By Madelynn Coldiron
Like all students in Boone County schools, those at Larry A. Ryle County High School hear an expanded version of the college and career message: the district’s goal is for them to graduate college, career and life ready.
The school’s “intentional focus” on that has helped push its college and career readiness percentage to 81.6 percent, said Superintendent Randy Poe.
“What Ryle has done is also take a major focus on making sure students have an academic pathway that is matched with a career pathway, so they’re working on advanced academic skills in addition to working on those careers,” he added.
The district has set higher benchmarks for student performance on the ACT Test, aiming for scores in the 24-27 range. And, said Ryle Principal Matthew Turner, “We really encourage our students to take as challenging a course load as they can, but not to make it so challenging that it’s impossible to do. We encourage them to take more advanced level classes and to challenge themselves.”
Robyn Bain, a teacher and college and technical education building coordinator, said the school tracks which students are college ready and which are career ready and then encourages them to take the necessary tests so they can be both.
“That’s kind of the goal we have, to have students both college and career ready,” she said.
Those who graduate both college and career ready receive a special pin, pictured above, for their graduation gown and “they really want that pin,” Bain said.
She said Ryle has traditionally been strong in career and technical education. A key to the success in that area, she and Turner said, is the constant shifting of course offerings in career pathways in response to students’ interests. Biomedical, for example, is being added as a pathway next school year, while an education track was added in response to students who enjoyed volunteering at the elementary and middle schools on the same campus.
Despite having a student population of about 1,650, each pupil gets a staff mentor who meets annually with the student and his or her parents to advise on scheduling and to make sure they make good choices in courses. Sometimes they need a little prodding so they don’t choose “the path of least resistance,” Turner said.
For eighth-graders, even before the scheduling session, school administrative staff visit each of three feeder middle schools to talk with them in small groups, handing out a course description book, Turner said.
The size of the school allows it to have a diverse offering of both academic and career and technical classes, he added.
Ryle also sets aside one period nearly every day for students who need extra help, for enrichment or to help students improve their scores or prepare for tests such as the ACT.
“That has been a major success,” Poe said.