Back-to-School Bus Tour – Day 4

Photo of Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier and Division Director Sharon Lee Miller in front of the tour bus.

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and DATE Division Director Sharon Lee Miller in front of the tour bus.

This is the fourth in a series of daily updates from Dr. Sharon Lee Miller who is on the Back-to-School Bus Tour currently in progress in the Southwest U.S.

Thursday evening – Local Phoenix Time –

It’s a wrap!

After 10 events in four cities over three days, we have successfully completed our leg of the Secretary’s Back-to-School Bus Tour! We saw many extraordinary CTE, adult education, and postsecondary programs; met hundreds of dedicated administrators, teachers, faculty and business and industry partners; and, most importantly, met the most incredible students! From aspiring high school students to adults seeking a better life for them and their families, our leg of the tour showed us how programs in the Southwest are truly preparing students for a “Strong Start, Bright Future!”

6:22PM Thursday Local Phoenix, AZ Time –

Photo of Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier shaking the hand of a GED student in a classroom.

Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier greets newly enrolled GED students


We arrived at the last stop on our leg of the Secretary’s Back-to-School Bus Tour at the Rio Salado College, in Phoenix. Rio Salado is one of 10 colleges in the Maricopa Community College System. While Rio Salado began predominately as an online community college, it began a “brick and mortar” adult education program. Among the offerings at Rio Salado is the nationally-recognized I-BEST program. Several I-BEST graduates are taking part in the roundtable and sharing their personal stories in gaining their GED, transitioning to college, earning industry-recognized credentials and degrees, and obtain employment.

2:36PM Thursday Local Glendale, AZ Time –

Photo of student at a conference table speaking to Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann- Messier and 8 other participants at the table.

Participants applaud as a student shares her progress and success in the nursing program.

We just began our series of roundtables on college affordability and accessibility with educators and community stakeholders in Glendale, Arizona, hosted jointly by Glendale Community College (GCC) and Northern Arizona University (NAU). GCC has partnered with NAU, which has created an innovative transfer program called 2NAU that works with community colleges like GCC to help students make a seamless transition to a four-year institution and thus dramatically lowering the overall cost of a bachelor’s degree. Among the federal grants administered by NAU is the GEAR UP program, which is funded under the Higher Education Act (HEA). As a college readiness program, GEAR UP works with low-income, first-generation high school students to help prepare them for college. One of the issues being raised at the roundtable is faculty shortages, especially in the health professions, where individuals can earn significantly more in the field than they can in teaching at the college or university. This issue becomes more pressing as the country raises its expectations for college-going by all students.

2:10PM Thursday Local Paradise Valley, AZ Time –

Photo of Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier with CTE Biotechnology teacher, Marni Landry in a biotech classroom.

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier talks with CTE Biotechnology teacher, Marni Landry, Arizona’s Teacher of the Year about Paradise Valley High School’s Center for Research in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CREST) program


We just completed a fabulous visit to Paradise Valley High School’s Center for Research in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CREST) program. We began with a tour by an amazing group of students to CREST’s three program strands: biotechnology, sustainability, and engineering. Each of these programs exemplify the Department of Education’s vision for high-quality career and technical education (CTE) as provided in the Department’s blueprint for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which is a major source of funding for CTE across the nation. Among the key features of CREST’s programs are integration of academic and technical education; collaboration among secondary, postsecondary, and business/industry; and work-based learning. During the visit, we had the honor of meeting Arizona’s teacher of the year—a biotechnology (CTE) teacher, Marni Landry

From Wednesday –

Lee Lambert, Chancellor of Pima Community College, reflected on Wednesday’s visit by Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier to Tucson, AZ. Dann-Messier visited students at a family literacy and an adult education program.

“When all the gears are meshing, we are capable of great things….it is crucial that all the gears do in fact synchronize. The need for seamlessness between K-12, community colleges and four-year institutions is critical. Students must be able to map out clear roads leading to whatever their education goal might be. That point was emphasized by Dr. Dann-Messier, who recognizes as I do that it is essential for Adult Education and community colleges to partner to provide clear articulation paths, and for Adult Education courses to prepare students for college or careers without the need for remediation.”

Read his entire post “Opening Doors.”

Join OVAE in San Antonio at the National Career Pathways Network

OVAE will be contributing insights and updates at the 2013 National Career Pathway Network conference in San Antonio, Texas on October 14 and 15, 2013. The event is hosted by the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) and will feature speakers and sessions to help educators, workforce development professionals, business and industry experts, and economic development partners build and enhance career pathways in their communities.

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Maine CTE: It’s Not Your Parents’ Vocational Education

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog.

Students at the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology in Biddeford, Maine are excited about learning — and they’re eager to tell you why.  They can also show you some pretty impressive proof that they’ve mastered the concepts they’ve studied.

Take, for example, the house they built as the capstone of one project.

Programs at Biddeford Regional Center of Technology

A selection of CTE programs offered at Biddeford Regional Center of Technology

“It’s not just about wiring a house, it’s about the theory and science [of] what is actually happening in the wires. In my other classes, you don’t really get hands-on, you just do what’s in the book,” a senior at the Center recently explained to visitors from the U.S. Department of Education.

Part of my role as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow (TAF) is to help teachers and other educators around the country learn about the Department’s efforts to support world-class teaching and learning. But, it’s just as important for us to bring teacher, principal, and student perspectives back to policymakers in Washington. For both those reasons, I traveled to Biddeford.

Right now, there’s an important shift taking place in schools and districts across the United States: a shift away from vocational education, and toward career and technical education, or CTE. The narrow vocational training of our parents’ and grandparents’ day was often separated from the college preparatory curriculum, and geared to the needs of the industrial age. Today’s CTE programs are designed to meet the needs and opportunities of the global economy and the digital age, and prepare students for equal success in college and careers.

When change is this ambitious, it can take a while for old perceptions to catch up to new realities. CTE teachers and students in CTE courses often find themselves having to correct the belief that CTE courses are less rigorous than traditional “college prep” classes. The experiences of the students and teachers at Biddeford certainly debunked this myth.

Biddeford offers professionally certified programs in career fields like legal studies, architecture, early childhood education, and health sciences. The students told us they feel good about learning a combination of academic, technical and employability skills that will equip them for success in college and in the 21st century’s technology-rich, team-based, results-oriented professions.

The teachers we spoke with called the Center “a direct link to college.” They explained that participating in the Biddeford program helps students set their sights on postsecondary education, giving them confidence in their abilities and real-world opportunities to apply ideas. A health sciences teacher, for example, spoke proudly of Biddeford graduates who are now in medical school or have launched careers as pharmacists, physical therapists, and registered nurses.

The CTE students at this regional center attend their home school for half of the day. Then, they travel by bus to Biddeford, to spend the second half-day in courses directly related to a career pathway, including work-based learning and other activities that require them to think critically, put theory into practice, and serve as constructive team members.  They graduate with a high school diploma and certification in their field.  This allows them to go directly to work in high-demand jobs, or continue their education at a community or four-year college.

A senior electrical engineering student explained the extra value he’ll be able to provide to his employer, beyond a strong grasp of the scientific skills his field requires. That added value is leadership: something he’s been able to practice in his classes, and as a member of a student council that offers peer-to-peer outreach.

Secretary Duncan has said that “a career-ready student must have the knowledge and skills that employers need from day one. That means having critical thinking and problem-solving skills, an ability to synthesize information, solid communication skills, and the ability to work well on a team.”

As these learners discussed the house they’d built, it was clear that they’re engaged in something worlds away from the “voc ed” of a generation ago. They didn’t just pound nails into 2 x 4 planks. Instead, they applied a wide range of academic and technical skills – from architectural design principles, to safety rules, to the physics of wiring. They also exercised the key critical thinking and communication skills they’ll need to get ahead, no matter what professions they ultimately pursue.

As one student put it, “If communication isn’t happening, that’s a safety issue – and the project doesn’t get completed.”  You can’t get much more real-world than that.

The students at Biddeford showed us what today’s career and technical education can look like: CTE that prepares 21st century learners for the demands of 21st century college and careers.

Kareen Borders is a 2012-2013 Full-Time Teaching Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education.

Read the Department of Education’s Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education

July 10 Release Event of OECD Report on Postsecondary CTE in the U.S.

REMINDER: The New America Foundation will be streaming the release event of the OECD’s U.S. country report on postsecondary CTE tomorrow, Wednesday, July 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET. Click here to access the live stream. If you’re not available to watch the event live, it will be recorded and archived on the New America Foundation’s website afterward.”

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education is pleased to announce the upcoming release of a special OVAE- and NCES-funded report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the state of postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) in the United States. 

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Tomorrow–Webinar on Building a System of High-Quality Career Pathways

The National Center for Innovation in Career and Technical Education (NCICTE) will be presenting the first webinar in a four-part series on Building a System of High-Quality Career Pathways: High School Transformation and District Supports, beginning tomorrow, July 10. Attendees will learn about college and career readiness and its significance for high school students. To register for the first webinar, which will take place on July 10, 2013 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. EDT, click here.

Transforming CTE for the Global Economy

Johan Uvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for OVAE, was a featured panelist at the 2013 U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference in Austin, TX on June 18.  The session, which focused on “Transforming Career and Technical Education for the Global Economy,” was moderated by Mimi Lufkin, the CEO for the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE). 

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College and Career-Ready Conversations in South Seattle

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog.

“Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge: to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.”  

- President Barack Obama, February 12. 2013

State Superintendent for Washington

State Superintendent for Washington, Randy Dorn speaks with teachers and staff members from the Department of Education

When President Obama spoke those words in this year’s State of the Union address, I felt like cheering.  As a science teacher, it’s my job to help students fall in love with learning and explore important questions about how the world works.  I also know the principles and problem-solving skills they’re mastering will help them succeed in today’s competitive global economy, where science, technology, engineering and math (or “STEM”) careers are on the rise.  And, through fellowships with the U.S. Department of Education, I’ve been paying even closer attention to how the Obama Administration’s proposals affect my work.

The President’s High School Redesign plan would invest in programs that re-invigorate the American high school experience for the 21st century.  Strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and collaborating more closely with postsecondary, business and community partners are two ways that high schools can re-think their current model. I recently had an opportunity to visit a school that’s using both of these strategies when I accompanied Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, on a trip to Cleveland High School in Seattle, Wash.

As teachers and school leaders across the country think about implementing the President’s plan, there’s a lot we can learn from schools that have already started down this path.  Cleveland High School was restructured as a STEM-themed school four years ago, and according to the principal, Princess Shareef, “There was no template set for us.” Instead, school leaders and staff had the freedom to innovate, meeting every week and including parents, employers and other partners in designing a new approach. The result?  A high school in South Seattle that provides a college-and-career-ready curriculum through project-based learning, and connects students with mentors from the surrounding community.

TAF post 2

Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education speaks with State Superintendent of Washington, Randy Dorn

During classroom walk-throughs, we spent time in a computer engineering class and talked with students engaged in a reverse-engineering assignment.  In this hands-on design project, students choose an everyday object like a toy car or a mechanical pencil, measure the object using calibration tools, design and draw blueprints, transform the blueprints into multi-view drawings, and create a mock assembly. The students we met clearly understand and excel in their subject.  They’re also confident that what they’re learning will empower them in the future.

One student said, “It’s really nice to have experience with the computer-aided design, and this will help with job preparedness. Most [engineering] jobs are looking for experience in graphic design.” Another added, “I’m learning how to solve problems and to communicate with my team every day. This is important for my career in the future.”

These students realize that, in today’s marketplace, they need even more technical skills and experience. The days of working in isolation are over: problem-solving and teamwork skills are essential for success in the 21st century.  At Cleveland High School, students learn to be effective collaborators through project-based learning.

As one student explained, “We get graded on work as a team. Communication is important and there are instances when the group doesn’t function and so you have to learn how to communicate in a better way. You also learn how to speak for yourself and develop a voice.”  A business leader at the table drew an appreciative laugh from the group by noting, “Yes, just like in the real world.”

Equipped with a full range of academic, technical and employability skills, students at Cleveland High School will be ready for the demands of the world that awaits them after graduation.  That’s good news for them and for the employers in their region.  It’s also great news for the country.

As Dean of Students Catherine Brown told the assembled students, employers and civic leaders that, by coming together to re-engineer Cleveland High School, “You’re not just thinking of your industry—you’re thinking about the common good of society.”  By focusing on relevant, real-world skills; by making STEM-themed learning, wrap-around services and broad-based partnerships a vital part of each school day; and by graduating college-and-career-ready students, this re-engineered high school is preparing the next generation of U.S. leaders in some of tomorrow’s most exciting professions.

Dr. Kareen Borders is a Regional Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education

Join a Webcast from the Career Clusters Institute

Participate in the the live webcast on Applying Lessons Learned from Career Technical Education to Adult Career Pathways by tuning in online and submitting questions via social media. The event will be held tomorrow, June 11, 2013 from 8:45 – 9:45 AM CDT. On the panel will be:

Albert Palacios, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education

Blake Flanders,  Vice President for Workforce Development,  Kansas Board of Regents

Brian Durham, Senior Director for Academic Affairs and Career & Technical Education, Illinois Community College Board

Moderator, Hope Cotner, Vice President, U.S. Projects, Center for Occupational Research and Development

To view the webcast online, click on the following link to register: https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07e7jr6i6z4388cb0e&oseq=&c=&ch= 

To submit your questions,  “Like” the Adult Career Pathways Support Center on Facebook, or “Follow” the Center on Twitter (@Career_Pathways) and tweet your questions using the hashtag #createpathways.

Next week: OVAE at the National Career Clusters Institute

OVAE will be sharing updates and information at the 2013 National Career Clusters Institute in Fort Worth, Texas next week. Hosted by the National Career Technical Foundation of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc), the annual event brings together educators, counselors, state leaders, workforce development professionals, business and industry experts, and economic development partners to share insights and strategies for coordinating educational delivery in communities and states.

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