, 2015 10:09 a.m
PTRSPSTUDENTS01091715
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Duke Lundahl, 21, of Troy Hill, a recent North Allegheny graduate, welds at Armin Iron Works at the RJ Casey Industrial Park on the North Side on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015.
PTRSPSTUDENTS02091715
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Duke Lundahl, 21, of Troy Hill, a recent North Allegheny graduate, is a welder at Armin Iron Works at the RJ Casey Industrial Park on the North Side.
ptrSPStudents1091715
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
Lauren Woods, a 2008 graduate of Aliquippa, is currently a student at CCAC and pictured Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. She works in the school's marketing department while attending classes.
ptrSPStudents2091715
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
Lauren Woods, a 2008 graduate of Aliquippa, is currently a student at CCAC and pictured Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. She works in the school's marketing department while attending classes.
PTRSPSTUDENTS01091715
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Duke Lundahl, 21, of Troy Hill, a recent North Allegheny graduate, welds at Armin Iron Works at the RJ Casey Industrial Park on the North Side on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015.
PTRSPSTUDENTS02091715
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Duke Lundahl, 21, of Troy Hill, a recent North Allegheny graduate, is a welder at Armin Iron Works at the RJ Casey Industrial Park on the North Side.
ptrSPStudents1091715
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
Lauren Woods, a 2008 graduate of Aliquippa, is currently a student at CCAC and pictured Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. She works in the school's marketing department while attending classes.
ptrSPStudents2091715
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
Lauren Woods, a 2008 graduate of Aliquippa, is currently a student at CCAC and pictured Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. She works in the school's marketing department while attending classes.
Rating school performance: A 2-day series
Editor`s note: The Tribune-Review examined school districts and charter schools in seven Western Pennsylvania counties. This is the first of a two-day report. Today: Former...
Latrobe school tasked with providing structure for at-risk students
Editor`s note: The Tribune-Review examined school districts and charter schools in seven Western Pennsylvania counties. This is the first of a two-day report. Today: Former...

Editor’s note:

The Tribune-Review examined school districts and charter schools in seven Western Pennsylvania counties. This is the first of a two-day report. Today: Former students talk about how well their high schools prepared them for college or a career.

At North Allegheny High School, Duke Lundahl took classes tailored for the 90 percent of district students who go on to college. That majority, however, did not include Lundahl.

When he graduated in 2013, he began a trade in metal fabrication and now works as a welder at Armin Iron Works in the North Side, putting in hours of labor before many of his former classmates wake up for an 8 a.m. college course.

“I really didn’t find too much of high school useful other than the basic math skills I use now,” he said.

Lundahl is one of many recent Western Pennsylvania public high school graduates who told the Tribune-Review that their high school fell short in preparing them for a job or college.

They’re not alone. A 2014 survey showed 47 percent of high school graduates nationally reported having “some” or “large” gaps in their preparation for life after high school, according to Achieve, a nonpartisan education reform organization.

Several local graduates cited their schools’ emphasis on preparing for state-administered standardized tests — notably, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, and Keystone Exam — as missing the target in preparing them for their future.

“Kids aren’t actually learning,” 2008 Aliquippa graduate Lauren Woods said. “They’re just learning a test.”

Skepticism of the tests is not confined to students.

“We shouldn’t be spending our time preparing for standardized tests,” Aliquippa Superintendent David Wytiaz said. “I don’t think there’s relevance in the preparation.”

To meet federal standards, all states administer tests similar to the PSSA.

Standardized tests help evaluate whether students are learning and retaining lessons that aid their success in careers or postsecondary education, Education Department spokeswoman Jessica Hickernell said. However, other measures of a student’s academic achievement must be taken into consideration, she added.

Woods said her district required students who did not score proficient in all subjects to take preparatory classes for the exams.

Woods, a 2012 graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh who is to receive a degree in software development from Community College of Allegheny County in December, said the number of preparatory classes limited the number of elective classes she could take.

A recent study by the American Federation of Teachers found that teachers lose 60 to 110 hours of instructional time every year because of standardized testing and associated tasks.

“It’s incredible. We don’t have enough time as it is,” Wytiaz said.

Rebecca Wakeley, a 2012 Shaler Area graduate, is among those who think their high school prepared them for college.

“I think Shaler did a phenomenal job,” said Wakeley, a student at Nyack College in New York City.

Erin Madigan, a 2013 graduate of North Allegheny and junior at Northwestern University, said the content and workload of Advanced Placement courses helped prepare her for college’s academic rigor.

“The transition wasn’t seamless, but I think that speaks more to the nature of college academics than the ability of a high school to prepare its students,” Madigan said.

Sara Mills, a 2012 graduate of Knoch Area High School and senior at Mercyhurst University, said students who put effort into high school classes get more out of them.

“I can’t help but think that much of my success came from an internal drive to want to succeed,” she said.

Matthew Zabierek was a Trib Total Media summer intern.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.