Maryland schools impart real-life work skills to students


POSTED: Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 3:00pm

UPDATED: Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 3:04pm

The report card is out, and for the fourth year in a row, Maryland schools rank No. 1 in the nation according to Education Week magazine.

Maryland's B+ placed it at the top of the publication's rankings.

The state got its highest individual grade -- A -- based on its early childhood and college readiness policies.

One area worth highlighting is how well the state is preparing students for the real world of work.

At Sollers Point Technical High School, where it's not unusual to find students working with their hands -- whether it's on a carpentry project or on computers in a cyber-security program.

"I feel like this is my free period, because this is what I love to do," said student Rob Pollock. "It's always what I had in mind."

"We are not just preparing students for jobs, but we are preparing them for a career pathway, and we're making sure that they have the academic knowledge and skills, particularly in math, reading, writing -- what we call literacy," said the Maryland Department of Education's Kathy Oliver.

Students seem to have the best of both worlds, combining what they learn in the classroom with skills needed to eventually land a job.

"I chose it mostly because I wanted to be a little different than everyone else," said student Kayla Willis. "I thought it would open a lot of doors for me and give me a lot of opportunities to better my life."

"They're doing the hands-on portion with our programs, the electrical program, but with all of the trade programs and the programs that we have in the school, they're also getting the academic aspect of it also," said Sollers teacher Bill Plantholt.

State officials said local schools and school leaders deserve the credit for helping keep Maryland on top.

"Being No. 1, we are proud of that," said interim state Superintendent Bernard Sadusky. "I think it says a lot about the quality of our classroom teachers. I will tell you it says a lot about the leadership of our superintendents."

School leaders will be the first to say it all comes down to building the kinds of academic and technical programs designed to help students become successful.

"Baltimore County is about preparing students for both college and careers," said Sollers Principal Michael Weglein. "And when we do a good job of preparing them for both, we are making that tool bag that much larger for our kids, so that the possibilities are that much greater when they graduate from high school."

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