Holcomb USD 363 moved forward with its efforts to create individualized pathways for students after its Board of Education on Monday provided consensus approval of Xello, a digital platform that measures student aptitude and personality to best outline potential career plans.
Through the program, until recently called Career Cruising, students take personality quiz-like assessments to present a slew of career paths they may be interested in, their learning styles, academic abilities and personal characteristics, all of which can be used to better steer them toward a post-graduate path.
At USD 363, the goal is for the program to serve teachers, counselors and students, and the intention is to start early. Starting in January, the district will introduce the program to its high school and middle school, said USD 363 Superintendent Scott Myers.
Xello helps the school align with Kansas’ call for more individualized instruction, and Myers, Holcomb High School Principal Jason Johnson and Holcomb Middle School Principal Tyler Shelton felt it best fit the district’s goals: helping teachers deeply understand their students in a way that allows them to personalize their instruction and strategies for each student.
“If you talk to teachers for very long, the things that they talk about, the things that excite them the most, it’s when the kid is suddenly able to do something, or their eyes light up because they’re excited about a learning concept … This will help us with that because it will give us more fodder to use or to analyze as we try to meet each kid’s needs,” Myers said.
Students will answer questions through the program once or twice a year, providing relevant teachers and counselors a learner profile, Myer said. The profile, which would reflect not only the student in that moment, but also how they had changed over the years, would include whether the student was an introvert or extrovert and other aspects of their personality, as well as whether they were visual, auditory or tactile learners, what subjects they enjoy and dislike or excel and struggle in, their interests and what potential careers align with that data.
All access to student profiles would follow FERPA and be limited to teachers or staff that work closely with those students, Myers said.
Teachers and counselors would not necessarily direct students toward certain career paths with the information, but use it to prepare students for the areas they were interested in, Myers said.
“It allows us to work with the individual kids and say ‘According to this, you’re an introvert, you love sports, you hate science, but you want to be a veterinarian’ … Then it gives us a chance to diagnose all this and say, ‘If that’s the case, what do we have to set ourselves up to do so you’re successful? To get where you think you want to go,’” Myers said.
The program also could give students a better foundation for post-secondary education, be it college, technical schools or certificate programs, Johnson said.
“In the 17 years I’ve been in education, a lot of kids are going to school, getting a degree, but they don’t know why they got the degree that they got, and they don’t understand the debt that they’re in because of going to college just to go to college. So, we want to provide those students with options to understand ‘What is the best fit?’” Johnson said.
Garden City USD 457 has used Xello’s predecessor, Career Cruising, for three years and is in the process of updating to the redesign, said Garden City High School Career and Technical Education Coordinator Jennifer Hands. The district now begins using the program in seventh grade and it is present in the district’s middle schools and high school, she said.
The district is not using all the program’s features, omitting the lengthy personality and learner assessments for logistical reasons, but Hands said she was happy with the short-term results.
At USD 457, the program was geared heavily toward student involvement. They could plan their pathways around their interests and use it to look forward, Hands said. With it, students were forging their own path.
“I definitely think it’s a good tool for any school district. I do think that it would work really well in a smaller district because it would be easier to manage with a smaller group of students. You’d be able to review what they’ve put in (Xello) more frequently. So, I think it’s a great idea that they’re coming on board with Xello,” Hands said.
At Holcomb High School, Johnson said teachers would take the program beyond information gathering by dedicating two half-hour freshmen seminar periods a week to developing soft skills and potentially incorporating required internships, job shadowing or college or technical school visits for upperclassmen.
The school also was working to double its career pathway options to six and include online classes to offer elective options the school may not be able to provide otherwise, he said. Johnson said that and Xello gave students a chance to move beyond core subjects and explore different areas before even leaving high school.
“If we can provide them with as many options as possible and more options than what we have, and get them to experience more things than they’ve experienced in the past, they’re going to be more powerful to make the most powerful decision that they can … I think that’s where we’re wanting to change the conversation…” Johnson said.
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