McPherson High School's class of 2016 is on track for the working world.

McPherson High School's class of 2016 is on track for the working world.

This was the first year the incoming freshmen were required to take the ACT WorkKeys test, an assessment that measures foundational and soft skills. It is used by some employers to select, hire and develop a high-performing workforce, according to ACT.

USD 418 freshmen and seniors will take the test to both evaluate their status and track improvement. McPherson Students took the test in August, which examined areas of locating information, applied math and reading for information. Successful completion in these areas can lead to earning ACT's National Career Readiness Certificate.

Results of the freshmen's tests showed 56 percent met the silver level.

The silver level is one of four possible levels. The first is bronze, which shows the examinee has the necessary skills for 35 percent of jobs in the WorkKeys database. A silver level demonstrates skills for 65 percent of jobs, a gold level demonstrates skills for 90 percent of jobs, and platinum demonstrates skills for 95 percent of jobs.

“That surprised us it was this high,” Principal Bret McClendon said. “To have 56 percent at that level was pretty impressive. We were very excited to see that.”

Angie McDonald, director of instruction, said the results speak volumes about the instruction students have received at McPherson Middle School.

“The WorkKeys is a difficult assessment, which asks students to apply knowledge they've learned in the classroom,” she said. “For kids to score as well as they did, I feel that teachers must be asking students to work at an application level in the classroom rather than a simple recall level.”

She also said it shows the students are taking the assessment seriously and understand the importance of what the test can do for them in the future.

McPherson has set a goal of 100 percent of outgoing seniors at the silver level. Last year, 94 percent of seniors reached that goal.

“We think we have the students and support and the right kind of staff to see that happen for our kids,” McClendon said. “We're confident we can get everybody there.”

In order to do this, staff will work with students to succeed, whether that be speeding up or slowing down their courses.

According to ACT research, higher certificate levels lead to higher pay.

“We want to make sure that when our kids leave, they are prepared to have a job that prepares for a nice, middle class way of life and allows them to become productive members of society,” McClendon said. “I'm excited to see if we can't have at least the vast majority at the silver level even before they become seniors.”