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Growing Pathways to Success for ALL Students

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A Call to Action featuring Education, Labor, and Commerce Secretaries June 1, 1:30 p.m. ET

By: Amy Loyd, Senior Advisor

This is our moment to truly reimagine education. This is our moment to lift our students, our education system, and our country to a level never before seen. As the great Congressman Lewis said, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

-Secretary Cardona’s Vision for Education in America (2022)

Imagine a high school in which every single student is energized, excited, and engaged in powerful learning that connects them to their communities, nurtures their career aspirations, and provides them with a head start on college. These students are thriving in rigorous academics, earning several college credits before graduating from high school—including their first college math and English classes, and two classes connected to their possible future careers. These students, along with their families, receive personalized and ongoing career and college advising and navigation supports so that they make informed decisions about the classes they take, the pathways they pursue, and the goals they set for their lives.

These students also earn industry credentials that today’s employers seek and need, so that they can successfully launch careers with valuable skills and confidence. They apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings, extending their learning beyond the classroom and into the workplace and community. They explore the world of work through paid internships and apprenticeships with leading professionals who mentor them; provide them with ongoing feedback and support to help them grow; connect them to networks of other professionals; and honor their knowledge, skills, and experiences by engaging them in meaningful work that shapes their futures. Then, after high school, they all go on to earn postsecondary credentials that open the doors to future education and rewarding career possibilities. These career and college pathways are option multipliers for students, and through them, students become young professionals who transform our workplaces, our economies, and our communities for the better.

We believe that this is our moment, and our responsibility to reimagine and redesign our education system so that it better prepares every young person for a successful and joyful future. There are already exemplary policies and practices across the country that align with and advance this bold vision. Our goal is to move from a nation of great pathways programs in some places to a nation with transformative systems of multiple pathways to success for every young person.

The pandemic has laid bare longstanding inequities in education and exacerbated them further. Far too few students—especially students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students from rural communities, students with disabilities, and students who are first-generation college-goers—have had the opportunity to get a leg up on college and career pathways while they are still in high school. We want all students, not just those fortunate to be in high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) programs or strong dual enrollment and early college programs, to be on pathways through higher education that lead to rewarding careers.

Postsecondary credential attainment rates remain unacceptably low and inequitable, with slow growth despite concerted efforts and investments over many years. Further, the decline in enrollment in higher education—especially in our community colleges—throughout the pandemic is only widening the equity gaps in outcomes. These trends are troubling because postsecondary credentials are essential for our students, our workforce, and our economy: 70% of today’s jobs require a postsecondary credential, as do the majority of new jobs created in the post-recession economy.

The pandemic has also reshaped labor markets and the world of work, yet our education and training systems have not kept up with the dynamism of the economy. We are leaving good-paying jobs unfilled and too many hard-working Americans continue to struggle. Given this reality—and particularly as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law creates good-paying jobs in in-demand fields—this fundamental reimagination of education is more important than ever to students and the future of our nation.

To that end, we ask you to join us June 1 at 1:30 p.m. ET for a call to action virtual event focused on growing pathways to success. This event will feature remarks from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, as well as students, parents, educators, and employers. They will all share their perspectives on the value and need for career and college pathways. Additionally, leaders from the Department of Education will provide an overview of the core strategies of this initiative and ask you to consider what commitments you can make to it.

Over the coming months, we’ll be working to galvanize a coalition of educators, employers, and community leaders committed to transforming how students transition from high school through postsecondary education and into careers. We need your leadership, partnership, and commitment to advance this critical work.

This effort builds on the proposed investment in career-connected high schools in President Biden’s FY 2023 Budget. The proposed $200 million investment in Career-Connected High Schools would support competitive grants to grow and build models of this bold vision. Funding would support partnerships between local educational agencies, institutions of higher education—including community colleges—and employers, to support early enrollment in postsecondary and career-connected coursework; work-based learning opportunities; and academic and career counseling across the last two years of high school and the first two years of postsecondary education.

The Department of Education looks forward to supporting states and communities stepping up to embrace this vision and working in partnership to build an education system through which our students fulfill their endless potential. This includes:

  • Working closely with the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, and other agency partners;
  • Convening students, educators, employers, and other stakeholders to learn about practices that have led to success and challenges that must be addressed;
  • Providing resources and tools to support strong pathways approaches.

The success of these pathways relies on the interdependence of diverse stakeholders: students and families, PK-12 education, higher education, business and industry, workforce and economic development, community-based and faith-based organizations, government, and other community leaders.

Whatever your relationship in this ecosystem may be, we want to hear about your work in career and college pathways. Please reach out to our team at pathwaystosuccess@ed.gov. We welcome the opportunity to connect with you more about this. Additionally, you can get news about the Department’s work to strengthen career and college pathways through the OCTAE Connections newsletter. Sign up here to subscribe.

We have before us a powerful opportunity for transformation. If ever there was a moment for us to hit a reset button in education and transform how education bridges young people to their futures, and to “lift our country to a level never before seen,” it’s now. And if not us, who? If not now, when? We look forward to partnering with you in bringing this bold vision to life.



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Four Students Are Injured in Shooting Near Philadelphia High School

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Four teenage students were injured in a shooting near a high school in West Philadelphia on Wednesday, just after classes were dismissed for Thanksgiving break, the authorities said.

The students, two 15-year-old girls and two 16-year-old boys, were taken to hospitals and were in stable condition, John Stanford, first deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The shooting happened just after 11:30 a.m. outside a beauty salon and about a block from Overbrook High School. Deputy Commissioner Stanford said a group of students had been standing outside the salon when someone inside a passing silver S.U.V. fired at them.

The police did not name the victims. One 15-year-old girl suffered gunshot wounds to her left shoulder and left thigh, and the other 15-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound to her left shoulder, the police said in a statement. A 16-year-old boy was shot in the left hand and had a graze wound on his face, and the other 16-year-old boy suffered a gunshot wound to his right leg.

The police said that no arrests had been made and no weapon had been recovered. Deputy Commissioner Stanford said it was too early in the investigation to know if the students had been targeted.

“Just another incident of gun violence in our city,” he said at the news conference.

Gun violence in Philadelphia has been particularly bad this year. More than 1,400 people in the city had been shot as of August, a higher toll than in the much larger cities of New York and Los Angeles. Officials are struggling to respond to the number of guns on the street. For every illegal gun seized by the police in Philadelphia between 1999 and 2019, about three guns were bought or sold legally, according to a city report released this year.

“We’re going to have to have some real serious help to get our arms around our city problem with these guns,” Tony B. Watlington, the Philadelphia schools superintendent, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

In September, a 14-year-old student, Nicolas Elizalde, was killed and four others were injured in a shooting near Roxborough High School. The five teenagers were leaving the field after a football scrimmage when the shooting occurred. Roxborough High School is about five miles north of Overbrook.

Four people between the ages of 15 and 21 have been arrested in connection with the Roxborough High School shooting.

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Sizing Up the First ‘Normal’ School Year

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The busy holiday season is here, and before we know it, many of us will be gathering for parties, visiting relatives and ringing in the New Year with friends. (Now is a good time to stock up on at-home rapid tests and high-quality masks and to consider getting an updated booster, if you haven’t already.)

Schools are also winding down the first half of what, by many accounts, was the first truly back-to-normal school year since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

As we approach winter break, we thought we’d take a look at how the school year is unfolding during this stage of the pandemic. I spoke with my colleague Sarah Mervosh, who covers education.

What has the school year looked like so far?

Masks are not required in an estimated 99 percent of districts, according to Burbio, a school tracking site. I think by and large there’s a recognition in schools that the coronavirus is here to stay, and we’re learning to live with it.

Last year, we heard a lot about behavioral issues and mental health issues. Students were still adjusting from the traumas and the disruptions of the pandemic and adjusting to being back in the classroom. But this year, I’m hearing less about that and more about the urgency around helping students recover academically.

How are students doing academically?

During the pandemic, kids learned less. We got a sense of how seriously they were affected this fall with the results of a key national test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests fourth and eighth graders in math and reading. The results were pretty devastating.

Eighth grade math scores fell in 49 out of 50 states. Only about a quarter of eighth graders were proficient, down from about a third in 2019. Fourth graders fared a little better: There were declines in 41 states in math, with just 36 percent of fourth graders proficient in the subject, down from 41 percent in 2019. Reading ability declined a bit less across the board, but scores still fell in more than half the states. In both fourth and eighth grade, only about one in three kids were proficient.

The stakes are high for kids because establishing literacy in early elementary school is important for their future success in high school and beyond. Similarly, it’s important for eighth graders to be set up for success as high school freshmen, a crucial transition year. And districts and schools are on a tight timetable to use pandemic relief money to help kids catch up.

How so?

There were three rounds of pandemic relief funding, and the last one, at $123 billion, was the federal government’s single largest investment in American schools. That’s about $2,400 per student. At least 20 percent of the money has to be spent on academic recovery and needs to be allocated by 2024. This is a big year for actually spending the money and getting the interventions that kids need.

What approaches are working?

There has been a lot of focus on tutoring. When done in small groups of three to four students with a trained tutor multiple times a week during the school day, it can be quite effective. It can be even more effective than lowering class sizes, for example, or summer school.

Some experts have advocated extending the school day or year, and lots of places are doing summer school. No one strategy is going to be the thing that is potent enough to help kids recover.

What about the argument that every child experienced the pandemic, so if they’re all a little behind, it might make less of a difference?

This is a very important question. I can see why it’s appealing to say, “Well, everyone was affected, so why does it really matter? This whole cohort of children is sort of in a similar place.” But that’s not actually true.

We know that in fourth grade math, for example, Black, Hispanic and Native American students lost more ground than white and Asian students. This deepened divides in outcomes, because white and Asian students were already scoring at a higher level for many reasons, which include structural societal advantages. And we are also seeing a troubling drop-off among the country’s lowest-performing students, particularly among younger students and in reading. So it is the very students who were struggling most coming into the pandemic who were most affected, and will now need the most help.

What does the future look like?

The pandemic and everything that came with it disrupted kids’ lives in huge ways. So that means that this recovery is going to need to be long-term. I’ve talked to people who are concerned that one day, when this is all sort of in the rearview mirror, we’re going to forget that the pandemic happened and we’re going to blame some kids for being behind. Or we’re going to say, “Well, these kids recovered from the pandemic easily. Why didn’t those kids?” It’s important to remember that some kids have a higher mountain to climb. They have a longer path to recovery, and this is not going to be something that is fixed overnight.

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We recently asked students how being back in the classroom felt this year. Thanks to all of you who wrote in.

“It’s really stressful. I’m growing more nervous, anxious and stressed constantly. I sleep less, constantly worrying about everything and nothing. I feel like I have no relaxation time, that I can’t breathe. Covid times has made me incredibly anxious, and I don’t know how to calm down. My mind is too active.” — Yuxuan, Paris

“The school year started off really strong, but around mid-September the overall atmosphere of my campus changed drastically. Everyone began to suddenly slump into a deep depressive state and fall behind in their work. Professors were affected, too. Many of them would come to class drained and not even remotely enthusiastic about what they were teaching. I would hear students talk about failing back-to-back tests and just not caring.” — Nicholas L., Rohnert Park, Calif.

“The school year hasn’t been completely terrible, but it hasn’t been perfect. I feel like lots of students lost the ability to socially mature, resulting in a kind of split between their maturity level and actual grade level. I was in the seventh grade when everything stopped so I missed a chunk of middle school. Returning to school has been hard especially because I lost so much motivation and I never had the desire to really get it back. My biggest concern is that I won’t be prepared to enter adulthood because there was a gap in adolescent socializing.” — Zen James, Miami

“Overall, I would say that I am thrilled to be back in school and am having a fun and enriching experience. Seeing the full faces of my teachers and peers — and being forced to roll out of bed instead of opening a Zoom meeting on my phone — has definitely helped concepts in the classroom stick. For me, the larger concern is the decay of my healthy habits. Covid (and the online school) enabled me to sit in my room for hours on end, practically developing an entertainment dependency. I often scroll through my phone or watch videos for hours, and there are many times I glance at the clock in awe at how much time has flown right by me.” — Jake Glasser, Mercer Island, Wash.

“My school year so far has been difficult. I’ve noticed that I’ve distanced myself from my peers. I’m usually a hard-driven student with a strict schedule that I push myself to follow. Ever since the pandemic began and my school was pushed online, my will to stick to that schedule diminished. I’ve never felt burnout this way before Covid.” — Presha Kandel, Conroe, Texas


R.S.V.

Monkeypox


Thanks for reading. We’ll be off Friday for Thanksgiving. Stay safe this holiday, and we’ll be back Monday. — Jonathan

Email your thoughts to virusbriefing@nytimes.com.

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Gratitude for Arts and Science Educators

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This month, as we’re thinking about gratitude, I’m reflecting on the tremendous impact that educators have had on my life. I would not be where I am today without the many teachers, counselors, librarians, and mentors that have lifted me up, and, now as an educator and mentor myself, I hope to pass that encouragement on to the next generation of students.

From the teachers that pushed me to do my best in class to the guidance counselors that helped me apply to universities, I am grateful that so many people in my life helped me become a first-generation college student, and now a successful artist and scientist. Despite attending a Title 1 school in Memphis, Tennessee with defunded arts programs and a 95% math proficiency fail rate, my educators were dedicated to ensuring my peers and I had every opportunity in STEM and the Arts that they could manage. In my senior year, I received a full scholarship to attend American University in Washington, DC as a Computer Science major.

I quickly realized that I was set up for failure. As a first-generation college student, 900 miles away from my family for the first time, I was already trying to get my bearings, but the real struggles came in my introductory STEM courses. I was an eager and accomplished learner through grade school, and I was in the university’s honors program on a scholarship, so why did it feel like everyone was miles ahead of me every time I stepped foot in a STEM class? Thankfully, I had many professors and advisors that took me under their wings and helped me ‘catch up’ in math and science while also fostering my interests in arts and design as a corollary to my STEM work. Because of their willingness to mentor me, I graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science and left DC for graduate school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, where I earned an M.S. in Lighting in 2021 and am currently a Ph.D. student.

Through all of my experiences, I’ve found that both the arts and sciences are incredibly important components of a well-rounded education. I also understand that these programs are historically underserved, especially for low-income and disadvantaged students. The Arts[HA1]  teach students creativity and confidence, and STEM teaches students problem-solving skills and technological literacy. When these two subjects are left out of a child’s education, they miss out on key life skills and opportunities to explore potential passions and careers. I am so thankful for the educators in my life that enriched my educational journey with opportunities in STEM and the A[HA2] rts, and I hope to provide those opportunities back to more children.

As the reigning Miss United States, I am given the opportunity to nationally advocate for a cause of my choice. I have chosen to advocate for the importance of STEM and Arts education through my nonprofit Art Technically. Every child deserves a chance to grow as an artist and scientist regardless of their background. I have grown so much as an artist and scientist thanks to the dedicated educators that helped guide me. As a mentor to students in both STEM and the Arts, I am helping them grow as well-rounded individuals prepared to do great things for the world, just as my teachers did for me. That opportunity is what I am most grateful for.

Lily K. Donaldson is the reigning Miss United States and a Ph.D. student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute studying Built Ecologies within the Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems (EBESS). Originally from Memphis, she’s passionate about advancing educational equity within traditionally underserved communities in the South and beyond, especially related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and Arts education. She’s the founder of Art Technically, a nonprofit dedicated to providing STEM and Arts educational opportunities to students at Title 1 and rural K-12 schools.




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