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October 20, 2016

Let’s talk about college and career readiness

Ensuring students have the skills they need to succeed in college and the workforce is widely recognized as the ultimate goal of K-12 education. Toward this end, many states and districts have adopted and implemented college and career-readiness standards— a move that has caused some angst and outright rejection around the country.

While we know these are normal responses to change, we also know that new initiatives (especially within education) are hampered without community buy-in

It’s for this reason, the National School Boards Association and the National Association of Secondary School Principals have partnered with the Learning First Alliance’s Get it Right campaign to engage stakeholders around the importance of college and career readiness for all students.

A communications toolkit is the result of this joint project and it includes resources and materials (some of which hail from CPE’s bank) that will help educators spur dialogue, answer questions and hopefully build support for college and career readiness standards.

Find the toolkit here. Watch a sneakpeak of what you’ll find below.

Filed under: Career Readiness,CPE,standards — Tags: , , — NDillon @ 7:30 am





June 8, 2016

High-level academics+CTE = Success in college and work

This entry also appeared on CPE Director Patte Barth’s Huffington Post page

Colonial School District straddles the boundary where suburban Wilmington gives way to Delaware’s rural eastern shore. Its one high school, William Penn, serves a racially diverse population, about 40 percent of whom come from low-income families. Penn is a model for getting kids ready for life after graduation. Ninth-graders who enter its doors are asked to choose among 19 “degree programs” — essentially, career tracks ranging from construction to engineering — that will be their focus for the next four years. But there’s one choice they don’t have to make: Whether their “degree” will prepare them for college or the workforce. At William Penn, all graduates will be ready for both.

During a recent visit there, I spoke with a senior in the school’s culinary arts program who exemplifies the Penn way. In addition to his studies in the busy kitchen, which doubles as a student-run catering business, he has six AP courses under his belt along with his industry certification. Elsewhere in the building I saw physics being taught in a wood shop, while in another more traditional classroom, 11th-graders explored issues of race and equality in Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian story “Harrison Bergeron.”

Our studies at the Center for Public Education show that William Penn High School’s approach can be a winning formula for all students. For the last two years, our senior policy analyst, Jim Hull, has been examining longitudinal data on the high school graduating class of 2004 in order to identify factors related to later economic and social outcomes for individuals who do not go to college. The findings have been published in a series of reports we call “The Path Least Taken“ which reflects our initial discovery that non-college goers represent a small proportion of high school graduates. At age 26, only about one in ten had never enrolled in a college.

Like many other studies, we found that going to college is generally better than not going at all. Enrollment in a two- or four-year institution increases the chances that individuals will be employed full-time, earn higher wages, as well as vote and volunteer in their communities. As an overall group, non-college goers faced the dimmest prospects. But not all of them.

By drilling into the data, Hull found that some non-college goers fared well in comparison. These individuals in high school had taken high-level math and science, earned a C+ grade point average, and completed an “occupational concentration” of at least three courses in a specific labor market area. Throw in a professional license or certificate and these 26-year-olds performed better economically than the overall group of their peers who had enrolled in college. We labeled this combination of attributes “high credentials.”

Chart3“High credentials” also boosted prospects for high school grads who went to college, but didn’t earn a degree.

Compared to their peers who also left college early but lacked high-level courses and focused career training in high school, those with high credentials saw much better chances for higher wages and good jobs.

The implications of these findings for education policy couldn’t be clearer. Schools need to assure that all high school students have the benefit of high-level academics and get the support they may need to succeed in these courses. Students also need access to modernized career and technical education (CTE), including programs that lead to professional certification.

Earlier this month, we released the third and final installment of the series in which we were able to identify and compare the outcomes of non-college goers against those who had some college and those who actually earned a degree. Again, the overall group of non-college goers was outperformed in virtually every category. However, the “high-credentialed” non-college goers had better outcomes than those with some college but no degree, as well as two-year degree holders. Moreover, they were competitive with four-year college completers on several indicators, including hourly wages and full-time employment.

Keep in mind, this is not your father’s vocational ed. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) put it well during a mid-May Congressional hearing on the Perkins Vocational and Technical Act, which is currently due for reauthorization. Sen. Kaine acknowledged that the history of voc ed was too often an inferior alternate for students who weren’t considered “college material.” In his testimony he stated: “[T]here is a history of tracking students into vocational education, and we must ensure that federal CTE investments replace tracking with choice. Students and their families should have the opportunities to choose high quality CTE pathways that will prepare students for postsecondary education AND the workforce, not postsecondary education or the workforce.”

The William Penn senior I met could just as easily be headed to a college campus as to a restaurant kitchen after receiving his diploma. He told us that, in fact, he has enlisted in the military where he plans to use his culinary skills. College, he said, is still in his long-range plan. Fortunately, his high school made sure he has the knowledge and skills to keep all his options open. All of our youth deserve the same.






August 16, 2013

CTE’s central role in the common core

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking with Oklahoma educators at the state’s summer Career and Technical Education (CTE) conference.  I was asked to be part of a panel addressing the question, how to implement the common core into CTE.  My message was simple: the question is backwards because the common core cannot be implemented well without CTE.

Here’s why. The aim of the common core standards is college and career-readiness, not college or careers.  We’ve actually been doing the latter for a long time. Traditionally, high school students elected to either prepare for one path or the other. But as many studies have pointed out (including CPE’s Defining a 21st Century Education) in order to be successful after high school all new graduates need high-level knowledge like that formerly reserved for college-intending students even if they are more interested in jumpstarting their careers than attending a four-year college.

We also know that for most new jobs, a high school diploma alone will not be sufficient; rather they will demand some kind of postsecondary training or certification. In addition, individuals who don’t immediately seek more education after high school will likely need to get back into the system at some point during their working life, as various occupations disappear.  So we need to make sure graduates are prepared for an uncertain future and can continue education and training as they need it.

But college preparation is just one side of the college-career equation. Students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities will work someday.  All young people need to develop the skills valued in the workplace, for example, the ability to apply what they learn, connect information from across disciplines to solve problems, and read and interpret complex informational texts and documents.  Students and employers can’t assume that traditional academic study will teach these abilities.

The common core standards recognize that there is a lot of overlap between the knowledge and skills needed for college and those needed for good jobs. For many students, this likely means higher expectations in terms of academic content. But the common core also differs from subject matter as usual where the CTE field has a head start.  This is especially so in the emphasis on mathematical practices; more data, probability & statistics than in traditional college prep math; reading and writing informational texts; and specific reading and writing standards for science and technical subjects.

These are all innovations that aren’t seen in current state standards, but ones that I applaud.  I’m not alone.  David Conley and his team at the University of Oregon surveyed close to 2,000 postsecondary instructors about the relevance of the common core standards. About half of the respondents taught CTE courses in two-year institutions. The vast majority of instructors rated ELA for non-literary reading and writing very high. A large majority of the CTE group gave mathematical practices the highest importance rating.

These skill-based standards command different, more hands-on instructional approaches. CTE educators have a real advantage in this area compared to their core subject area peers. CTE programs are by definition applied. In this way, they have a lot to contribute to the combined efforts of high school faculty to negotiate the shift to new instruction.

Make no mistake, the common core standards cannot be the sole responsibility of math and English teachers. That’s too much of a burden on two disciplines. It won’t be done well. And it would ignore the valuable resources in other subject areas that should be brought to the table, including CTE.







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