By Kathi Bliss
Data collected recently by the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Austin Chamber of Commerce Education Progress Report Task Force, shows that Lockhart students are more ready than ever to pursue careers or college education after graduation.
However, despite monumental strides taken by the District in the last seven years, the “LISD Progress Report” suggests our students still have a long way to go.
The partnership between LISD and the Lockhart and Austin Chambers of Commerce aims to create better career opportunities and focus on workforce readiness for graduates after they complete their high school education. A key factor in that goal is matching educational opportunities and interests with job openings in the fastest-growing fields in Central Texas.
For instance, more than 19 percent of job vacancies with career-oriented pathways, are in the fields of Computers and Math, and yet only 4 percent of students in the Class of 2013 indicated an interest in working in those fields.
“The time has come to talk to our students not only about pursuing post-secondary education, but also choosing fields that can give them life-long careers,” said Catherine Morse, who serves as General Counsel and Director of Public Affairs for Samsung, and who also chairs the Education Progress Report Task Force. “Even as we see the gains in college readiness in Central Texas, we also see the number of high-demand, high-pay jobs increase in the region. Our job is to minimize the gap between [job] openings and aspirations.”
In Lockhart, the report suggests, much of that focus should be put into expanding enrollment in AP and dual-credit college courses, as well as beefing up participation and availability of Career and Technology Education Courses, particularly in the field of Information Technology (IT) and health care.
Using the standards established by the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing, the task force evaluated LHS seniors over several years. To determine college and career readiness, the highest academic scoring standards were applied.
What the data revealed is that, though the bulk of students throughout the testing process were able to pass the STAAR tests in each testing field only 51 percent of those students who passed the tests scored in the highest ranges of testing, indicating that they are “well-prepared” for post-secondary education or a career.
However, those numbers have increased substantially since 2007, when only 22 percent of students were considered “well-prepared.”
“Lockhart is a close-knit, rural community of second- and third-generation families,” the progress report reflects. “So it’s not unusual for graduates to find a job close to home for a year or two, before heading off to college or the military.”
Still, LISD leadership has made a point of expanding the dual-credit programs, in hopes that students who are able to earn college credits while still in high school will move on to college immediately after graduation; in part, the goal of the dual-credit program is to ease the financial burden of families, to help open additional opportunities for post-secondary education.
The Lockhart Chamber hopes to use these figures and this progress report to work collaboratively with LISD to open new opportunities for learning and growth for Lockhart students.
“Since 1935, the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce has worked diligently with its local business community to strengthen the economic environment and promote the well-being of all its citizens,” said Lockhart Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Becki Womble. “There are many areas of focus on these efforts, but advocacy for local education has always maintained a priority status, throughout our history.”
To receive a copy of the Lockhart ISD Progress Report, or to find information about Chamber partnerships with the Lockhart Independent School District, including internships for local students through the Campus2Career program, contact Womble at the (512) 398-2818.