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Community Colleges in the Spotlight

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

This week, the National Center for Education and the Economy released a new report at a day-long event in Washington, DC. The report – “What Does It Mean to Be College and Work Ready?” –  explores the first-year expectations for students across nine different disciplines (Accounting, Automotive Technology, Biotech/Electrical Technology, Business, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Information Technology/Computer Programming, Nursing, and General Studies) in mathematics and English Language Arts, and finds that there is a misalignment between what students learn in high school and what they need to know for success in their first year at community college.

Specifically in mathematics, the report finds that the first-year expectations are rarely above the Algebra I bar and largely focus on mathematics taught in middle school. The report identifies some key content areas that are typically untaught in high school, namely schematics, geometric visualization, and complex applications of measurement. One recommendation is to refocus K-12 mathematics instruction so students can gain a deeper conceptual understanding of the foundational knowledge and skills in elementary and middle school mathematics rather than rushing them to, and through, advanced course-taking in high school.

In English, the report finds that while the texts assigned in the first-year of community college programs are at the 11th and 12th grade level, the assignments and tests demand little from students by way of reading comprehension or writing – or, in other words, there is high text complexity but low test rigor. The Common Core State Standards’ focus on discipline-specific literacy, reading informational texts, and writing from evidence should help shore up students’ abilities in these areas, but community colleges will need to adjust their instruction in kind.

Over the course of six panel discussions, a number of topics were explored, but two themes came up time and again, the first being the tradeoff between community colleges shifting their mission away from providing open access to all students to the accountability-driven goal of retaining students. The question was raised, but largely unanswered, of whether this shift has led community colleges to lower their expectations and standards for incoming students to ensure more stay enrolled and complete. On the other hand, remediation has long been an issue among community colleges and hasn’t dramatically improved since institutions have begun to focus on completion.

The other major theme discussed was the need for more curricular pathways for students in high school, particularly in mathematics. While the report recommends that Algebra II no longer be required for all students, most of the panelists agreed that Algebra II still had value to students, but that there need to be more contextualized learning opportunities for students, based on their learning styles and post-high school interests.

What struck me about the event is that Career Technical Education (CTE) has long been tackling the challenges and opportunities raised in the report and event including building partnerships between K-12 and community college and between community colleges and employers, and offering contextualized learning pathways to students. While CTE was barely mentioned (explicitly) over the course of the day – and is not mentioned at all in the report – it is a major component of any strategy to address students’ readiness for college and careers.

Click here to read the report and watch video from the release event.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

By Kate Blosveren in Meetings and Events, Public Policy, Research
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Florida Legislature Passes Bill Introducing College-Ready and Career-Ready Tracks

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Florida Governor Rick Scott of signed a bill this week, restructuring the state’s graduation requirements.

At the heart of the legislation is the repeal of the state’s current high school graduation requirements – adopted in 2010 to be fully implemented with the graduating class of 2016 – which required all students to complete four years of mathematics, including Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II (in alignment with the state’s adopted Common Core State Standards) and three years of science, including Biology and Chemistry or Physics.

Under the new requirements, to impact the graduating class of 2014, students can choose a career pathway that would allow them to be waived from Algebra II, Chemistry and Physics courses, as well as the end-of-course assessments in those subjects and take more Career Technical Education (CTE) courses or other work-based learning experiences in their place. The Florida State Board of Education will determine which courses will be allowed to substitute the waived academic courses. If students take the new minimum requirements and earn one or more industry certification, they will receive a “merit” designation.

Or, students can earn “scholar” designation if they complete the current graduation requirements, with the goal of this pathway preparing students for a four-year degree.

The legislation includes a strong focus on career exploration and articulates that districts should work with local workforce boards, business and industry, and postsecondary institutions to create partnerships and career-focused courses, which would then need to be approved by the State Board of Education.

The legislation also changes Florida’s assessment requirements by making the currently high-stakes biology and geometry end-of-course assessments count as 30 percent of a student’s grade rather than a requirement for graduation. The Algebra I and English 10 exams will still be required for all students, but also count as 30 percent of the student’s final grade rather than be fully high stakes.  Finally, the bill ensures the current economics course requirement includes an emphasis on financial literacy.

The bill aims to provide students with more flexibility and better align high school with workforce demands and many of the provisions will achieve that. However, there is valid concern that the new graduation requirements will mean not all students will be expected to learn – and therefore will have access to – the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The concern is largely around the fact that, unless the approved CTE courses, credentials and experiences are indeed rigorous both in terms of the technical expectations and academic expectations, some students will be tracked into less rigorous pathways, limiting their postsecondary and career options in the long term.

We’ll be tracking the issue and particularly the work of the State Board of Education moving forward.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

By Kate Blosveren in Public Policy
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Spring Meeting Recap: What is Career Readiness?

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Earlier this week, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) held its annual Spring Meeting, where the notion of ‘career readiness’ was front and center. One session squarely focused on the work of the Career Readiness Partnership Council (CRPC) in convening a broad group of partners to develop a common definition of Career Readiness (which can be found at www.careerreadynow.org) and potential next steps for the partnership and the definition itself.

The urgency behind the CRPC and the development of a common understanding of what career readiness was driven by a number of factors, and Patrick Ainsworth, who coordinated much of the work of the CRPC pointed out a few: the ongoing development of the Common Core Technical Core, the widespread adoption of the college- and career-ready Common Core State Standards (which cover only the academic foundation of career readiness), and the lack of understanding of what career readiness means and looks like across the nation. The CRPC, therefore, aimed to create a “north star” for each of the participating organizations around career readiness to help guide and drive policy and practice.

The other two panelists, representing partnership organizations, each discussed what compelled them to join the CRPC and what the definition will mean for them moving ahead. Martin Simon of the National Governors’ Association described how governors are concerned not only about the skills gap but also the coordination gap between educators and workforce investment boards. He discussed the need for a more comprehensive system to better link education, training and workforce needs that will build career pathways, not just training for jobs. About half of all governors discussed career pathways or Career and Technical Education (CTE) in their 2013 state of the state addresses, demonstrating they not only care about these issues but consider them to be priorities.

Andrew Moore from the National League of Cities described the unique role mayors can play in connecting and convening the education and business communities. Mayors are deeply concerned about the skills gap and the extremely high unemployment rates among teenagers.

After the panelists’ remarks, the participants were asked how they might use the career readiness definition moving forward. Some responses included:

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

By Kate Blosveren in NASDCTEc Spring Meeting, Public Policy, Uncategorized
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Spring Meeting Recap: CTE in the Spotlight

Friday, April 19th, 2013

The education and workforce communities have increasingly focused on Career Technical Education (CTE) as an effective strategy for preparing college- and career-ready students. At this week’s Spring Meeting of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc), representatives from several national policy organizations discussed their interest in CTE and ways that they can partner with CTE stakeholders to promote high quality CTE programs.

Tom Rudin, a Senior Vice President at the College Board, noted his organization’s commitment to supporting college and career readiness aspirations for all students. He described the College Board’s interest in working with NASDCTEc to advocate for CTE and issues surrounding college and career readiness.

Melanie Anderson, Director of Government Affairs at Opportunity Nation, discussed her organization’s role in decreasing the “opportunity gap.” Opportunity Nation is particularly interested in bringing the private sector into conversations about CTE and ensuring the alignment of CTE programs with business and industry needs. Visit the opportunity index, a tool that uses a number of indicators to demonstrate economic mobility and opportunity, to view the impact of the opportunity gap where you live. View Melanie’s presentation here.

Martha Ross of the Brookings Institution described her organization’s interest in regionally-based, industry-responsive pathways and CTE as a human capitol issue. Lastly, Tess Mason-Elder of Civic Enterprises described CTE as a way to address educational access issues by improving persistence rates and presenting students with affordable postsecondary options.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager

By Kara in NASDCTEc Spring Meeting, Resources
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Spring Meeting Recap: Two Minute Roundup Panel

Friday, April 19th, 2013

This year, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) surveyed Career Technical Education (CTE) State Directors to learn more about CTE-related challenges and successes experienced in their states over the last year. Responses from each state were compiled into a “Two Minute Roundup” document. This resource is intended to spur conversation and connectivity between states that may experience similar accomplishments or difficulties.

Earlier this week at the NASDCTEc Spring Meeting, a Two Minute Round Up panel featured CTE leaders who delved further into their respective state’s successes and challenges.

Meg Harvey, CTE State Director at the Maine Department of Education, described several CTE initiatives in Maine including the launch of a five year associate degree pilot program. View Meg’s powerpoint presentation here.

Kathy D’Antoni, Assistant State Superintendent of Schools at the West Virginia Department of Education, highlighted her state’s work on simulated workplaces. She also presented a new online resource called “in|site.” The website provides hundreds of resources, many that align with West Virginia’s academic and CTE standards, to help better prepare students for postsecondary education and careers. Kathy’s presentation is available here.

Rita Johnson, Senior Director for Workforce Innovation at the Kansas Board of Regents, discussed the Kansas state legislature’s plan to enhance the CTE system by providing free college tuition to students for all technical courses in approved programs at various institutions in the state. An overview document of Kansas’ work is available here. Rita has also provided several video clips that promote CTE programs in the state in areas such as welding, nursing, and information technology.

Visit our Spring Meeting Resources webpage to view additional resources.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager 

By Kara in NASDCTEc Spring Meeting, Resources
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Mosquero Municipal Schools Dedicates new Media Center

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Mosquero Municipal Schools will be holding a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony April 7 to announce their new Media Center. The school district serves a rural and sparsely populated area in Harding County, New Mexico.

Mosquero schools stand as a testament to small rural schools overcoming capacity issues to reinvent their education system, with the visionary leadership of parents, current and past school board members, educators, city council members, and long-time community residents. In a guide for school leaders, “Redesigning the High School Experience for College and Career Readiness,” a publication jointly produced by the National Career Technical Education Foundation (NCTEF) and Microsoft Corporation’s U.S. Partners in Learning, the story of Mosquero’s success is showcased, sharing how this school created a different kind of learning experience using innovative initiatives.

With the goal of “Fostering an Entrepreneurial Spirit in Arts, Audio/Visual Technology and Communications,” Mosquero developed a Digital Media Entrepreneur Curriculum, a unique program that uses best practices for encouraging 21st century skill development with a focus on transferrable, rather than occupation skills, keeping the program relevant to a broad base of students. This program uses the Career Clusters® Framework as a model.

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

IN Governor Delivers on State of the State Promise, Passes Law that Expands CTE

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

In his January state of the state address, Indiana Governor Mike Pence clearly prioritized expanding Career Technical Education (CTE) and aligning CTE programs with the needs of the workforce. Just two months later, a bill supporting this expansion has been passed unanimously in the Indiana General Assembly, and will soon be signed into law by Governor Pence.

The Indiana Works Councils bill will use state and local resources to create Indiana Works Councils (IWC) that help bridge the barriers between education and businesses. Each IWC will identify opportunities and demands for CTE and partnerships with business and industry in each region. Using this information, the IWC will develop more relevant CTE curriculum and identify work-based learning opportunities to increase the alignment of career pathways to in-demand jobs.

Governor Pence stated that, “The passage of this legislation with unanimous and bipartisan support demonstrates the commitment of the people of our state to make career and vocational education a priority in every high school in Indiana again. Today, the Indiana General Assembly took an important step toward making certain that our schools work for all our students, whether they’re college- or career-bound.”

Governors and other policy makers across the nation continue to express support for CTE. Laws such as the IWC legislation will help increase the quality and relevance of CTE programs, and improve opportunities for students to land well-paying, in-demand jobs.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager

Key Stakeholders Convene to Discuss Career Pathways at Pathways to Prosperity Event

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

This week, more than 400 educators, researchers, business leaders, economists, and civic stakeholders convened at Harvard University to consider the possibility of expanding career pathways in school systems across the country.  The catalyst for the conference was the February 2011 report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) titled, Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century.

Many attendees made the case that the United States can no longer ignore the huge mismatch that exists between the skills students learn in school and the needs of the modern workforce. Several speakers noted that the college-for-all movement has led to widespread dropouts within high school and postsecondary education, college graduates lacking the skills required by employers, and a lack of workers with the high-tech skills essential to the economic development of the United States. Instead, evidence was presented that career pathways prepare all students to be career and college ready and can lead students to higher levels of success as adults. Relevant career pathways open up options for students that the traditional high school and college systems cannot or have not provided in the past.

Ronald Ferguson and William Symonds of the HGSE Pathways to Prosperity Project challenged each person in attendance to submit the steps that they or their organizations will take to advance the Pathways to Prosperity concept. During the conference, attendees shared their strategies, commitments, and experiences for expanding the Multiple Pathways approach. Some see the need to prepare career-ready students as an economic issue, some see it as an issue of equity or social justice, and others view it as a national security issue. Regardless of the philosophical orientation, the participants in the many panels agreed that a more relevant, engaging, and pragmatic approach is needed to prepare students for employment and careers.

Given that students are competing globally with graduates from other countries, it was emphasized that students must acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to help innovate and create new technologies and approaches.  Without commitments from business and education to change local, state, and national policies and systems, there is doubt that the full economic potential of our country or wide-spread sustainable wages can be attained in the foreseeable future.

Many presentations supported Career Technical Education (CTE) as an essential foundational element of creating the pathways needed to truly transform education systems. To assist in moving the pathways movement forward, Ferguson announced the creation of the Pathways to Prosperity Network. The network is “a collaboration between the Pathways to Prosperity Project at HGSE, Jobs for the Future (JFF), and six states focused on ensuring that many more young people complete high school, attain a postsecondary credential with currency in the labor market, and launch into a career while leaving open the prospect of further education.”

To read more go to:  http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news-impact/2012/06/pathways-to-prosperity-network-launches/#ixzz2ODUg9vdv

Patrick Ainsworth, Ed.D., NASDCTEc Past President

National Public Radio Show Discusses New Direction for CTE

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Over the last decade, Career Technical Education (CTE) has transformed from skills-focused vocational education into a robust educational environment that integrates core academics with real-world relevance. A recent story on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition highlights an example of this transformation at Stockbridge Community Schools in Michigan.

Listen to the story or read the script here.

Administrators at Stockbridge have embraced CTE because they recognize the value of equipping students with both academic and technical skills. Reporter Sarah Alvarez noted that “When kids from the rural mid-Michigan school district of Stockbridge go looking for work, they have to go pretty far. There are no jobs here to speak of. That means they’re competing against applicants from bigger, richer districts for jobs. That’s made the school system willing to embrace technical education in a big way, even when it had a serious image problem as second rate education.”

According to the report, Stockbridge offers courses such as alternative energy, underwater robotics, and marketing that equip students with the high-level skills they need to compete in postsecondary education and the workplace.

But like other CTE schools and programs across the nation, Stockbridge suffers from cuts to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act – the main source of federal funding for CTE. One teacher reports storing old equipment from shut-down CTE programs in his classroom. Alvarez also describes the difficulty of attracting CTE teachers from industry where they can earn much higher salaries.

Though budget cutbacks create challenges for CTE programs, Stockbridge and other CTE schools across the nation continue to prioritize CTE because they are seeing such positive results for students.

CTE State Directors are committed to advancing this new direction for CTE. Read more in Reflect Transform, Lead: A New Vision for Career Technical Education.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager

Report: State Policy Approaches for Incentivizing CTE

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Career Technical Education (CTE) has become a top priority in education policy – receiving recognition from governors and members of Congress – because of its relevance to local, state, and national economies.

The Education Commission of the States (ECS), a group that facilitates the exchange of information among state policymakers and education leaders, released this month an issue brief describing how states are depending on CTE to address many issues – such as the skills gap and alignment of education with labor market needs – and what states are doing to incentivize the use of CTE. Some incentives include:

  • “Carrot” policies to encourage high school students to earn CTE credentials or to perform well on WorkKeys
  • “Stick” policies for schools and districts to ensure that CTE students are progressing toward career readiness
  • Development of supports for students at risk of falling short of career readiness

The report also draws attention to the integration of academic and technical courses and content through the Common Core State Standards and the reframing of dual enrollment programs to include CTE.

View the ECS issue brief here.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager

 

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