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New Skills ready network Site Highlight: The Attainment Network Seeks to Scale Impact in Denver Statewide

August 2nd, 2022

In 2020, JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched the New Skills ready network across six U.S. sites to improve student completion of high-quality career pathways with a focus on collaboration and equity. As a national partner in the New Skills ready network, Advance CTE strives to elevate the role of state capacity and resources in advancing project priorities and gain a unique perspective on promising practices to strengthen state-local partnerships across the country.

This blog series highlights innovative tools and initiatives produced across the six sites that advance the initiative’s four key priorities and serve as a guide for state leaders in their work to create cohesive, flexible and responsive career pathways.

Senior Policy Associate Haley Wing interviewed Rana Tarkenton and Therese Ivancovich of The Attainment Network. The Attainment Network connects partners and drives collaboration to build education-to-workforce systems that support every learner on their path to earning family-living wage employment and economic opportunities through education and skills training. This post highlights The Attainment Network’s contributions to the Denver site as well as their growing impact in the state of Colorado.

 

 

 

 

Background

The Attainment Network, formerly known as Denver Education Attainment Network (DEAN), was founded in 2014 as a direct response to persistent equity gaps in educational attainment and economic opportunity. The Attainment Network is transforming education-to-workforce systems, erasing persistent and pervasive equity gaps, expanding opportunities for learners and meeting the economic demands for a highly skilled and educated workforce.

The Network mobilizes K-12, postsecondary institutions, state agencies, local municipalities, nonprofit, business and learners to ignite and accelerate education-to-workforce systems change.  The Network serves a crucial role in providing strategic consulting, technical assistance, funding and connection to ensure a prioritized and sustained focus on learner-centered, career-connected experiences that strengthen regional and state talent pipelines. The Attainment Network also serves as the site lead for the New Skills ready network Denver site and has supported development and movement toward implementation of high-quality career pathways for learners. 

Vision for Success

The Attainment Network envisions an innovative education-to-workforce system that develops a diverse, talented workforce for current and future jobs, meets economic demands and sustains thriving communities. As The Network pursues this vision, their measure of success encompasses key evaluation questions embedded in equitable outcomes for learners. This includes measuring the number of diverse learners completing high-value credentials and receiving opportunities for high-wage, in-demand careers.

In support of their work to close equity gaps along career-connected pathways, The Attainment Network engages deeply with communities they serve. The team recognizes the importance and impact of learner and community voice. To that end, they have prioritized community engagement in the development of career-connected pathways, both within the New Skills work and beyond.

Unique Components of The Attainment Network

The team identified a need to provide high-level strategy, on-the-ground technical assistance and funding to support partners that are engaging in the education-to-workforce work. The team is especially well-equipped to leverage data, equity and collaboration to guide partners in informing policy and communications. When engaging with partners, The Attainment Network identifies and engages senior leadership and helps to set a shared vision for how multiple organizations work together. The organization also supports education and skills alignment by helping partners to identify the connecting points between education and skills training and how these components can be built into seamless programs of study and coordinated learner supports. 

The Attainment Network is leaning strongly into the learner voice and ensuring that learners are remaining centered in the work. The organization has launched a side-by-side community of practice of learners, as well as their Pathways Leadership Community of Practice. The organization will continue to add more learners to this group over time and in the next few months will have five to seven learners participating in this group. The problems of practice are driven by the needs of learners that arise in the community of practice, and learners will provide their own contemplation and feedback that will then be shared to inform decisions around policies and how programs move forward.

Within their communities of practice, The Attainment Network engages multiple types of organizations, both formal and informal partners, to elevate best practices in career-connected pathways and to problem solve for barriers to learner success. 

The Network prioritizes equity through their use of a data framework which also serves as an equity framework. The data framework was developed in collaboration with New Skills Denver partners and focuses specifically on learner subgroup populations and how those learners are progressing through pathways and into a career. These specific details allow the organization  to target strategies and solutions to close equity gaps. This work is currently being used in the Denver site for the New Skills ready network initiative and in other communities in Colorado as well.

The Attainment Network is also elevating work-based learning as an accelerator to help learners on their career journey. The organization’s investments in data with intentionality around how they work with partners to build capacity and alignment has been instrumental in the team’s learnings. For example, The Network now requires data-sharing agreements as a funding condition for all partnerships. 

New Skills ready network Impact

The success of the New Skills Denver partnership led to an opportunity to expand The Attainment Network’s impact beyond Denver. With its recent expansion to a statewide organization, The Attainment Network now has more resources to support the Denver New Skills ready network site because the organization has a statewide network and a larger footprint in the state of Colorado. The transition brings more focus to the New Skills site to further highlight important relationships and varied strategies the organization and its partners are leveraging in continuous development of high-quality career pathways for learners. 

The site’s success has allowed The Attainment Network to refine their strategies and highlight the impact of the organization’s approach and pathway strategy to expand to other communities. The investment from JPMorgan Chase in the New Skills ready network initiative helps solidify the value-add with partners and scale the framework to support broader work in the state of Colorado. In the coming years, the organization will help the Denver site to expand their reach by lifting up the work that is being achieved and eliminating policy barriers to learner success.

Visions for the Future

Looking ahead to 2023, The Attainment Network is focusing on streamlining data collection and utilization, building models that can be successfully replicated and leveraging statewide collaboration opportunities to scale impact. The Network is focusing on connecting career pathways data to wage data in order to understand how education and skills training are contributing to the promise of family living wage employment. As the organization expands to a replicable model, a cornerstone of the work will be centering alignment between policy and practice. The transition to a statewide focus opens opportunities to cross-pollinate ideas from Denver to other communities.

Additionally, The Attainment Network is entering phase two of  their Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP) pilot, which demonstrated the value of K-12 ICAP data to learners and advisors during learners’ transition to postsecondary. The pilot will now be named the Student Transitions pilot. In phase one, the pilot was well-received by partners and the organization learned the usefulness of the data and the impact on the postsecondary advising sessions with learners. In phase two, the focus will be on scalability, streamlining the data sharing process and developing a “pathways indicator” to be included in student records. The organization plans to include opportunities for counselor/advisor professional development to increase the impact of the pilot across K-12 and postsecondary institutions.

For more information about initiatives being pursued by Denver and the five other sites that are part of the New Skills ready network, view Advance CTE’s Year Two snapshots.

Haley Wing, Senior Policy Associate 

New Skills ready network Site Highlight: Boston, Massachusetts Dual Enrollment Programs

June 1st, 2022

In 2020, JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched the New Skills ready network across six domestic sites to improve student completion of high-quality career pathways with a focus on collaboration and equity. As a national partner in the New Skills ready network, Advance CTE strives to elevate the role of state capacity and resources in advancing project priorities and gain a unique perspective on promising practices to strengthen state-local partnerships across the country.

 

This blog post continues a series that highlights innovative tools and initiatives produced across Boston, Massachusetts; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Nashville, Tennessee, that advance the initiative’s four key priorities and serve as a guide for state leaders in their work to create cohesive, flexible and responsive career pathways. 

For this post, Senior Policy Associate Haley Wing interviewed Nuri Chandler-Smith, the Dean of Academic Support and College Pathway Programs at Bunker Hill Community College, and Liya Escalera, the Vice Provost for Academic Support Services and Undergraduate Studies at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston, who is also on the leadership team for the New Skills ready network. The interviews sought to learn more about the dual enrollment and early college programs within their respective schools, with a focus on learner engagement and cultural wealth.

Background

Dual enrollment programs at Bunker Hill Community College and UMass Boston enable learners within Boston Public Schools to earn college credit and gain early exposure to college experiences on campus while in high school, including during the summer months.  The partnerships are coordinated centrally through Boston Public Schools and extend learning from the school building to the university campus. The expansion of accessible dual enrollment programs in Boston helps to advance one of the project priorities of the New Skills ready network initiative to improve learners’ seamless progression from secondary to postsecondary education. Through supporting the expansion of dual enrollment opportunities and supporting policies and procedures that facilitate equitable access to these programs, Boston Public Schools, Bunker Hill Community College, and UMass Boston are ensuring learners have the tools and experiences to make fully informed decisions regarding their postsecondary coursework and path to career success. 

Dual Enrollment Programs at Bunker Hill Community College

Bunker Hill Community College (Bunker Hill) dual enrollment programs stand out because of their commitment to improving access to and success in these programs through seamless communication and intentional program connections between secondary and postsecondary programs. Bunker Hill is working directly with guidance staff at high schools, especially Charlestown High School, to make sure learners are aware of the dual enrollment and early college programs that are available. Strategies to increase awareness include pre-recorded dual enrollment info sessions tailored explicitly for flexible use by practitioners with learners and families during workshops and advisories, and one-on-one course mapping exercises with learners to build their mindset for multi-year access to dual enrollment at Bunker Hill. Guidance teams work closely with teachers to utilize multiple measures in identifying learners for dual enrollment. This includes prior academic preparation, attendance, study habits, and willingness to take responsibility for their learning process. Charlestown’s practices are consistent with the district-wide open-access dual enrollment policy. This spring, they are working to cohort learners into advisories, based on their pathways,  to provide more targeted academic and career planning needed for increased persistence throughout the dual enrollment course experience.

Bunker Hill has a unique partnership with Charlestown High School. Charlestown High School has a program for learners that allows them to take an exploratory course in the ninth grade to expose learners to various pathways that lead to high-wage and high-demand careers as a prerequisite to dual enrollment courses. Through this course, school leaders strive for learners to make more intentional choices about their course selections in dual enrollment and feel more prepared to complete these programs. Launched in 2018,  learners in Charlestown High School can access designated pathways in technology and business. Access to a third early college pathway, allied health, opened a year later. For Charlestown’s graduating class of 2021, learners in the early college cohort completed with more than 300 combined college credits. 

Charlestown learners participating in these programs can also access expanded course options — this include 17 unique courses across the Bunker Hill catalog ranging from Principles in Engineering to Human Biology/lab.  Strong staff relationships between Charlestown and Bunker Hill have allowed the teams to re-envision supports for learners, including pivoting to a cohort model for learning that enables learners to more successfully participate in coursework. The New Skills ready network grant has facilitated increased communications and partnerships with industry partners, which has created the conditions for additional support structures where learners now have access to mentors practicing in fields aligned to the learners’ pathways.

Dual Enrollment Programs at the University of Massachusetts Boston

UMass Boston’s dual enrollment programs stand out for their focus on cultural wealth using place-based learning and intense learner support through an alumni-based mentorship program. UMass Boston has a collection of dual enrollment classes decentralized across the university – some classes are a part of precollegiate programs, while others are partnerships between UMass Boston’s individual departments and local high schools. UMass Boston utilizes this unique system because it allows faculty to focus more time on co-designing secondary and postsecondary coursework with partners in the Boston Public School system to better support learner transitions. 

UMass Boston has centered its program design on valuing cultural wealth. This includes creating culturally-sustaining programs that draw upon the strengths of learners, their families, and their neighborhoods, and taking into account the issues that are important to learners. Tapping into learners’ individual experiences within their communities is important to take seriously, emphasized UMass Boston Vice Provost for Academic Support Services and Undergraduate Studies Liya Escalera. When learners’ place-based experiences and strengths are integrated into learning, they can use skills gained to be uniquely positioned to find solutions to challenges facing the city. Escalera also highlighted that enrolling in dual enrollment courses demystifies the content and rigor of postsecondary coursework and demonstrates to learners that they have the ability to succeed in college. 

Additionally, UMass Boston has piloted a program where mentoring and tutoring are embedded in dual enrollment spaces. UMass Boston utilizes graduates who are not only recent alumni but also participated in dual enrollment courses at the institution. In addition to providing one-on-one mentorship outside the classroom, UMass Boston alumni attend classes to ensure the assistance they are providing to learners parallels the material they are learning. UMass Boston has stressed the importance of ongoing support for learners’ continued academic success, especially considering the learner population they serve, including low-income, first-generation, and racially underrepresented learners.

Program Highlights, Successes and Lessons Learned

The New Skills ready network grant has enabled an expansion of dual enrollment courses, particularly within the emerging pathways of business, finance and environment science in the site’s focus schools. The New Skills ready network grant has also allowed postsecondary institutions in Boston to focus on learner flexibility. For example, UMass Boston has redefined what it means to be a successful learner aligned to their career goals. Boston partners are using resources available thanks to the New Skills ready network initiative to create a more uniform inclusion of career-specific skills into courses, including public speaking and leadership into the dual enrollment curriculum in addition to academic skill-building.

As the secondary and postsecondary partners in Boston, Massachusetts, continue to refine their dual enrollment opportunities for learners, they engage in critical reflection to ensure they are meeting learners’ needs. Since its early start in 2015, Bunker Hill has added career and pathway exploration opportunities aimed to offer learners multiple on-ramps to participation in early college and to provide learners with a foundational understanding of the options before selecting a pathway. Bunker Hill Community College replaced its original offering of college courses for first-year high school learners with an exploratory program for ninth-grade learners which was successful and provided learners and families with opportunities to understand the early college pathway option. If learners are still undecided about the pathways they want to pursue after tenth grade, they can continue to take classes at Bunker Hill Community College throughout high school to ensure the pathway they choose is one they are passionate about and prepares them for their careers.

At UMass Boston, dual enrollment courses that were too specific in their curriculum caused learners who transferred into different career pathways to experience a loss of credit, which prevented acceleration in their postsecondary experiences. Instead, UMass Boston has moved towards ensuring all pathways encourage learners to pursue coursework that interests them without fear of falling behind in coursework requirements. 

Visions for the Future

Looking forward, Bunker Hill is focused on sustainability to ensure learners will continue to have access to high-quality dual enrollment programs. This involves ensuring that all learners, regardless of their socioeconomic status and backgrounds, have access to wraparound supports and to remove barriers to success. There is an understanding that the racial disparities seen in dual enrollment programs and in higher education, in general, are not because learners are choosing not to access resources, or because they do not have the skills or ability to succeed, but rather because the institutions are not serving them to the level they need for success and they need to embody a new equity-minded and asset-based paradigm that can facilitate learners’ success. At UMass Boston, a priority for the future is flexibility. Learners should be allowed to make mistakes and change their career goals while still being ahead of the game. UMass Boston is embedding work-based learning into transferable general education courses. Additionally, creating a sense of belonging and community with an emphasis on cultural wealth within their dual enrollment programs is paramount. 

The Boston, Massachusetts team is committed to supporting policies and procedures that will enable learners to more readily participate across the district, beyond the focus schools. Within its Postsecondary transitions working group, partners across sectors have coalesced around priorities for strengthening systems and structures that will enable more effective dual-enrollment partnerships and increase access for all learners.

Tejas Shah, State Policy Intern

New Skills ready network Site Highlight Blog: Columbus, Ohio Learner and Family Engagement

December 9th, 2021

In 2020, JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched the New Skills ready network across six U.S. sites to improve student completion of high-quality career pathways with a focus on collaboration and equity. As a national partner in the New Skills ready network, Advance CTE strives to elevate the role of state capacity and resources in advancing project priorities and gain a unique perspective on promising practices to strengthen state-local partnerships across the country.

This blog series highlights innovative tools and initiatives produced across the six sites that advance the initiative’s four key priorities and serve as a guide for state leaders in their work to create cohesive, flexible and responsive career pathways.

Policy Associate Dan Hinderliter interviewed Donna Marbury, Director of Client Services for Warhol and WALL ST, a full-service marketing firm that serves as a consultant for the Columbus New Skills ready network site and has partnered on multiple initiatives with Columbus City Schools. This post will highlight the site’s work in elevating learner voice to market career pathways to families. 

Background 

Career pathways in Columbus City Schools provide the opportunity for high school learners to access high quality career technical education, and are open to all juniors and seniors. Dozens of courses are offered through eleven pathway programs split between two locations, Columbus Downtown High School and Fort Hayes Career Center. Through the New Skills ready network, the Columbus project team is prioritizing improving rigor and quality specifically in the areas of health sciences and information technology. Postsecondary partners Columbus State Community College and The Ohio State University are also reviewing quality pathways in this area to ensure seamless transition and alignment for learners in and between educational institutions.

Purpose and Components 

One of Columbus’ project focuses is creating messaging and materials to more effectively communicate the opportunities and benefits of career pathways to learners and families. The strategy focused on direct outreach to students and families through polling, focus groups and co-design sessions. Marbury emphasized that this strategy is rooted in creating communications “not for, but with the end user” to ensure materials meet both learners’ and families’ needs in how they digest and receive information.

This engagement began with focus groups of families and learners in the eighth and tenth grades, both those who are interested in and not interested in participating in career pathways in Columbus City Schools. Focus groups were also held with administrators, counselors and internship coordinators who were identified as key “translators” between student needs and goals and family perceptions and expectations for their students

Marbury acknowledged that it was difficult to reach families due to work schedules, communication needs, and the challenges of connecting virtually, and as a result, a post-focus group survey was targeted specifically to parents to determine communication preferences to better align future engagement. 

Active Listening through Learner Feedback Loops 

Columbus’ strategy integrates learner input beyond one-time focus groups, and Marbury emphasized that it is clear through their work so far that learners want to be involved in the entire process. Design workshops were held to allow a sub-set of learners involved in the focus groups to provide feedback on initial drafts of graphics and messaging. Future quarterly check-ins will engage this group in testing subsequent versions of the messaging and materials. 

Learner feedback on the updated materials has helped to reach diverse groups of students and achieve authenticity through messaging that is easily understood and able to be easily acted upon; photography that aligns with East African and Latinx representation in Columbus communities, and in formats such as memes and videos that match popular means for learners to access information.

Learners want to be involved in these projects. If they are interested in a career pathway, they want to feel empowered to talk about it, and we need to make it easy for them to do so.” – Donna Marbury, Director of Client Services, Warhol and WALL St. 

The updated communication tools are one piece of a larger plan to design and communicate career pathways more clearly to families and learners so that each learner’s academic plans are aligned to their career goals starting as early as middle school. 

Lessons Learned 

Marbury elevated that the choice to participate in a career pathway in Columbus can be an emotional decision because it often requires the learner to leave their home school environment to attend one of Columbus’ career technical high schools. The communications to students and families must address this and highlight the benefits to students now and in the future. She also shared that the opportunity for hands-on learning experiences and the involvement of pathway alumni, particularly those from historically underrepresented populations, strongly resonated with learners. Finally, she emphasized the importance of involving learners and families at not just the beginning but across the entire project cycle of materials development to ensure the end product reflects the needs of the targeted audience. 

For more information about initiatives being pursued by Columbus and the five other sites that are part of the New Skills ready network, view Advance CTE’s Year One snapshots. Additionally, Advance CTE’s recently released learner voice toolkit provides actionable resources, guidance and tools to ensure CTE learner voices are elevated and heard for the improvement of CTE policies and practices

Stacy Whitehouse, Senior Associate Communications and State Engagement 

New Skills ready network Site Highlight Blog: Nashville Career Advising Framework

September 30th, 2021

In 2020, JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched the New Skills ready network across six domestic sites to improve student completion of high-quality career pathways with a focus on collaboration and equity. As a national partner in the New Skills ready network, Advance CTE strives to elevate the role of state capacity and resources in advancing project priorities and gain a unique perspective on promising practices to strengthen state-local partnerships across the country.

This blog series highlights innovative tools and initiatives produced across the six sites that advance the initiative’s four key priorities and serve as a guide for state leaders in their work to create cohesive, flexible and responsive career pathways.

For this post, Senior Policy Associate Jeran Culina interviewed two leaders from the Scarlett Family Foundation, Consultant Jenny Mills McFerron, and COO Tom Parrish to learn more about the career advising framework in development for four Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) high schools with the goal to scale it to all MNPS-zoned high schools in future years. 

Purpose and Components 

Too few learners in Nashville have access to consistent advising experiences across secondary, postsecondary and community-based levels. When systems fail to provide students with equitable and high-quality career advising, they make it challenging for students to skillfully navigate a path to career and college success. Additionally, education leaders lack access to fully integrated data to track and evaluate learner outcomes. 

With this in mind, Nashville’s New Skills ready network team is creating a career advising framework that seeks to provide a seamless and consistent career advising experience across K-12, postsecondary, and community offerings through shared language and practices as well as intentional spaces for counselors and other advising professional to share best practices as the framework is implemented. 

At the same time, Nashville is pursuing an initiative to place college and career counselors at secondary and postsecondary institutions, with equity being a leading factor in the pilot schools’ selection. Four college and career advisors have been placed at the four high schools participating in the New Skills ready network grant to advance high-quality advising with the intention of eventually scaling these efforts to all Metro Nashville public school high schools. These positions will support the existing advising staff and actively share their experience with site partners to inform the career advising framework. 

Unique Features 

Nashville’s approach to this work is unique in several respects: 

  • Community Relationships: Community organizations in Nashville have robust offerings for community-based advising programs and a strong relationship with MNPS. 
  • Research: Prior to launching this initiative, the project team worked with Advance CTE to collect best advising practices from around the country as well as conduct a regional landscape study of existing advising practices at the community and district level. 
  • Systemic Alignment: This initiative intentionally focuses on connecting career advising at not only K-12 and postsecondary levels but also community-based advising and mentoring programs. 

Vision for Success

The Scarlett Family Foundation strives to facilitate the development of a framework across the K-12, postsecondary, and community systems that would support each Nashville learner’s ability to successfully access high-wage, high-demand jobs. 

For the framework itself, McFerron strives for this model to create consistent and systemic advising transition points for each learner from middle school, high school and postsecondary stages, provide adequate support for learners to smoothly navigate these transition points, and ultimately improve student outcomes. She also elevated the importance of involving more stakeholders in career advising support, including teachers and administrators, to provide much-needed capacity for advising.  

We want to see continuous improvement over the very long term and have that success sustained and built upon over time, and helping students successfully navigate [key education] transition points is critical to that.” – Jenny Mills McFerron, Scarlett Family Foundation 

Next Steps and NSrn Impact 

The next phase will focus on collecting input from a variety of stakeholders, including learners and their families. Three affinity groups consisting of K-12, postsecondary, and community organization leaders will provide during the formulation and execution of the framework as a draft is written over the next six months.

Parrish praised the New Skills ready network’s focus on long-term, sustained change as a key benefit of the site’s involvement that he hopes will reverse the recent cycle of short bursts of progress that are not realized for each learner. 

I think doing this grant over five years with its intentional focus, you are forced to come back to talk about what’s working and what is not working, and over time you spread and institutionalize some of these practices, tweak them as needed, and ultimately provide the evidence that this model is working even as other initiatives and people come and go.” – Tom Parrish

For more information about the early accomplishments of Nashville and the five other sites that are part of the New Skills ready network, view Advance CTE’s Year One snapshots. Previous entries for this series highlighting Indianapolis’ pathways evaluation framework can be found here

For more resources on advancing quality and equity in career advising, visit the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Stacy Whitehouse, Senior Associate for Communications and State Engagement

New Skills ready network Site Highlight Series: Indianapolis Pathways Evaluation Framework

July 21st, 2021

In 2020, JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched the New Skills ready network across six domestic sites to improve student completion of high-quality career pathways with a focus on collaboration and equity. As a national partner in the New Skills ready network, Advance CTE strives to elevate the role of state capacity and resources in advancing project priorities and gain a unique perspective on promising practices to strengthen state-local partnerships across the country.

Our newest blog series will highlight innovative tools and initiatives produced across the six sites that advance the initiative’s four key priorities and serve as a guide for state leaders in their work to create cohesive, flexible and responsive career pathways. 

For this post, Policy Associate Dan Hinderliter interviewed Jennifer O’Shea, Postsecondary Readiness Officer for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) to learn more about their career pathway evaluation framework used to measure the quality of their 42 pathway programs. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purpose 

O’Shea shared that developing a pathway quality framework rubric had several purposes: 

  • To develop consistent criteria to evaluate secondary and postsecondary pathway quality and means to conduct program change or termination as needed 
  • To identify a cohort of pathways to pilot improvements that result in substantial increases in student outcomes over five years and promising practices to apply to all 42 pathways 
  • To utilize data-driven means to intervene proactively when enrollment disparities occur in pathways for historically marginalized populations to enhance supports and improve learner outcomes 

Ultimately, the project team is aiming for all IPS students to be “future-ready” graduates with a significant portion completing and earning credit for early postsecondary credit through CTE, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Early College programs. 

Framework Composition 

The framework was created by a consulting firm using the foundations of the Association of Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) Quality CTE Program of Study Framework and Naviance’s college, career and life readiness framework to create program quality criteria.  

Both qualitative and quantitative feedback was incorporated into this framework. In addition to considering existing CTE programs of study requirements, feedback regarding program quality was collected from families, school counselors, administrators, instructors and industry partners. In addition to the rubric, evaluators will also examine enrollment and completion data disaggregated by race to identify enrollment disparities as a quality indicator. 

Framework Use 

After the evaluation was completed for all 42 pathways, each pathway component each was coded red, yellow or green. The coding was then used to decide to sunset, merge or enhance each pathway. Five pathways had a substantial number of green components and identified as already achieving substantial alignment with the quality criteria.

Five pathways were chosen as an initial focus group for enhancement as part of Indianapolis’ New Skills ready network priorities in consultation with local two and four year institutions that will partner with IPS to create more seamless postsecondary transitions and early postsecondary opportunities. The five career pathways chosen were Business Administration, Construction Trades, Digital Manufacturing, Engineering, and IT Tech Support & Services.

Benefits of New Skills ready network Partnership 

While the district’s work to evaluate and improve pathway program quality began prior to joining the New Skills ready network, O’Shea shared that participating in the initiative has made the process more impactful and collaborative. She cited the initiative’s focus on collaboration as a means to utilize lessons learned from other sites as well as create a more comprehensive framework based on input from K-12, postsecondary, industry and workforce leaders rather than operating in a silo. The initiative’s funding also allowed for long-term investments to evaluate and maintain program quality through the addition of a data analyst, employer engagement manager, and a new college and career exploration course for middle grades.  

For more information about the early accomplishments of Indianapolis and the five other sites that are part of the New Skills ready network, view Advance CTE’s Year One snapshots. For more resources on strengthening career pathways, visit the Learning that Works Resource Center

 

Learner Perspectives: Tejas Shah, Advance CTE Intern

June 27th, 2022

Tejas Shah served as Advance CTE’s Spring 2022 Policy Intern. Prior to joining Advance CTE, he interned for elected officials, political candidates and a policy organization at the local level.  He is a rising junior at Cornell University majoring in Policy Analysis and Management. 

Introduction

This spring, I had the amazing opportunity to intern with Advance CTE, and support their state policy team. As I look back on my four months with Advance CTE, I am reflecting on my professional and personal growth. This post gives state leaders a learner’s perspective on being exposed to the field of Career Technical Education policy for the first time.

Where I Started

When I started my internship search for the spring semester, I knew I wanted to get real-world experience in the policy space. As a sophomore at Cornell University majoring in policy analysis, I am at that point in my college career where I am starting to think about my post-graduation plans. Thus, dipping my toes into a policy sphere that I had little experience with seemed exciting. Before interning with Advance CTE, I didn’t know much about CTE. I had heard the terms vocational education and work-based learning, and had a general idea about what that meant. However, my understanding of these topics contained  assumptions and biases that I hoped to, and did, recognize through this internship experience.

Learning About CTE Systems

The first project I was assigned to involved the New Skills ready network (NSrn) initiative. I transcribed interviews with education professionals across one of the six sites,  Nashville, Tennessee. I heard from principals, guidance counselors, and educators, each with a unique perspective on CTE policy within their community and how the NSrn initiative impacted learners and systems. Hearing from such a diverse set of individuals was illuminating. Although I graduated from a public high school, I never truly knew how much goes into ensuring learners have a high-quality education. 

This project made me reflect on my own high school experience. Through this project, I learned that high-quality career pathways would have helped me narrow down my career interests before I entered college. Additionally, hearing from guidance professionals about the significance of a high-quality guidance program was extremely interesting. I did not know career and technical education were options I could take advantage of. My guidance counselor had hundreds of other students to assist – perhaps a guidance department based on academic flexibility and smooth transitions from secondary to post-secondary education would have opened doors I did not know I had access to.

I also had the opportunity to build on my learning about writing a blog by highlighting another New Skills ready network site, Boston, Massachusetts. I heard from experienced professionals within high schools and postsecondary institutions, and learned about a variety of dual-enrollment initiatives in place that link secondary and postsecondary experiences. Like high-quality pathways, ensuring secondary learners have access to college-level learning opportunities significantly impacts postsecondary readiness and completion outcomes. I took a few classes at my high school that offered college credit. However, very few of these credits transferred to my postsecondary institution. Fortunately, I was not relying on these credits to graduate. However, through this project, I came to realize that for some students, getting college credit for high school classes can significantly improve a learner’s chances to succeed in college-level coursework and achieve a postsecondary attainment. I never realized that my college credits not transferring were symptoms of a larger issue that Advance CTE hopes to address.

What I especially enjoyed about my experience at Advance CTE was the infusion of equity in all the projects that I completed. My supervisor always made it a priority to bring equity to the forefront of our discussions. I was exposed to a variety of different readings, resources, and interviews that highlighted the importance of integrity of support for each learner within the education system. For example, I became aware of the importance of wraparound supports for learners. I lived a very privileged life – my parents had access to a vehicle and my house had stable internet. However, for learners who don’t have access to such resources, receiving a high-quality education is much more difficult. Additionally, through supporting  the New Skills ready network project, I was introduced to the systemic racism and inequality that exists within the education sphere, which is reflected through gaps by race and ethnicity in participation in high-demand career pathways. Breaking down these systemic barriers and stereotypes is work that I now realize is extremely important to making sure all students, regardless of background, have equitable access to high-quality education.

Skillbuilding Journey

My experience at Advance CTE was a great opportunity for me to build my professional skills. This internship was the first time I was charged with managing projects. At first, it was a challenge to have the confidence to take on projects with a lot of responsibility. However, the staff at Advance CTE gave me plenty of resources to help me to be proactive in my task management. For example, I utilized Basecamp to remind myself of the checkpoints I needed to complete for a project. Breaking down a daunting assignment into smaller, more digestible pieces made it much easier for myself to understand what needed to be done. Additionally, splitting up projects into smaller portions made it easier to notice when I was falling behind. Coming out of this experience, I feel much more confident in my proactive communication skills. I have found myself applying these strategies to my college work as well. I have started to map out my assignments on Google Calendar. I can look a week, a month, or a whole semester ahead to make sure I am prioritizing my tasks and budgeting my time efficiently and effectively. 

In addition to my project management development, this opportunity has strengthened my adaptability skills. Many of the deadlines set at the beginning of projects changed, some of which were last minute due to unforeseen circumstances. In some cases, receiving information or feedback from outside sources took longer than expected. In others, staff changes meant changing project roles. Though some of these changes could be dizzying, it helped strengthen my ability to be flexible. Projects and the needs of Advance CTE’s members constantly evolve, and being able to adapt to such changes is important. For example, I was tasked with updating pages on the Advance CTE website. However, during the project, the manager left Advance CTE, so my supervisor and I had to learn together to execute the project. This was intense at first, but it was a great learning experience as well. Proactive communication and collaboration allowed me to adapt and carry out the project successfully. 

At the end of every month, I would have a check-in with my supervisor where we pinpointed skillbuilding areas that I have excelled in, and skillbuilding areas that I could improve upon. These monthly meetings were extremely beneficial in my development as a professional. I was given the ability to see my progress firsthand. We would brainstorm strategies to implement over the course of the following month to bolster my skillbuilding process. Through discussing hypothetical situations and deconstructing problems that occurred during the previous month, these monthly meetings were especially important in increasing my confidence within the internship program. Guidance and constructive criticism are paramount for learner development, in and out of the classroom.

Appreciation and Next Steps 

I want to thank all the staff at Advance CTE. Their constant support and direction has been extremely helpful in my career exploration and development. This internship solidified my interest in researching and communicating policy. This summer I will serve as an intern for the Office of the Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. I look forward to continuing to broaden my skill set and policy experiences! 

Tejas Shah, Spring 2022 Policy Intern

 

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