Issue 247 - OCTAE Connection - April 1, 2016

OCTAE Newsletter

April 1, 2016

ED Launches $200,000 CTE Makeover Challenge Competition for High Schoolers

On Wednesday, March 9, Secretary King announced the launch of the Department-sponsored CTE Makeover Challenge—a competition offering a total of $200,000 to be distributed likewise among as many as 10 high school grant beneficiaries, to convert classrooms or existing spaces into places where students have contact with tools to design, build and innovate. The CTE Makeover Challenge builds on the administration's Nation of Makers initiative, launched in 2014 by the White House as an all-hands-on-deck call, to give many more students, entrepreneurs, and citizens entrance to a new class of technologies that allow them to build just about anything. The challenge explicitly calls upon high school students to design representations of "makerspaces"— formalized spaces for manufacturing things.  These unique facilities may be classrooms, libraries and mobile spaces, all of which will provide resources for students to build and acquire skills through making.  The locations are ideal spaces for students to gain essential 21st-century career skills, such as critical thinking, planning, and communication.

Additionally, Secretary King announced that the White House, along with federal agencies and the broader community, will celebrate a National Week of Making from June 17–23. The week will correspond with the National Maker Faire from June 18–19 in Washington, D.C., featuring makers from across the country, and including participation by federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education, National Science Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Small Business Administration, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA, Corporation for National and Community Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Smithsonian Institution.

According to a recent press release by the U.S. Department of Education, Tom Kalil, deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said, "The President launched the Nation of Makers initiative to give more students, entrepreneurs, and Americans of all ages access to the tools needed to design and make just about anything." Deputy Director Kalil went on to say, "We need to rethink high school for the 21st century, and give our students experiences that will build their creative confidence and problem-solving skills, and also prepare them for potential STEM careers."

Expectations Meet Reality: Underprepared Community College Students

Expectations Meet Reality: The Underprepared Student and Community Colleges (, a recent publication from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, is dedicated to the community college students each year who are “underprepared and not ready for college-level work.”  Yet, year after year, these students enroll in community colleges, seemingly with little awareness of how underprepared they are.  According to the report, these students are owed the “guidance and supports they need to continue” successfully.   

Recognition of the dismal completion rate of underprepared students motivated the American Association of Community Colleges’ 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges to challenge community colleges to “double the rate of students who complete developmental education and progress to successful completion of college-level gatekeeper courses by 2020.”  Achieving this goal will require a transformation of community colleges with the help of “community college adjunct and full-time faculty, staff, and leaders who are actively committed to improving assessment, placement, and developmental education.” According to the report, policymakers and educators must recognize that “[d]evelopmental education is broken—and it is worth fixing.  Just as students must have the courage to start,” faculty, staff, and leaders must “press on to redesign the entry process to ensure that all students are successful.” 

Developmental education began in the 1960s to serve students unprepared for college-level academics, but it was only partially successful.  A redesign of developmental education emerged in the early 2000s, encompassing a culture of inquiry, the use of evidence, and a focus on accountability, but it is far from where it needs to be today.  Early findings from developmental education assessments showed “dismal results,” especially in mathematics sequences.  Expectations Meet Reality puts its cards on the table early in the report:  educators must face the reality that “[m]any community college students did not have successful K–12 experiences.”  Moreover, many of them have been out of school for a number of years.  If these students are not successful in completing the necessary developmental courses to enable them to “catch up,” their life prospects will be severely diminished.  For many of these students, community college “is a last chance to succeed.” 

The report’s closing section, “Questions for Consideration,” encourages community colleges to “review their own data in light of the disconnect between students’ desire to succeed and the reality of their outcomes.”  It is not enough, the report maintains, to fine-tune assessment and placement practices.  Instead, “straightforward conversations about long-held beliefs and practices” must be held.