Hempfield will use an app to help students plan for their future after graduation

ByLance T. Lee

Mar 30, 2022

The Hempfield Area School District is partnering with a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that will help students choose a career path that matches their interests and skills.

Last week, board members approved a contract with Smart Futures, an online career and portfolio planning platform that will guide students through their graduation plans.

“We want students to recognize their own interests, their own strengths and so as they move up to the next grades, as they prepare to plan their high school portfolio…then it makes sense to them,” Hempfield supervisor Lisa Maloney. Student Services, said at last week’s board meeting.

According to the Smart Futures website, the platform helps students answer three main questions: who am I, where am I going, and how do I get there?

It uses surveys, activities, and skill-building tools to help students identify realistic career goals. From there, students can explore careers that match their goals. Once a student finds a career – which may include a four-year college, trade school, military, or others – they are matched with relevant majors and schools.

“We allow students to find their own path and we just provide them with as much information and opportunity as possible,” Maloney said.

The platform will also be used to record the collection of artifacts or evidence demonstrating student engagement throughout their school years, Maloney said. Artifact collection is reported at the end of each school year in accordance with Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Professional Education and Work, or CEW standards.

The district currently uses a Google Drive to save the artifact collection.

According to Maloney, switching to Smart Futures will allow the collection to be portable in case a student moves to or from another school district.

Parents will also have the opportunity to access the program and review their child’s artifact collection and goals.

The license for Smart Futures begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2023. Estimated costs total $16,500, which will be paid for with funds from the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund.

“It’s very results-oriented,” Maloney said of the program. “We want students to leave here prepared for more.”

Privacy issues

Before board members approved Smart Futures, mother Jenifer Silvis raised concerns about the program’s privacy policy.

“Most parents are unaware of the dangers of these apps and programs,” Silvis said. “Yes, on the face of it, this sounds good and seems to be helping to advance our children. We have to ask ourselves, however, at what cost? Are we selling our children’s personal information so that they can be put on the path to success?Who determined their success?We create small compliant bots that bid for the rich.

She went on to say that children were constantly staring at a screen and being tracked and profiled.

“Parents will celebrate this progress but won’t put in the effort to read the fine print,” she said. “We rely on our councils to monitor us and alert us to anything that might be of concern. Are boards of directors blinded by money, power or control? Smart Futures will collect your child’s personally identifiable information.

Per the Smart Futures Online Privacy Policy Agreement, the program collects a student’s name; Date of Birth; year of graduation; a login ID, which may be an email address; and a password. When a child is older, Smart Futures will collect career-related resources such as resumes, letters of recommendation, and portfolio items showing a student’s work.

The agreement states that Smart Futures does not share any information with third parties. However, the site may collect and use personal information to “help operate our website and ensure the provision of the services you need and request”. Personally identifiable information may be used to keep users informed about other products and services available on smartfutures.org.

Website users have the option of opting out of receiving communications from Smart Futures. Users can also unsubscribe or opt out of any third-party website.

“I’ve read the privacy policies and it looks like the parent will have the option to opt-in or opt-out of third-party tracking,” board member Mike Alfery said. “I just want to make sure it’s clear and presented to parents that way. They therefore have the option of accepting or refusing the sharing of information.

Maloney added that a parent can decide whether or not they want their child to use the program. If a parent decides not to, the student will go back to using Google Drive.

According to Superintendent Tammy Wolicki, the district plans to send information to parents regarding the program and privacy policy.

She noted that the district “carefully reviews the privacy policies of all software and utilities to ensure practices that comply with the Students’ Rights Protection Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule,” which aims to protect the online privacy of children under the age of 13.

Megan Tomasic is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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