One of the most important pieces of information and one of the least tracked is what happens to students after high school.

We have the “college and career readiness” number for each school system that is supposed to give us an idea of how graduates will do after they graduate.

But tracking how they do – are they really ready? – is way harder and is not done well.

Nearly any administrator would readily admit the truth of that. All of the gauges we use to tell us how our schools are doing, don’t – tell us. They tell us, in varying degrees, how students do on a variety of things from test scores to showing up for class, but they do no tell us who is successful and who isn’t?

We might take a few moments to discuss that notion of success. Is it judged based on the money we make? Or that we save? Is it judged based on what we know? (This might have been more important before the information on the internet became so easily obtained. Now, it might be “based on what we know that is accurate.”)

Anyone who has a passing interest in my views knows I have an abiding interest in what used to be called “a liberal arts” education. It involves a lot of history and political science – my two best instructors in college were for Western Civilization (at 7:50 a.m.) and constitutional law in poli sci (he was blind with a wicked sense of humor).

Where does any of that fit in “success.”

This all came to mind for a hodge-podge of reasons.

The WBHS class of 2018 recently got an award from the University of Georgia for its freshmen grade point average. Principal Al Darby is really proud of it. I know a number of superintendents who bluntly say pick a zip code or tell them a parents’ income and education level, and he or she can pick a student’s test scores within a few points.

The current faddish topic in high schools is providing lots of exposure to what used to be called “trade skills,” such as welding, machining, plumbing or electrician. Barrow County has a school designed for “pathways” and Jackson County is moving in that direction. Hall County has had such a place for the better part of a decade.

“Workforce development” has replaced “location, location, location” in economic development lexicon. Ray Perren, president for Lanier Tech, tells anyone who will listen that the purpose of the institution is “workforce development.”

In that vein, manufacturing companies are beginning to start “internships” for motivated students to learn a trade, such as machining, and get a college education, such as engineering. The combination of academics and practical knowledge is nearly unbeatable, I am told. That is not exactly a flash – but again, we are talking about income and money.

The state’s CCRPI – an acronym for “college and career readiness performance index” – was released Friday. It is a number that supposedly encompasses several categories, ranging from material learned that can be regurgitated on a test to graduation rates in high school.

Chris McMichael, Barrow County school superintendent, is openly disdainful of the number. Many other superintendents are not as public with their views, but they mostly agree with him.

Back to the top, how do high school grads do after high school?

Nearly all the local high schools are near the state average, slightly above or below it. It sounds pretty good, huh? But you should consider (another pet of mine) that Georgia’s standards aren’t all that high.

In most categories used to “judge” education, Georgia is better than it used to be – it was really abysmal about a decade ago – to about average now. Think about this, the Director’s Cup for UGA, the award recently presented for the WBHS class of 2018 is because at least 10 students from the class went to UGA then. Why, I wonder, is that number not 100 students? UGA is a big university.

How do local grads do after high school? We don’t really know. Part of that is because knowing is difficult and expensive; part of it is no one really wants to know.

Ron Bridgeman is a reporter for Mainstreet Newspapers. Send email to him at ron@mainstreetnews.com.

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