Western Center in Limerick sees record high scores on competency exams

LIMERICK — Seniors at the Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center scored the highest competency exam scores in the facilities history this year.

Approximately 94 percent of Western Center students scored in the competent or advanced levels on their exams, according to Western Center Principal Robert Weneck.

“When the data came in and we started seeing that proficiency, we were just smiling ear to ear,” Weneck said Monday. “It means a lot to everybody.”

Advertisement

A press release on behalf of the center also indicated that certain “technical programs” actually had all of their seniors score in the advanced range of their exams, meaning some may even earn college credit for their work.

The exams were created by the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute. There are two sections: one involving a computer, the other performance-based.

“Students need to show complete mastery in both the theory and application portions of their area of study to score in the advanced range,” the press release said. “The performance-based section is evaluated by local industry leaders and usually features challenging time constraints.”

Weneck said scores have been improving steadily in recent years, moving from the high-70s through the 80s. The average number of test-takers has been in the 100 to 110 range, he said.

“I think there are many facets,” Weneck said of the center’s scores improving. “One, our curriculum is aligned to the state’s program of study, so we don’t have teachers that are wasting time with lessons that won’t be tested. Also, we have very skilled teachers who present the material on a daily basis. And I have to give credit to the students. They come in and absorb the knowledge...they’re enthusiastic about doing well.”

“We are very proud of the work of the students and staff of the Western Center for bringing this tremendous accomplishment to fruition,” said Pottsgrove School District Superintendent Shellie Feola, the “superintendent of record” for the Western Center since the facility is also shared by Spring-Ford Area School District and Upper Perkiomen School District.

“These scores reflect the dedication of the Career and Technology Center’s staff and the sending district to ensure a high-level, high-quality education for our vocational students,” said Spring-Ford Superintendent David Goodin. “The Spring-Ford Area School District is proud of all our career and tech students.”

Upper Perkiomen substitute superintendent Francis Leskowicz did not return an email seeking comment.

The Western Center students’ work spans many disciplines. Some are assisting Spring-Ford in its restoration of the memorial arboretum behind the 9th Grade Center. Others working in the center’s restaurant have hosted lunches for Upper Perkiomen reading units.

Reaching out to local communities and businesses is a benefit Weneck said the Western Center tries to extend to its students.

“If we can start the process of networking with local industries, it bodes well for a current student, so we jump out for those opportunities,” he said. “It’s not just a cliche: it’s good business. It’s something that they’ll be doing within a year or two upon graduation.”

This year’s scores are the culmination of the time, effort and money put into the Western Center since its renovation at the start of this decade.

“It makes sense now,” Weneck said. “The money everybody spent, it’s justified.”

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.