Randy Watson wants to do more than just make sure students graduate. He wants them to leave high school ready for college and careers.
All McPherson High School studentsabout 750participated in the Big Event, a community service activity held on a school day this past spring as part of the C3 initiative.
Our goal is to have the doors to postsecondary education and jobs be open to 100 percent of our graduates when they walk out of here. We think its imperative to give our kids a future, said Watson, superintendent of McPherson Unified School District 418 in McPherson, Kansas.
McPherson was the first school district to be granted a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education making it exempt from administering state assessments under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Instead, the district is using ACT assessments as part of a new curriculum and assessment initiative called C3, which stands for Citizenship, College, and Career Readiness.
We sought the waiver because we wanted to reach a new academic standard that goes beyond the expectations of the Kansas state standards and assessment system, said Watson, who oversees a district of 2,400 students.
Citizenship Readiness. Students build skills in two overlapping areas: character education and service to the community.
The C3 initiative is one of the best things to come out of a school district in a long time. We are actually preparing students for college and careers.
Gentry Nixon, head of the English Department, instructor of AP Literature and Composition, College Bound English, and Developmental English, McPherson High School
College Readiness. Students are prepared to succeedwithout remediationin an introductory-level course at a two- or four-year institution, trade school, or technical school.
C3 fits seamlessly with what weve been doing as counselors to prepare students for a higher level of learning.
Jeff Allmon, guidance counselor, McPherson Middle School
Career Readiness. Students are equipped with the skills necessary to be good workers and have vibrant careers.
The academic culture of the district has changed since C3 was implemented last fall. More students are taking rigorous courses and electives, and enrollment in some vocational and technical education programs has doubled or even tripled.
Weve had career programs in place, but students have never showed much interest in them. Now that we have data from the ACT assessments that identifies students career interests and aptitudes, they are seeing the relevance of these programs to what they want to do in the future, said Angie McDonald, director of instruction.
McPhersons C3 initiative was driven by community input. District leaders began holding a series of meetings in 2009, during which McPherson parents and other residents responded to one primary question: What do you want for our students after they graduate?
The consensus was that they wanted students to be happy, to go to college, to have well-paying careers, and to be good citizens. District leaders did some surveys and found that a large percentage of McPherson graduates pursue higher education, whether its a four-year college, two-year college, or professional school.
Working backward from that information, they discovered that the methods they were using in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act were not adequately preparing students for college and careers.
We felt we were in the wrong forest, said Superintendent Randy Watson. We needed standards and assessments that aligned with what our students wanted to do after high school. We think the ACT forest is a much better place to be in for our kids.