OCTAE Connection - Issue 183 - February 13, 2014

OCTAE Newsletter

                                                       February 13,  2014

A Message of Celebration From OCTAE’s Assistant Secretary In Honor of CTE Month

In celebration of Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, let me begin by thanking each and every one of you for your tireless efforts to improve CTE across our nation. As President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan acknowledge, a strong, vibrant CTE system is vital to both our individual and collective success. Your efforts—whether as an administrator, teacher, faculty member, counselor, business and industry leader, parent, or student—are key ingredients for helping CTE fulfill its promise.

Last week, Secretary Duncan kicked off CTE month with a letter in OCTAE Connection that highlighted the power of CTE in preparing all students to succeed in a competitive global economy. I want to build on the secretary’s comments and reiterate the administration’s vision for high-quality CTE programs as outlined in Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education.

The blueprint establishes four core principles that support and expand the incredible work that has been done across the nation in developing high-quality CTE programs.

The first principle seeks to support effective alignment between CTE and labor market needs to equip students with the skills they need for in-demand jobs within high-growth industry sectors. The Department is committed to empowering states to collaborate with their workforce and economic development agencies to identify the occupations and sectors on which CTE programs should focus.

The second principle emphasizes building and maintaining strong collaborations among secondary and postsecondary institutions, employers, and industry partners to improve the quality of CTE programs. The Department is committed to helping states strengthen their participation of employers, and industry and labor partners in CTE program design and implementation.

The third principle focuses on meaningful accountability for improving academic outcomes, and building technical and employability skills in CTE programs based on common definitions and clear performance metrics. The Department wants to help states ensure that all students, regardless of their backgrounds, have access to and are able to participate in high-quality CTE programs. And we want to help create high-quality data systems that provide information on the educational and employment outcomes for students who participate.

The fourth principle places more emphasis on innovation, by promoting systemic reforms in state policies and practices that will support the implementation of effective CTE practices at the local level.

In my travels as assistant secretary, I have been heartened to have seen firsthand many CTE programs that exemplify these principles. From our nation’s inner cities to its most rural areas, CTE practitioners are pulling out all the stops toward ensuring that students have access to programs and services that best prepare them for their futures. During this CTE month, let’s celebrate the successes and commit to redoubling efforts to ensure that every student has this incredible opportunity for a first-class CTE education!


                    Community College Section

OCTAE Connection’s series about developmental education continues this week with another example of a community college working in this field.

Tri-C Innovates to Provide Effective Developmental Instruction

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cleveland, Ohio, is an innovator in improving the effectiveness of developmental education for its students.

The oldest public community college in the state, it is one of over 100 institutions of higher education that have responded to the call to action recently issued by President and Mrs. Obama to leaders in higher education, asking them to promote college opportunity in one of four areas:

  • Connecting more low-income students to the college that is right for them and that more of them graduate;
  • Increasing the pool of students preparing for college through early interventions;
  • Leveling the playing field in college advising and SAT/ACT test preparation; and
  • Strengthening remediation to help academically underprepared students progress through and complete college.

College president Alex Johnson joined a day-long summit at the White House on Jan. 16 highlighting the commitments made by Tri-C and other institutions in response to the call to action. “I am truly honored to have been invited to participate in this summit,” Johnson said. “Our inclusion recognizes the contributions of Cuyahoga Community College to educating the residents of our county, and particularly to providing educational access to all individuals regardless of background.”

As reported in the Commitments to Action on College Opportunity released by the White House, Tri-C has pledged to require a “first year experience” course for all new degree-seeking students beginning next fall. The course will be designed to provide them with the academic and social skills necessary to succeed by connecting them with the college’s community and helping them to identify both a career path and the educational plan needed to follow it. The course is intended to boost student persistence and completion, particularly among the many incoming students who are placed in developmental education.

Tri-C has made several other innovative reforms to improve its developmental education program. Since 2012, the school has required new students to complete a 90–120 minute test preparation “refresher” course prior to taking the required COMPASS® computer-adaptive placement exams, developed by ACT® in English and math. These courses have resulted in a 38 percent increase in college-level placements in English and reduced the percentage of incoming students who need three levels of developmental mathematics from 52 to 29 percent. Tri-C’s new Fast Forward to Success policy is designed to accelerate student completion of developmental courses. Beginning this spring, students who place in developmental education must be continuously enrolled in developmental courses during every semester they register until all required developmental courses for their degree or program are successfully completed.

The school also attracted national attention last year when it produced one of the first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) in developmental math. The free, competency-based pre-algebra course is structured as a game to enhance student motivation. Tri-C has marketed the course to area high schools as a tool to better prepare students to take the school’s placement exams.

Presidential Memorandum Released on Job-Driven Training for Workers

In his Jan. 30 memorandum on job-driven training for workers to the secretaries of Commerce, Labor, and Education, President Obama wrote:

  • Giving workers the opportunity to acquire the skills that they need to pursue in-demand jobs and careers is critical to growing our economy, ensuring that everyone who works hard is rewarded, and building a strong middle class. Despite recent employment growth, far too many hard-working individuals still have not been able to find a job or increase their earnings, and many businesses report difficulty hiring workers with the right skills for jobs that they want to fill.

  • It is critical that the Federal Government ensure that its policies and programs in the workforce and training system are designed to equip the Nation's workers with skills matching the needs of employers looking to hire. To achieve this goal, employers must identify the skills and credentials required for in-demand jobs and help develop training programs; workers and job seekers must have access to education and training that meets their unique needs and the requirements for good jobs and careers; and employers must have easy ways to find workers who have or can acquire those skills. We must take steps to ensure that all relevant Federal programs follow such a job-driven approach to training, and that these programs are accountable for getting Americans into good jobs and careers as quickly as possible. That is why I have asked the Vice President to lead a Government-wide review of relevant Federal programs.

The memo directs the agency secretaries, in consultation with public and private stakeholders, to develop a specific action plan within 180 days. The plan must identify steps to increase the utility of federal programs and policies in providing easily accessible skills with value to the job market, and accountability for employment and earnings outcomes. The main goals of the requested review of federal programs are to support secondary and postsecondary school entities; make best information available to all concerned entities, including innovations based in science and technology; improve accountability; align education and training programs across levels and agencies; and encourage regional partnerships. Evidence bearing on which job training approaches are likely to be most effective is to be gathered and assessed so that future research and evaluation may be started in support of this effort.

U.S. Conference of Mayors Examines Issues Around Low-Skilled Adults

The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently held its 82nd Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of its president, Scott Smith, mayor of Mesa, Ariz. According to news coverage, more than 280 of the nation's mayors attended the meeting to discuss the economy, jobs, innovation, and transportation. Members met with congressional leadership and administration officials to urge continued bipartisan efforts around job creation and economic growth in the nation’s cities and metropolitan areas—many of which still suffer from high unemployment. During the meeting, mayors addressed the vital collective role they play in driving the country’s progress and prosperity.

Mayors heard from the cabinet secretaries of the departments of Commerce, Energy, Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor, as well as from CEOs from major U.S. companies. Staff from the departments of Labor, Commerce, and Education spoke on critical issues for the Conference’s Committee on Jobs, Education and the Workforce. They also presented updates on their agencies’ initiatives aimed at fostering job growth, focusing on improving workforce training and promoting public-private partnerships.

The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the connections among current adult skill level deficits, youth unemployment, and the nation’s ability to affect its global competitiveness. OCTAE representatives joined colleagues from the departments of Labor and Commerce colleagues to speak to the Committee on Jobs, Education and the Workforce on some of the critical findings from the recent Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) Survey of Adult Skills and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development( OECD) report, Time for the U.S. to Reskill?: What the Survey of Adult Skills Says. Representatives from the three departments spoke about the inter-agency efforts underway to address access to skills for adults, including a continued emphasis on instituting career pathways for them. OCTAE also discussed ED’s national engagement process and the forthcoming national action plan, coordinated as a targeted response to the findings and feedback on the adult skills crisis. This panel presentation underscored the juncture of adult skill needs and the multi-leveraging roles that mayors across the country have—both unilaterally and through key partnerships—in turning the tide on these skill deficit trends. Please access the C-SPAN video library to view program events for the winter meeting, including the presentation to the Committee on Jobs, Education and the Workforce.

Small Business Innovation Research Program Competitions Opens

           Department Seeking Innovative Educational Technologies

The Department’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program recently announced its only fiscal year 2014 competition, consisting of two program solicitations aimed at sparking innovative educational technologies. One solicitation requests Phase I proposals for 6-month awards of up to $150,000 to develop prototypes of education technology products for improving student or teacher outcomes in education and special education settings. The second solicitation requests Fast-Track (Phase I & II) proposals, which expand on and develop Phase I results. These are 30-month-awards of up to $1,050,000 to complete development of educational technology products for improving student or teacher outcomes in education and special education settings.

Applicants who submit a Fast-Track proposal must submit both a full Phase I proposal and a Fast-Track proposal. In cases where an applicant’s Phase I proposal has been eliminated from consideration for an award or if a Phase I proposal has not been submitted, its Fast-Track (Phase I & Phase II) proposal will not be reviewed.

The program provides funding to for-profit small business firms with fewer than 500 employees for the research and development, and evaluation of commercially viable educational technology products that support relevant student or teacher outcomes in education or special education.

The submission deadline for either or both proposals is March 24, 2014 at 2:00 p.m., EST. IES estimates that awards will be announced in late June with projects starting in July.

Time to Reskill: A Practitioner Webinar Rescheduled Thursday, March 13

Please join the U.S. Department of Education, the American Institutes for Research, and adult education advocates for a practitioner webinar. The new date is, Thursday, March 13, from 1 to 3 p.m. EST. Please register for this two-hour webinar, and help spread the word about it among practitioners.

This webinar will be an opportunity to receive a briefing on the recently released Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) data and on the OECD’s special report on America’s low-skilled population, Time for the U.S. to Reskill? You will also be able to engage in a focused discussion about the issues facing adult education. To prepare for the webinar, see the Consultation Paper, which provides background on the skills issue and the framework for the national action plan. The discussion will continue online in various groups within the LINCS Community of Practice.