OCTAE Connection - Issue 214 - September 4, 2014

OCTAE Newsletter

September 4, 2014

OCTAE Connection Moves to Biweekly Schedule  

In order to provide both in depth articles and shorter, more time sensitive announcements, OCTAE Connection is piloting a new publication schedule. Beginning today, Thursday, Sept. 4, OCTAE Connection will be published and distributed to subscribers every other Thursday. For example, the next edition, issue 215, will be circulated on Thursday, Sept. 18, and will feature our normal, lengthier articles, as part of an effort to provide readers with thorough and more helpful information. Shorter, more time sensitive announcements will now be disseminated in an OCTAE “flash bulletin.” For additional news on what is going on in OCTAE, you can also visit the OCTAE Blog at http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/ovae/. As always, we welcome your feedback on this change. Please send your comments to octae.newsletter@ed.gov.

 Job-driven Training: A Call to Action

Last month, in tandem with the signing of the Workforce and Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA), Vice President Biden released a new report, Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity. This was in response to the president’s request in his 2014 State of the Union address that Biden review federal training programs so that they, along with federal employment programs and policies, would be “more job-driven and effective, consistent with existing statutory authority.” We encourage adult education providers, including community colleges, the workforce community, our federal partners, and others to read this report, which provides an in-depth discussion of the findings, actions, and strategies for creating new jobs and career paths as part of the mission to build a strong middle class.

Biden led a comprehensive review team comprising Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He also included input from the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs, and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the expertise of the Department of the Treasury, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Personnel Management.

According to the report’s fact sheet, the actions that federal agencies are taking as a result of the review will “make programs that serve over 21 million Americans every year—including veterans, young people navigating their way into the workforce, Americans with disabilities, those coming back from serious setbacks, and those seeking a better career path—more effective and accountable for matching and training Americans into good jobs that employers need to fill.”

These federal agencies, working together with employment and training programs, developed a job-driven training checklist to guide administrators in ensuring that all Americans receive the most effective training. The checklist consists of seven elements:

  1. “Work up-front with employers to determine local hiring needs and design training programs.”
  2. “Offer work-based learning opportunities with employers … as training paths to employment.”
  3. “Make better use of data to drive accountability.”
  4. “Measure and evaluate employment and earnings outcomes.”
  5. “Promote a seamless progression from one educational stepping stone to another.”
  6. “Break down barriers to … job-driven training and hiring.”
  7. "Coordinate (with) … public and private entities, to make the most of limited resources.”

To assist with these actions, the Department of Labor, along with the departments of Commerce, Education, and Health and Human Services, researched and summarized the evidence of what is working for adults and youths in job-driven training programs and partnerships around the country in the study What Works in Job Training: A Synthesis of the Evidence. This synthesis also identifies where there is a need to learn more, including a focus on disconnected youths and lower-skilled individuals.

Competency-Based Pathways:  The Imperative for State Leadership

In late July, Achieve, the nonprofit organization “dedicated to working with states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability,” released the policy brief “The Imperative for State Leadership,” the most recent publication in its Advancing Competency-Based Pathways To College and Career Readiness Series.  The report maintains that the implementation of competency-based pathways (CBP) holds “great promise” for achieving the primary aims of the standards-based reform movement: Ensuring that “all students meet or exceed specific outcomes by high school graduation and … have equitable access and exposure to rich instruction and strong support to learn and demonstrate their learning.” 

According to the report, in order to make sure that students are prepared to succeed in college and in their chosen occupations, states must move beyond providing students with a foundation of “minimal proficiency on basic academic standards,” and instead promote a “mastery of content and skills toward and beyond college and career readiness.”  This new focus is essential, the report argues, because the current education system has “perpetuated learning gaps” that grow larger over time.  As a result of this, many students never achieve the necessary resources to succeed in college or a career.

The report maintains that strong state leadership is critical to advancing CBP learning.  Leaders must insist on “rigor throughout graduation requirements, assessment and accountability policies and implementation.” Simultaneously, they must avoid a one-size-fits-all approach because CBPs and states’ transitions to them will differ based on “state priorities and context.” 

Several guidelines are given to help state leaders implement CBP systems.  According to the report, states should:

  1. “pave the way forward” and “clarify the purpose and meaning of competency-based pathways”;
  2. “hold the line,” and “ensure that state graduation requirements, assessments, and accountability systems promote determinations of competency that equate to college and career readiness”; and
  3. “identify and mitigate risks to equity.”

These three areas address only a subset of the states’ issues “where leadership will be paramount.”