FILLMORE TWP. — A new set of graduation requirements were recently approved at Hamilton Community Schools.
Beginning with the class of 2027 — this year’s seventh-graders — students graduating from HCS will be asked to participate in further work-based learning opportunities.
The district currently offers and promotes WBL opportunities, but they will be formally required as part of the school’s curriculum in a few years.
Mat Rehkopf and Ashley Meyer presented the requirements to the school board in March to be put on a 30-day review. They were officially approved by the board during the April 11 meeting.
By giving students more opportunities to experience careers, the hope is that they can get a better idea of what to do after high school.
“Hopefully, our students will be making better, informed decisions about what their next step is and the education it takes to get there,” Rehkopf said.
Requirements were drafted after looking at the district’s strategic plan and hearing feedback from community members and recent graduates.
One goal in the strategic plan is “All students graduate with career and life skills necessary to be informed consumers, skillful and productive workers and active citizens.” A second is “Develop and implement business partnerships offering HCS students opportunities for real-world career exploration and skill building.”
A common theme among recent graduates, Rehkopf said, was a desire for more opportunities for things like internships and career exploration.
Each student will need to complete any three of a group of requirements laid out by the district in “preparation” and “training” categories. At least one task must come from the training category.
Preparation includes certain high school courses, including the Careerline Tech Center, AP and dual enrollment, the FuturePREP’d summer program, agricultural preparation programs, military preparation programs or school sponsored activities.
The training category can include work experiences, a school store marketing course, a teaching practices internship, military training or the Future PREP’d Academy program.
Students will be able to complete tasks during the school day and fill out a form for a planned absence.
Students will have WBL experiences as part of the regular school day throughout their educational careers. These will include a Skills 4 Success day in fifth grade, various career pathway projects, job shadows and workshops.
These experiences are meant to prepare students to complete graduation requirements when they get to high school.
While presenting the requirements to the board, Rehkopf noted that the percentage of Hamilton graduates pursuing college or other degree programs after high school dropped to around 55 percent in 2018 and 2019 after being up over 60 from 2012-17.
Increasing that number is one area Rehkopf hopes to see improvement as a result of the WBL requirements.
“The data points we want to affect are, number one, the percentage of our students that want to further their education,” he said. “We want that number to go up. We want the percentage of students who finish something after high school to go up. Finally, we want the percentage of students dropping out of a college or some other program to go down.”