Posts Tagged ‘Future Ready PA’

In Round 2 ESSA States, A Clear Vision for Career Readiness Helps Anchor Implementation Strategies

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to articulate long-term goals for student academic achievement, graduation rates and English language proficiency. Yet some states have opted to go beyond federal requirements to describe a comprehensive vision for the future of K-12 education. In some cases, this helps anchor the plan and provides opportunities for cohesion across different title programs.

As the remaining 34 states prepare for next month’s submission deadline, several — including Pennsylvania and South Dakota — are taking the opportunity to refine their statewide vision. These states are leveraging the ESSA stakeholder engagement and planning process to chart out a new, aspirational future for education, one that puts career readiness front and center.

Pennsylvania Aims to Increase CTE Enrollment to Prepare All Learners for Postsecondary and Workforce Success

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), for example, describes its mission as preparing all learners for “meaningful engagement in postsecondary education, in workforce training, in career pathways, and as responsible, involved citizens.” PDE goes on to elevate the importance of career ready pathways for student success. This framing sets the tone for the rest of the state’s proposed ESSA plan, and is echoed through the state’s accountability, technical assistance and grant administration strategies.

Under accountability, Pennsylvania calls for a career readiness indicator to measure the implementation and completion of career exploration activities in elementary, middle and high school. Additionally, the state proposes a new public-facing report card called the Future Ready PA Index that will monitor and report out a variety of career readiness metrics. Metrics identified through stakeholder engagement include participation in advanced coursework (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment), and the number of students earning industry-recognized credentials.  The inclusion of these metrics in Pennsylvania’s public reporting and accountability system demonstrates the state’s commitment to career preparation at all levels of education.

The plan also identifies funding sources through different ESSA title programs and outlines strategies to braid funds and promote certain career preparation activities. These strategies are organized around four guiding priorities, one of which is to ensure well-rounded, rigorous and personalized learning for all students. Specifically, the plan proposes to increase participation in advanced coursework, promote access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education (STEM), and support meaningful career pathways, aiming to increase enrollment in state-approved CTE programs by five percent annually. With this clearly articulated vision, PDE urges local education agencies to braid funds through Title I, Title II and Title IV to support related efforts. Specific encouraged activities include hiring and training qualified career and college counselors to help learners make informed decisions about their career paths.

South Dakota Plans to Expand High-Quality CTE Pathways

Similarly, preparing all graduating high school student for postsecondary education and the workforce is one of four K-12 milestones identified in South Dakota’s ESSA plan. The importance of CTE and career preparation is not lost. In fact, South Dakota commits to providing learners with multiple pathways to demonstrate readiness for college, career and life after high school.

Like Pennsylvania, South Dakota plans to use its accountability system to achieve this vision. The state aims to refine it college and career readiness indicator, originally adopted in the 2012-13 school year, to value learners who graduate ready for both college and careers. The indicator includes two metrics — assessment of readiness and progress toward a post high school credential  that count students completing advanced coursework such as CTE, AP and dual credit as well as those earning passing scores on college entrance examinations.

What is notable about South Dakota’s ESSA plan is that CTE is drawn out as a strategy throughout different parts of the plan, illustrating the extent to which CTE is core to South Dakota’s vision. For one, South Dakota plans to provide technical assistance to schools identified for comprehensive or targeted support and improvement to help them develop and expand high-quality CTE pathways. The justification for this strategy is that CTE students have higher graduation rates. Additionally, South Dakota aims to launch pilot schools that provide work-based learning experience, early postsecondary opportunities and robust career guidance and supports for students. And, under Title IV, Part A (the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants), South Dakota plans to set aside state funds to help local education agencies expand high-quality CTE pathways.

ESSA gives states a clear opening to reorganize their priorities and vision for K-12 education. Newfound flexibility under the law allows for state-appropriate strategies that reflect stakeholder input and are aligned with other statewide initiatives. However, ESSA plans will only be as effective as states make them. By setting clear goals and connecting efforts and strategies, states can organize their ESSA implementation efforts to support career readiness and success.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Public Policy
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