SHERIDAN — Sheridan High School students with concentrations in career and technical education had a graduation rate of 100% last year for the fourth year in a row. The course tracks prepare students to graduate with meaningful certificates, enabling them to earn jobs directly after high school.

“They’re well connected to teachers who mentor them, they have a lot of purpose in school because they’re so invested and passionate about their pathway that they just finish school,” SCSD2 Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Assessment Mitch Craft said.

This past year, 67 students graduated with an industry certification.

All CTE courses offered at SHS are taken as elective courses. SHS students are required to complete 9.5 credit hours of semester-length half-credit courses.

“There are a lot of rules and regulations that are actually tied to CTE as a content area because the state uses the outcomes from those programs to measure career readiness among our students,” Craft said. “They measure college readiness using the ACT and then measure career readiness in part using the outcomes from these CTE tracks. So our goal is to make sure that if a kid is going to go through one of our tracks, that they emerge with some sort of real-life tangible, usable industry certification that will help them get a job.”

In light of last year’s federal Charles Perkins Career and Technical Education Grant, the state has decided to restructure the testing system toward nationally-recognized industry certification requirements.

Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, all CTE students completing a three-course track will be required to take industry-recognized certification exams.

Previously, a number of tracks had professional exams from their related industries, but many had state-approved knowledge exams.

“That really doesn’t do a lot for the students,” said Heidi Richins, family consumer science teacher at SHS. “It’s a test. It basically is a test that says, ‘Yup, you know this, this and this.’”

Richins and Craft said that most of SHS students had already been taking the industry certification exams in past years. Richins said the school has had students graduate with two or more certifications in the past.

For the 2018-2019 school year, SHS students earned 88 industry certifications and passed 31 job readiness assessments from a group of 168 total students who took two or more CTE courses.

The district offers 15 industry certifications and 12 career pathways, and several of the tracks have multiple possible corresponding certifications. Richins gave the example of the health and medicine track, where students can prepare with coursework and complete certification tests to become either emergency medical responders or certified nurse’s assistants.

“What we try to do is to get kids to choose something that they’re interested in and stick with it if possible,” Richins said, though they are free to take them in an exploratory manner.

Richins said parents are especially enthusiastic about CTE offerings now that the Hathaway Scholarship has been changed to accept CTE and fine arts courses instead of requiring a foreign language.

Richins said that most of the courses are currently aligned with the industry certifications but that faculty and advisory groups will have to look at possible curriculum adjustments and additional courses in the future.

Richins also said there are currently 54 interns in fields like medicine, engineering, physical therapy, welding, law and veterinary science.