OVAE Connection - Issue 141

OVAE Connection

                                                                                     March 14, 2013 - Issue 141

School Time: Redesigned and Reimagines for New Realities

Recently, 11 school districts in five states—Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee—agreed to expand and redesign their school calendars in an effort to improve learning and close the achievement gap for tens of thousands of students. The initiative, called the “TIME (Time for Innovation Matters in Education) Collaborative,” is scheduled to begin in September 2013 when schools in the districts will each add 300 hours annually of high-quality instruction and enrichment to their school years. The initiative is expected to sustain itself beyond the initial competitive funding period of three years.

The TIME Collaborative is a cooperative effort among the districts, their states, the Ford Foundation, and the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL). The states will receive technical assistance for the redesign of the school day from NCTL as well as capacity-building grants of $3 million a year over three years from the Ford Foundation.

According to the Ford Foundation’s press release, “Schools participating in the TIME … Collaborative, beyond simply expanding the learning day and/or year, will have the opportunity to completely re-imagine how time is used by both students and teachers.” To plan for this redesign, participating schools are required to engage in a year-long planning process with all of the stakeholders—school and union leadership, educators, parents, and any community partners they engage. And the redesign must take place in the context of comprehensive school reform that redesigns the whole school for teachers and students. The expected outcomes, detailed in the press release, are all in the service of a culture of high achievement in each school: rigorous curricula, individualized instruction, effective uses of data and technology, and collaboration among teachers for improving instruction, and arts, music, and other often rare curricula critical to student development.

The five states engaged in this collaborative effort will be convened to learn from one another and explore innovation. The participating schools in the five states will serve as national models for successfully expanding the school day and year to improve student outcomes. The aim of the initiative is to gradually increase the number of schools participating in this pilot program over its initial three-year span.

This initiative is based on evidence that schools, especially those schools serving low-status socioeconomic communities, need more instructional time if they are to successfully prepare students for a globally competitive and high-tech 21st century. According to Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation, “It’s about creating a learning day that suits the needs of our children, the realities of working parents, and the commitment of our teachers. It’s a total school makeover.”

During his participation in the announcement of this initiative, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan lauded it, saying “Whether educators have more time to enrich instruction or students have more time to learn how to play an instrument and write computer code, adding meaningful in school hours is a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century.” The five states in the pilot, which had received the newly flexible federal funds afforded by the ESEA waiver process that the secretary championed, are expected to prioritize their use for the TIME project.

Your Input Is Needed on a Procurement Opportunity!

OVAE’s Division of Adult Education and Literacy announces a procurement opportunity for Improving Adult English Language Instruction. This three-year initiative will build on and extend previous investments to improve the knowledge, skills, and abilities of teachers working with adult English language learners by providing collaborative, evidence-based, and technology-enhanced professional development opportunities. We are seeking input on the draft performance work statement before March 29, 2013, and invite interested parties to attend a market research webinar on March 19, from 12 to 1 p.m. ET. All details can be found under solicitation number ED-VAE-13-R-0025 on www.FedBizOpps.gov.

National High-Quality Metrics and Benchmarks for Career Pathways Programs

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) launched the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways (AQCP) in mid-2012. Ten states—Arkansas, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin—considered leading edge in the career pathways arena, form the core of the alliance. They will meet over the course of the two-year project to develop a framework of high-quality benchmarks and metrics for career pathways programs nationwide to help stakeholders to be able easily to identify high-quality programs that serve the educational needs of youths and adults who are under-prepared for the workplace.

AQCP recently released two working papers from the project’s first stage, The Alliance for Quality Career Pathways Approach: Developing Criteria and Metrics for Quality Career Pathways and A Framework for Measuring Career Pathways Innovation. The first paper lays the foundation for the framework of quality criteria and shared performance metrics. The second presents a framework for measurement, examining important aspects of developing career pathway metrics.

The paper notes that despite a range of efforts nationally, many low-income workers have not met with success within the often disjointed education and workforce systems. Disconnects have created challenges for students trying to “progress from one level of education to the next, or to transfer from one educational system to another.” In many cases, “… current education and workforce development systems lack structures to help students navigate these poorly connected systems, obtain critical support services, and gain… [the knowledge] necessary for success in postsecondary education.” Additionally, many students, particularly those with families and those faced with economic pressures, may discontinue traditionally delivered education before seeing progress, earning credentials, or securing better jobs.

In light of these realities, career pathways evolved as an innovative approach to assist individuals in gaining marketable credentials and good jobs, and to help employers access a skilled workforce. According to AQCP, “One of the primary advantages of the career pathways approach is its responsiveness to specific and dynamic local contexts—no two career pathways will ever be exactly the same.” A career pathway approach reorients disconnected programs of existing education and workforce services to a more coordinated structure focused on individual needs in education and training and on corresponding career paths. The approach also provides clear transitions, strong supports, and other elements critical to the success of participants. Career pathways has become a new way of doing business—for education and training institutions, employers, students, community organizations, agency staff, and policymakers—redesigning the delivery of education, training, and employment services to be far more integrated, aligned, and participant-centered.