New program will allow high-schoolers to prove dependability

Sean C. Morgan

Beginning this school year, high school students who show up to school every day, do it on time, work well with others and get their work done will be able to show prospective employers a new score and ideally improve their chances of getting jobs.

Employers will know that applicants are dependable and have basic skills needed for work.

Sweet Home High School is implementing a plan, an “employability score,” to rate students based on their attendance, punctuality and how they work in the classroom as a way to promote better performance in each of these areas.

The concept grew out of the superintendent’s key areas of focus, “thriving citizens,” said Principal Ralph Brown. A committee has been looking at ways to connect to the business community throughout the last year.

“It’s not something new,” Brown said. South Albany High School has been doing it for three or four years.

“(Vice Principal) Mark Looney and I looked at it,” Brown said. They attended a presentation on the program last year. “There’d been a push through the business community.”

Business owners there were telling educators that they don’t need students trained for jobs, Brown said. They need students who will show up to work on time, work well with other employees and the boss, and be dependable.

The majority of the score is based on attendance and punctuality, Brown said. The remainder of the score measures “soft skills,” which include how well the students get along with others and how they complete class assignments.

If a student is frequently tardy but works hard when he or she arrives, the work is reflected in the score, Brown said, but educators can stress the importance of being on time, noting that employers don’t tolerate tardiness.

During his years as a vice principal and principal trying to address attendance issues, Brown said, “really we didn’t find anything punitive-wise that was beneficial to decreasing tardiness or absence.”

School has to be a place students want to be, he said, and the score is a potential incentive.

Once established, Brown said, the district would like to ask the business community to start asking to see student employability scores.

The students will have the paperwork, Brown said. The school won’t be providing the scores to employers. The student can share the score, and if the student has a high rating, “that gives the employers one more bit of information they didn’t have.”

In Albany, Brown said, data show that most students, 70 to 80 percent of them have ratings of 4 and 5. English as a second language students and students with special needs all score higher on average.

“Part of our deal is to try to educate kids, but we’re trying to educate kids for a bigger tomorrow,” Brown said. He wants them to be prepared, with good habits. When students go on to college and they skip class or arrive late, their grades will suffer. No one will be there to make sure they go to school.

Employers won’t tolerate absence and tardiness either, he said. “In the real world, you need to be on time.”

He’s heard chronically late or absent students say that they’ll start making it to school on time at some point, he said, but it’s not easy changing a habit.

“It was a good relationship over in Albany between the business community and education,” he said. “The companies are taking this seriously.”

Brown could not recall the name of one company, he said, but he cited the example of how that firm offers top-rated students it hires an increased starting wage.

Training an employee who won’t show up for work costs money, he said. When they can hire someone dependable, it saves the businesses money when they don’t have to let the employee go.

The incentive in the employability score is that it may help a student in the workforce, Brown said.

He stressed that the school won’t provide the scores to anyone. That’s a decision for the students, similar to when an auto insurance company offers a break in rates for high grades.

Absences and tardiness is still counted, but the big impact on the score comes for those who miss more frequently, Brown said. Some students miss 20 to 30 days of school on unexcused absences.

Other districts in the area are adopting the rating system, Brown said, and ideally, they will be similar enough that employers throughout the area can rely on their consistency – so it means the same thing in Albany that it means in Sweet Home.

Students who miss a “normal” number of days won’t see a negative impact on the rating, Brown said. “Everybody gets sick once in awhile.”