McPherson Superintendent Randy Watson reported the results of a survey regarding the district’s College and Career Advocates during a recent Board of Education meeting.

McPherson Superintendent Randy Watson reported the results of a survey regarding the district’s College and Career Advocates during a recent Board of Education meeting.

Almost 95 percent of McPherson Middle and High school parents who took the emailed survey said they found their conferences helpful.

The district hired three College and Career Advocates this year. One advocate at the middle school and two at the high school divided up the student body, with goals to meet with students and their parents twice this year, with preference given to older students. The aim of these conferences was to discuss what classes, internships, tests and other resources students can use to prepare for their post-graduation goals.

Elise Matz is the advocate at MMS while Megan Olsen and Stephanie Hamilton are the advocates at MHS.

As their first year comes to a close, the district sent an email survey to parents asking for feedback regarding their experience with the advocates.

More than 150 parents of children in grades seven through 12 responded. This was about a 15 percent return rate.

Ninety-eight parents, or 64.1 percent, said their conference experience was very helpful. About 18 percent said it was moderately helpful, about 12 percent said it was slightly helpful. About 5 percent said their conferences were either not helpful or parents did not meet with an advocate.

“That’s telling us we’re on the right track,” Bret McClendon, principal at MHS, said. “The goal of an advocate position is to help all our kids to figure out what they need when they leave and be successful and accomplishing that. I think we’re well on our way to reaching that goal.”

More than 88 percent of survey responders said meeting with the advocates encouraged them to talk more with their children about post-graduation plans.

“It goes back to providing information and a starting point,” McClendon said. “If a parent doesn’t know where to begin, it makes it difficult to have a meaningful conversation. The conferences provides a framework for a conversation, and parents feel more informed and comfortable having that talk.”

Ninety-eight percent of responders, or 64.9 percent, said they would prefer to meet with an advocate two times per year, with almost 20 percent saying they’d like to meet more often. About 15 percent wished to meet less than twice per year.

The 20 percent statistic was one that surprised Watson.

“I think it shows the desire to have those conferences and to work with families and students,” he said.
The advocates offer students and parents a number of resources for college and career planning. The resource parents desired most were job shadowing opportunities, at 78.5 percent. Next was ACT assessments at 60.3 percent, financial aid at 58.7 percent and college visits at 57.9 percent.

In March, the board discussed how the district can increase job shadowing and college visits in the near future.

The majority of respondents, or 59.9 percent, said they think it’s appropriate to begin talking to students about their futures during middle school. Almost 24 percent said they thought these discussions should begin in elementary school, and 16.4 percent said this should wait until high school.

“An elementary student might change their minds a dozen times, but thinking about what they want to do and learning what it takes, those are all important things,” McClendon said. “We’re able to have those conversations more in depth than we ever had before.”

Brad Plackemeier, MMS principal, said, the conferences have been helpful for his middle school students because they realize it’s important to take meaningful electives because many high school-level courses they might want to take later have prerequisites.

“It’s just letting kids know the classes they’re taking now do have an impact on what they’re doing down the road,” he said. “It’s helped the conversations to just get everybody on the same page.”

Watson said changes will be made for the 2013-2014 school year to improve the conferences. He anticipates the board to discuss this month the possibility of adding more advocates to better manage their caseloads.

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