Legislative Update: Regulations on Accreditation and Distance Learning, Title IV-A Coalition Holds Day of Action

November 8th, 2019

In the first week of November, the U.S. Department of Education released final regulations on accreditation and distance education. Read below to learn more about what these regulations mean, the recent Title IV-A day of action, a forum on education in the current presidential race and stories of Second Chance Pell programs. 

Administration Finalizes Regulations on Accreditation and Distance Education 

On October 31, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos published the final regulations on accreditation and distance education as a result of the negotiated rulemaking process that occurred over the past year. In a statement Secretary DeVos said, “These final regulations demonstrate our commitment to working with student, State, employer, and institutional representatives to develop sound policies that serve the best interests of students. These reforms are necessary to bring higher education into the current century, to be more responsive to the needs of students, and to reduce the skyrocketing cost of higher education.

Some of the regulatory changes include: 

  • Accreditors can have separate faculty standards for instructors teaching dual or concurrent enrollment courses, as long as the instructors, “in the agency’s judgment,” have either the education or work experience to be in the instructor role. 
  • Accreditors can propose a three-year grace period to allow programs to come into compliance with the accreditor’s faculty standards for dual or concurrent enrollment. This grace period is able to be extended. 
  • Removal of the seven public disclosures that institutions with distance education or correspondence courses previously were required to provide, such as what the result would be if a student moved to a state where the institution did not meet State authorization requirements. 

The final regulations also include a summary of the almost 200 public comments received and the Department’s response. 

The regulations will go into effect on July 1, 2020. The Department also announced that proposed rules for distance education and innovation, TEACH grants and faith-based institutions will be published soon. 

The full press release can be found here and final regulations can be found here

Title IV-A Coalition Holds Day of Action 

On November 6, the national Title IV-A Coalition held a day of action to advocate for Congress to fully fund Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act. That title authorizes and funds the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grants, which can be used by local education agencies to support student health and safety, the effective use of technology or access to well-rounded education (which includes CTE). In Nebraska, for example, Title IV-A dollars are being used to recruit CTE teachers to curate and develop educational resources aligned with college and career content area standards. The SSAE grants were originally authorized at $1.6 billion a year, but are currently funded at approximately $400 million less than that level. 

CEF Hosts Forum on Education in the 2020 Presidential Race 

On November 4, the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) hosted a Forum on Education in the 2020 Presidential Race. The panelists included Evie Blad and Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week and Michael Stratford of Politico Pro. The group discussed the role of education in the current presidential race, and the most pressing education topics in this campaign. There was agreement that education has been discussed more in this primary than in years past. Overall, the panelists pointed to where federal funding for higher education should be allocated, the question of how to increase salaries and the expansion of charter schools as some of the most discussed education topics by candidates. 

A full recording of the event can be viewed here

DeVos Shares Stories of Second Chance Pell Programs 

Earlier this week, Secretary DeVos again voiced her support of the Second Chance Pell Experimental sites initiative, that was established in 2015 to provide Pell grants to incarcerated individuals. Currently, over 10,000 students across 64 institutions participate in Second Chance Pell programs. Secretary DeVos shared videos that highlighted the Second Chance Pell program at the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Oklahoma, as well as the results of a Corrections Education Scholarship from Tulsa Community College.

New Report on The Role of Data and Accountability in Growing Youth Apprenticeship Programs

November 5th, 2019

Youth apprenticeship programs can give students access to valuable work-based learning experiences that provide insights into how their interest can connect to education and the workforce. Although these programs are often beneficial for participants, there is little data to show the programmatic landscape and impact. A lack of data inhibits the development and expansion of youth apprenticeship programs. 

Advance CTE’s latest report, The Role of Data and Accountability in Growing Youth Apprenticeship Programs, explores how states are collecting data on youth apprenticeship programs, and what steps can be taken to collect high-quality enrollment and outcomes data. 

There are many challenges that inhibit the ability of state and local communities to collect and use reliable data to support and improve youth apprenticeship programs. However, there are steps that state and local leaders can take to strengthen data collection and analysis, including: 

  • Adopt a common, rigorous and measurable statewide definition of youth apprenticeship programs; 
  • Develop a data definition and business rules that align with the statewide definition of youth apprenticeship to support consistent data collection and reporting;
  • Learn what data collection looks like at the local and state levels and where gaps exist; and
  •  Leverage the opportunities provided by ESSA and Perkins V to implement data collection mechanisms. 

There are also qualitative methods that can be used to support findings and build a comprehensive understanding of youth apprenticeship programs. This report explores how qualitative data supports findings, and supplements gaps in data.

This report was made possible by the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA). PAYA was created by New America and includes Advance CTE, CareerWise Colorado, Charleston Regional Youth Apprenticeships at Trident Technical College, Education Strategy Group, JFF, The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and National Governors Association. PAYA is appreciative of the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ballmer Group, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Siemens Foundation.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

Legislative Update: House Markup of College Affordability Act, Education Appropriations Halt in Senate

November 1st, 2019

This week, the House Education and Labor Committee voted on the College Affordability Act. Read below to learn  more about markup of the bill, the appropriations process, this week’s Senate CTE Caucus briefing and a new resource on employer engagement in Perkins V. 

House Education and Labor Committee Moves College Affordability Act 

From October 29-31, the House Education and Labor Committee held a markup on the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674) that had been introduced on October 15. On October 31, the committee voted 28-22 on party lines to approve the bill out of committee. A number of CTE-related amendments passed, including:

  • An amendment by Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL), with a sub-amendment by Representative Andy Levin (D-MI) that would expand access to funds within Title III, including specifically for postsecondary CTE programs; 
  • An amendment by Representative Lucy McBath (D-GA) that allowed language in Title IV to include language from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that would include collaboration with industry or sector partnerships; 
  • An amendment by Representative GT Thompson (R-PA) with a sub-amendment by Representative Haley Stevens (D-MI) that would include CTE and Perkins alignment to specific Title IV funding for tribal schools; and
  • An amendment by Representative Mark DeSaulnier (D-OR) that would emphasize the recruitment of teachers with “significant cultural and community competency.”

Education Appropriations Halt in the Senate

On October 31, the Senate voted on the first procedural motion for the four-bill minibus, H.R. 2740 that includes Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) appropriations for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed). The Senate voted 51-41 to reject the motion and prevent debate on the bill from starting. Overall, Senate Democrats feel that proposed increase for Labor-HHS-Ed of just 1% over FY19 levels is insufficient, and so do not want to move this bill as it is now.

In addition to Labor-HHS-Ed, the minibus also includes funding for Defense, State Foreign-Operations and Energy-Water. 

Currently, federal funding is operating through a continuing resolution that was passed at the end of September and will go until November 21, 2019. 

Senate CTE Caucus Briefing Features Advance CTE

On October 31, the Senate CTE Caucus in partnership with the National Skills Coalition (NSC) hosted a briefing on “Connecting the Dots Between Perkins V and WIOA: How Can These Key Federal Policies Work Together to Drive Economic Success?” The briefing featured Advance CTE’s Director of Strategic Initiatives Meghan Wills, as well as Yvette Chocolaad, Policy Director of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA), Katrin Klack, Program Officer of the Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (Rural LISC) and Katie Brown, Senior Federal Policy Analyst at NSC. The group agreed that it’s beneficial for states to find opportunities for coordination between Perkins V and WIOA in order to maximize impact. Wills reminded the group that a combined Perkins V and WIOA state plan is not the only way to align both laws. Although just a handful of states may pursue a combined plan, there is widespread alignment within states in the visioning and planning done for Perkins V and WIOA. 

New Resource on Employer Engagement in Perkins V 

Advance CTE released a new resource, Cheat Sheet: Opportunities for Employer Involvement in CTE, that identifies ways in which employers can get involved with CTE programs. The resources outlines ways the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) offers avenues for employer engagement at the state and local levels.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate and Sam Dunietz, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

FAFSA Simplification Bill Introduced, Executive Order Signed on Federal Agency Guidance

October 25th, 2019

This past week a bill to simplify the FAFSA was introduced in the Senate. Read below to learn more about the proposed bill, the recent executive order on agency guidance documents, additional information about the College Affordability Act and resources on work-based learning. 

Senator Alexander Introduces Bill to Simplify FAFSA

On Tuesday, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a new bill, along with Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)- referred to as the FAFSA Simplification Act. Although FAFSA simplification was included in the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019 (S. 2557) that Senator Alexander introduced earlier this month, the FAFSA Simplification Act is a separate standalone bill. One of the most significant changes this bill would make is to decrease the number of questions on the form by prepopulating data already collected elsewhere. 

Overhauling the FAFSA to be less of a burden for students has been a longtime goal of Senator Alexander, and a priority for him in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).

Trump Signs Executive Order on Agency Guidance Documents 

Earlier this month President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order,“Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents,” which requires that “agencies treat guidance documents as non-binding both in law and in practice.” The executive order states that all federal agency guidance must be clearly publicized as non-binding. Additional measures are put in place such as a required 30-day public comment period before any guidance is finalized. The order enforces that legally-binding requirements will originate only from Congress, and that “agencies may clarify existing obligations through non-binding guidance documents.”

House Plans for College Affordability Act Markup

Last week, House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Democrat’s HEA reauthorization bill, entitled the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674). Markup of this bill is scheduled for Tuesday, October 29. The legislation is meant as a comprehensive reauthorization and includes a significant number of proposals, including:

  • Allocating an additional $181 million to states for postsecondary Perkins CTE programs; additional funds for tribal and outlying areas.
  • Creating a state-federal partnership to fund students to attend community college without cost. This program would require states to contribute $1 for every $3 the federal government contributes.
  • Removing the student unit record data system (SURD) ban and creating a new streamlined data system. The language included is almost identical to the College Transparency Act which Advance CTE strongly supports. This would streamline data collection, reduce institutional burden and better track student success and institutional quality.
  • Expanding Pell grant eligible dual-enrollment opportunities through a competitive grant program. The bill would also increase the number of Pell eligible semesters from 12 to 14, which is meant to allay concerns about Pell grant exhaustion. 

Advance CTE’s HEA recommendations can be found here

U.S. Department of Labor Shares Resources on Work-Based Learning

The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration shared a page on the WorkforceGPS website with resources to support work-based learning. Some of the topics covered include apprenticeships, career pathways and internships. New resources will continue to be added to this web page.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate and Sam Dunietz, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

New Series by New America Explores the Impact of TAACCCT

October 21st, 2019

Recovery from the 2008 recession required an understanding of the new sets of skills that the labor market demanded, as well as an emphasis on postsecondary attainment. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program was a $1.9 billion investment led by the U.S. Department of Labor in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education to do just that. The TAACCCT grant had the purpose of helping community colleges meet workforce needs by ensuring that learners acquired the skills needed to be successful in a career through postsecondary attainment. 

TAACCCT grants ran from 2011 through 2018, and in total 256 TAACCCT grants were awarded in all 50 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. This means that 60 percent of the publicly-funded community colleges in the country were affected by these grants, and almost 2,600 programs of study were created or improved to support adult learners in gaining skills that would bring them to a good job. 

Each TAACCCT recipient was required to go through a third-party evaluation so that the benefits, or shortcomings, of TAACCCT could be understand. New America reviewed all of the evaluations to determine whether or not the TAACCCT grant made a difference and what strategies utilized under the grant worked. 

One major takeaway from the analysis is that learners were almost twice as likely to complete a program, credential or both when enrolled in a TAACCCT recipient program than not. Increases in employment as a result of TAACCCT grants were seen as well. The full series of briefs by New America can be viewed here

The findings of these reports were discussed at a recent event on “Community Colleges as Engines of Opportunity: Exploring the Impact of the TAACCCT Program.” The event included panels that featured federal, state, college and nonprofit perspectives. A common theme was that the TAACCCT grant provided a unique opportunity to bring together education and industry representatives. These relationships allowed colleges to best serve their adult learners and set them up for success and helped all sides understand the connection between education and workforce development.

The final panel of the day was comprised of leaders at colleges that received the TAACCCT grant. The group reiterated the important role that community colleges have in supporting adult learners. Dean of School of Applied Technology & Technical Specialties, Salt Lake Community College, Eric Hauser, shared that “life comes at our students faster than others and one small thing can set them off course,” making student support services vital. 

A full recording of the event can be viewed here

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

College Affordability Act Released

October 16th, 2019

On October 15, the House Committee on Education and Labor introduced the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674), the House Democrats’ long-awaited legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA).

Some of the major initiatives of the bill include:

  • Creating a federal-state funding partnership to incentivize states to make community college tuition-free;
  • Increasing the value and funding of Pell Grants;
  • Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); 
  • Repealing the ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated students;
  • Codifying restrictions on federal funds used for for-profit institutions that had been put in place by the Obama Administration;
  • Repealing the student unit record data ban and creating a new postsecondary student data system;
  • Expanding Pell Grant eligibility to certain short-term credential programs; and
  • Creating additional funds for postsecondary Perkins CTE programs, including tribally controlled postsecondary CTE institutions.

Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) intends this to be a comprehensive reauthorization, in contrast to the recent “mini” HEA reauthorization proposal, The Student Aid Improvement Act, introduced by Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

Advance CTE staff will continue to monitor changing developments with this proposal and related legislation. Advance CTE’s full recommendations for HEA reauthorization can be found here

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate and Sam Dunietz, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Short-Term Spending Bill Passes, Senator Alexander Introduces HEA Bill

October 2nd, 2019

This past week, a short-term spending bill was finalized to extend government funding through November 21, 2019, and Senator Lamar Alexander introduced new Higher Education Act (HEA) legislation. Read below to learn more about the appropriations process, HEA proposal, new data on Career Technical Education (CTE) and innovation grants from the U.S. Department of Education. 

Short-Term Spending Bill Extends Funding Into November 

On September 27, President Donald Trump signed a short-term spending bill, H.R. 4378, to extend current funding levels-with some exceptions- through November 21, 2019. Since Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) funding was due to expire on September 30, 2019, this continuing resolution postpones a government shutdown and gives appropriators additional time to finalize the long-term FY20 funding bill. The day before the White House signed the continuing resolution, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 82-15, following the House passing of the bill earlier in the month. 

Now, appropriators are working on the full FY20 appropriations bills. So far, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Education) proposed FY20 funding bill would allocate under $1.3 billion to CTE State Grants, also known as Perkins Basic State Grants- an amount that is level with the FY19 allocation. The House Labor-HHS-Education FY20 funding bill passed  in June proposed an increase of $47 million for Perkins Basic State Grants. Advance CTE will continue to provide updates as additional information becomes available.

Senator Lamar Alexander Introduces Higher Education Act Legislation

On September 26, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a package of eight bipartisan bills entitled the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019 (S. 2557). This package includes many of Senator Alexander’s long-held priorities for the Higher Education Act (HEA), including:

    • Permanently extending funding for many Minority Serving Institutions, which expired at the end of September;
    • Simplifying and streamlining FAFSA submissions; 
    • Restoring Pell Grant eligibility for those incarcerated; and
    • Expanding Pell Grants to go to short-term non-degree programs. This is similar to the JOBS Act (S. 239 / H.R. 827) – which Advance CTE supports. However, there are some differences in Senator Alexander’s proposal, such as eliminating the limit to public institutions.   

The proposed package would require that students who repay their student loans under income-driven repayment plans pay a full 10% of their discretionary income.

HELP Committee Ranking Member Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has expressed concern with Alexander taking a piecemeal approach, and has advocated for a full HEA reauthorization. Many of Murray’s priorities, including comprehensive student loan reform and Title IX issues dealing with campus sexual assault are not included in Alexander’s bill.

New Interactive Data Story on Career Technical Education in High School

The U.S. Department of Education released a new interactive Career Technical Education (CTE) data story, “Bridging the Skills Gap: Career and Technical Education in High School.” Along with the release of the report, Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical and Adult Education Scott Stump shared that “CTE opens pathways to success for students whether they choose to pursue postsecondary education or enter the workforce after high school. These data show that students who concentrate in a high-demand CTE field, such as STEM or health sciences, go on to reap benefits from their studies long after graduation.”

The data in this new report examines CTE participation in high schools and student outcomes. Some of the data findings include: 

  • 77% of high school students earn at least one CTE credit;
  • About 75% of public school districts that have CTE programs offer CTE courses that grant dual credit; 
  • High school students who are CTE concentrators have a higher graduate rate than non-CTE concentrators; and
  • High school students who are CTE concentrators participate in postsecondary education within eight years of high school graduation at a higher rate than non-CTE concentrators. 

Check out the full report here for additional information on high school CTE delivery, concentrations and outcomes. 

New Education Innovation and Research Grantees Announced

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced new Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program grantees across 41 school districts, state education agencies and non-profit organizations. A total of $123 million in new grant awards will go to creating or expanding innovative practices that are supported by evidence to increase academic achievement for high-need students. Many of the grantees include rural areas and focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. 

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate and Sam Dunietz, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Excellence in Action Spotlighting: Questar III BOCES Rensselaer Educational Center, Criminal Justice Program of Study

October 2nd, 2019

The Criminal Justice program of study was developed in response to labor market needs and learner interest at the Questar III BOCES Rensselaer Educational Center in Troy, NY. According to the New York State Department of Labor’s long-term occupational employment projections for the region, careers as detectives and criminal investigators, police and sheriff’s patrol officers, and security guards are all projected to grow significantly between 2014 and 2024. To prepare learners for these careers work-based learning is a core element of the program of study. All seniors are required to complete a minimum of 25 hours at an employer-sponsored internship.

“The instructor, Amy Gillett, has worked tirelessly with industry and post-secondary partners to offer high-quality experiences that prepare students for different careers in the Criminal Justice field. Students leave with a strong knowledge base and many industry credentials that help prepare them for both the workforce and college,” said Dr. Danielle Bouton-Wales, Director of Career and Technical Education at Questar III BOCES

Learners are also able to earn industry certifications in the areas of private security, corrections and public safety dispatching, as well as several Federal Emergency Management Agency certifications, often gaining immediate employment in the field after graduation while attending a postsecondary institution. 

In 2016, after learning that surrounding counties had a shortage in public safety telecommunicators or dispatchers — those responsible for receiving and responding to telephone or other electronic requests for emergency assistance — the program ensured that an instructor was trained and certified to prepare learners for this career.        

Learners working toward earning the Public Safety Telecommunicator I Certification will work with the same equipment they would use on the job, such as a two-station computer system or 911 simulator.

Last year, all Questar III Criminal Justice students from REC graduated high school, participated in work-based learning, earned an industry-recognized credential and earned postsecondary credit. Learn more about the Criminal Justice program, at Questar III BOCES Rensselaer Educational Center and the 2019 award winners.

Organizations in the South Bronx are Expanding Workforce Development Systems to Improve Youth Employment

October 1st, 2019

In the South Bronx, 23 percent of youth are out of school and out of work. Among those working, half are employed in low-paying jobs. To change the trajectory for these learners, JPMorgan Chase & Co. has invested in four initiatives working to increase meaningful work-based learning opportunities for South Bronx students.  Each initiative has its own set of goals focused on specific outcomes, but all are collectively working towards creating equitable systems change so that more learners have access to living-wage career pathways.

One of those initiatives is Consortium for Worker Education (CWE) New York Alliance for Transport and Logistics Advancement Services Initiative (NYATLAS), a private, non-profit agency that provides industry-specific training and employment services to 60,000 New Yorkers a year. CWE estimates that the New York City metropolitan area has 50,000-60,000 jobs in the public transportation sector, 1,000 of which are entry-level and have a career ladder.

CWE is working to ensure learners have the real-world skills employers are seeking by creating a variety of courses that can be completed in four-ten weeks with a career waiting at the completion of the coursework.  CWE is making it a priority to remove barriers to access to these programs, for example, they have helped nearly 500 students obtain driver’s license necessary to participate in these careers.

Improving access to the health care industry is the goal of the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (NYACH) Ready for Healthcare Initiative. It is an industry partnership focused on building an effective, integrated and accessible health care workforce development ecosystem in New York City. NYACH is working with the New York City Department of Education to redesign and update the Healthcare Core Curriculum currently in use at 13 Career Technical Education (CTE) programs across the city.

Current programming focuses on meaningful exposure to careers and industry leaders and includes a guest speaker series, an expo event, a mentorship program and employer site visits. Participants are gaining an understanding of the vast opportunities available in the healthcare industry. The work will continue in fall 2019 with internships for those aspiring to be medical assistants and certified nursing assistants.

Using data to drive improvement is the goal of the third initiative, New Visions for Public Schools’ Data Infrastructure for South Bronx. The nonprofit school support intermediary organization serves more than 350 schools throughout New York City. Their main service is a technology they have designed called the New Visions Data Portal.

The portal has tools to capture student progress to empower school staff and workforce partners by providing them with critical information to support decisions about each student’s path to success. The results are clear: New Visions’ core network of 70 New York City public high schools and 10 New Visions public charter schools surpassed a graduation rate of 84 percent in 2018, on par with the national high school graduation rate.

The final initiative, Per Scholas, is a national nonprofit that provides tuition-free training and professional development to help unemployed or under-employed adults move into careers as technology professionals. With the investment from JPMorgan Chase & Co., Per Scholas is focusing on ensuring learners receive support while still in high school.

 In the early stages of the work, Per Scholas is engaging with employers to identify entry-level skills and tasks to construct simulated tasks that teachers can execute in their classrooms. They are designing simulated work-based learning curriculum modules that will be piloted in three to five Bronx high schools with 150 students and 10 instructors. Additionally, they plan to disseminate work-based learning curriculum modules to high schools to inform career readiness coursework.

 “We know the surest way to expand access to opportunity is to equip people with the skills needed to compete for well-paying, in-demand jobs that are available today and tomorrow,” said Sarah Steinberg, Program Officer, JPMorgan Chase. “That’s why we are supporting communities around the world to design and implement innovative new approaches to career education that prepare young people to enter the workforce with the skills, experiences, and credentials they need to succeed in good careers in growing industries.”

In 2017, JPMorgan Chase invested $6 million as part of the New Skills for Youth initiative to address equity gaps and to strengthen and expand workforce development systems in the South Bronx. All four initiatives will continue to collectively work toward systemic change and meet quarterly to share updates and brainstorm ideas to address any challenges.

The South Bronx is a JPMorgan Chase & Co. New Skills for Youth Innovation Site aiming to improve career pathways for learners. This snapshot is part of a series documenting the progress of the local investments from across the globe that aim to identify and implement the most promising ideas in career education, with a special focus on communities with the greatest needs. Learn more about the innovations sites here.

Excellence in Action Spotlighting: Susan Miller Dorsey High School, Dorsey Film Program

September 30th, 2019

This year’s Excellence in Action award winners, spanning eight Career Clusters® from seven states, represent some of the best Career Technical Education (CTE) programs in the country. Learners take part in rigorous sequences of courses beginning with foundational skills to subject-matter mastery; real-world, hands-on experiences in the classroom led by dedicated educators; and meaningful work-based experiences facilitated by industry partners. One of the award-winners is the Dorsey Film Program of study in Los Angeles, California in the Arts, A/V Technology & Communications Career Cluster®. 

The Dorsey Film Program was launched in 2015 to provide learners with the rigorous and integrated academic and technical coursework required for a career in the media and entertainment industry. In this three-year program of study, courses include investigative video production, audio/visual fundamentals, storytelling, web series/television scriptwriting and journalism.  Learners can also earn early college credit for both core academic courses and video production courses through an articulation agreement with West Los Angeles College.

An exciting aspect of the program is learners have to be able to “teach-back” what they are learning through video tutorials. This practice helps them grasp concepts and find out the areas they may need to improve upon. Throughout the program, learners are creating content that will contribute to their portfolio including producing their own web series, showcasing their incredible skills. Not only that, in 2016 and 2017, Dorsey student films were selected to screen at the Black Hollywood Education Resource Center (BHERC) Youth Film Festival.

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/nOTMG4KoIQo

A Program that Serves Each and Every Learner

“Our program does really well working with students who have learning disabilities, are autistic, or learners who aren’t engaged on campus and have been written off. I think by the nature of the arts we are able to reach them in a way that the other classes aren’t.” — Robyn Charles, Program Director, Dorsey High School Digital Film & Theatre Arts

Susan Miller Dorsey High School is a comprehensive high school campus serving an ethnically diverse population of 53 percent African-American and 45 percent of Hispanic learners. The school also serves special populations including 78 percent low-income learners, three percent homeless, and four percent of foster youth. The film program wants to ensure when youth age-out of the foster system they are equipped to perform a wide variety of tasks needed to compete for technical positions in the industry that are most likely to provide living wages.

When asked, What are you most proud of that this program accomplishes? Robyn Charles responded, “The change in the student. To literally watch the process of a student becoming more vocal, empowered, active, engaged, and positive as they find their voice is what I’m most proud of.” 

Starting Early 

In partnership with the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), middle school learners can begin gaining hands-on video production experience by participating in the Dorsey Summer Film Academy. This three-week summer program teaches youths how to produce their own short films while getting them acclimated to the high school campus. This bridge program is meant to ensure that the community has access to art enrichment programs early in their education, and provide a pathway all the way from middle school to postsecondary education. 

Learning Real-World Skills Opens Doors

To ensure that the program of study is meeting industry demand, a new pre-apprenticeship program called the Dorsey Media Industry Technician program has launched. Learners gain the training needed to qualify for high-demand jobs in the areas of grip, set design, lighting and construction to give learners the ability to work behind the scenes on Hollywood production sites. 

The program includes a two-year curriculum starting with grip and rigging and ending with lighting and construction. An articulation agreement with West Los Angeles College was established as well as a partnership with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union, removing the barrier of access to union membership for learners. Upon completion of the program, learners will be able to build and take down sets, read blueprints, operate stage lighting and live sound systems/acoustics and more. Learners will gain the skills needed for an industry that has a thriving creative economy with nearly one million jobs in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Alum on the Road to College and Career Success 

Christian Dixon, an alum of the program, is now enrolled at the University of Chicago pursuing an Entertainment Law degree. Charles stayed in contact with Dixon after graduation and helped him secure a three-year summer internship with William Morris Endeavor, a global entertainment agency, guaranteeing him a position upon college graduation!

At first I didn’t know what kind of lawyer I wanted to be… but now I know I want to stay in the entertainment field. I want to stay working with film. – Christian Dixon

Learn more about the Dorsey Film Program, at Susan Miller Dorsey High School and our 2019 award winners.