College prep tool to aid Arizona high schoolers, counselors

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Students in an Arizona district are going back to school this year with a more powerful way to prepare for college and beyond.

Beginning this fall, all high school students in the Dysart Unified School District (DUSD) in Maricopa County will have access to Naviance, an online college and career-planning tool. The website will allow students to work directly with school counselors to plan coursework, identify their career interests and find college matches and scholarships.

School counselors, meanwhile, will also be able to monitor student engagement with Naviance, and pinpoint students who need additional help planning their futures using the tool.

Hobsons, a company that creates software for educational institutions, developed the site.

“Whether your parents graduated college or didn’t make it past the 9th-grade, we want students to have access and equity to college and career opportunities,” said Susan Hallenbeck, director of product marketing at Hobsons. “We want them to understand that there are a variety of careers and education pathways they can take.”

DUSD is one of the fastest growing districts in Arizona, with more than 25,000 students overall. Many of the students are English Language Learners and first-generation, college bound kids. The district’s four high schools have a graduation rate of nearly 90 percent, but school officials want to reach more students.

With such a large population and a high student-to-counselor ratio on par with most schools, officials wanted to find a tool that could ensure that all students are prepared for life after high school.

“We take our responsibility to prepare students for the opportunities and challenges beyond high school graduation very seriously,” said Dysart Superintendent Dr. Gail Pletnick, who was named Arizona Superintendent of the Year in 2015.

Naviance is new to the DUSD, but about 10,000 schools and districts use the software across the United States, according to company officials. But Hallenback said the company is excited “to be working with a district that is progressive and really reaching for high goals.”

Schools and districts can purchase Naviance for their students and counselors to use, with prices varying depending on the features included in the package – like the ability to scale a district’s college preparedness or the course planning component. Students, parents and counselors access the site using their unique login to explore college and career opportunities together, and school administrators can see how effective the tool is for their specific population.

Hallenbeck believes the planning tool can be useful to students and counselors at many schools, “not just high schools,” she said. ” We want to make sure that all students have access to this type of information and the opportunities they can have.”

Reach the reporter at darlene.aderoju@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @buuukky and @edscoop_news.

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