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College & Career

Schools in Allegheny, Westmoreland turn to digital career planning

| Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, 4:21 p.m.
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet

Pittsburgh Public Schools is joining a growing list of schools in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties that use digital platforms to take college and career planning to students long before they are ready to begin filling out college applications.

City officials announced Wednesday that they will make Hobsons Naviance accessible to 11,500 middle- and high school students. The digital platform helps students identify their strengths and learning style as early as middle school and begin compiling a digital portfolio and researching post-graduation options.

Kim Oppelt, director of education and outreach at Hobsons, said Naviance, launched in 2001, helps level the playing field for underrepresented students and those who would become the first generation in their families to continue their education.

Officials at Pittsburgh Public Schools hope Naviance will help increase graduation rates, assist families with financial aid applications and track college applications among students at city schools.

Perhaps just as important, it could help put students on a path to college or career readiness early and help them meet criteria for the Pittsburgh Promise Scholarship, which provides graduates a $7,500 annual scholarship or $30,000 in scholarships over four years.

“This is a win for our community, our district and our students, but also for the colleges, universities and technical schools in our area who are seeking to increase access to post-secondary education and welcome more first-generation and low-income students,” said Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet.

In Westmoreland County, Greensburg Salem High School and the Franklin Regional School District tap a college and career readiness platform called Career Cruising. Greensburg Salem offers the program to students in grades 9-12, while Franklin Regional uses it in grades 6-12.

Franklin Regional has been using Career Cruising for several years, said senior high guidance counselor Art Earl.

“The capabilities are similar to Naviance. We use it for grades 6-12, and we're very happy with it,” Earl said.

Naviance boasts that Chicago's public schools saw two- and four-year college enrollment among graduates increase by 26 percent after adopting the digital platform, while Naaman Forest High School in the Garland Independent School District in Texas saw a 37 percent increase in the number of students who completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Closer to home, Jean Whalen, director of college and career counseling at Pine Richland, said the suburban Allegheny County school district has seen only positive results since adopting Naviance in 2007.

Naviance is accessible to Pine-Richland students in grades 7-12. In addition to helping students assess their strengths, Whalen said, Naviance also provides students with access to free prep tests for the ACT and SAT college admission tests and a vast list of scholarships with information about applications and eligibility. It also provides information on how Pine- Richland graduates as a group fared in applications to everything from state universities to Ivy League schools.

“That way, if a student wants to apply to the University of Pittsburgh's Oakland campus, they'll know what they need in the way of grades and test scores,” Whalen said.

Using the platform, students are able to build a digital portfolio that can include everything from test results to letters of recommendation and awards. And school officials use it to communicate with families.

“Every student has an individual account, and parents can become partners, which means they have view-only access to the account. Our results have been extremely positive,” Whalen said.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996, or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.

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