Hispanic Education Summit focuses on college completion

By Isa Torres, Baptist Standard

Church leaders and evangelical university administrators at the National Hispanic Education Summit celebrated accomplishments and shared ideas they hope to see achieved in the future.

Dallas Baptist University hosted the Faith Education Coalition-sponsored event.

Related problems explored

Major issues discussed at the summit included retention of Hispanic college students. Although many more Hispanic students are pursuing higher education than in the past, only 22 percent of them complete college and earn a degree.

Leaders and administrators also expressed concern about the lack of Hispanic presence and representation at Christian evangelical universities across the country.

During the summit, Benjamin Espinoza, a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University, suggested those two issues may go hand-in-hand.

While Hispanic students pursuing college education significantly increased in the past two decades, the presence of Hispanics serving as university leaders or presidents remains stagnant, Espinoza said.

Only about 4 percent of all university presidents in the country are Hispanic, Espinoza noted. Two of those—Carlos Campo of Ashland University and Abraham Jaquez of Baptist University of the Américas—attended the summit.

Because they do not see people like themselves in school leadership, Hispanic students feel a sense of foreignness and also feel unwelcomed, said Elizabeth Palacios, dean for student development at Baylor University.

When students first arrive at these universities they ask themselves, “Is this for me?” Palacios said.

“Intellectually, they are there, but little by little, they stop flourishing,” she noted.

Gus Reyes, director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, and Campo noticed those issues a decade ago and initiated efforts to promote Hispanic college completion.

Lingering problems from the past

Issues Hispanics face in colleges and universities often stem from social problems in the past, several summit speakers noted.

For example, Baylor University did not take its first steps to end racial segregation until 1964, when the school enrolled its first African-American student, Palacios noted.

Palacios and other speakers also noted how school staff in the high schools they attended thought college education would not fit them because of their ethnicity.

Tina Villarreal, vice president of student experience at Stark College and Seminary, also noted the segregation Hispanics faced at Texas public schools.

Even though many of the students in public grade school during the early 1900s until the 1960s were American citizens, they often were reprimanded and punished for speaking Spanish, Villarreal stated.

As a result, many Hispanics in that time felt disconnected from their ethnic identity and previous generations of their own families, Villarreal said.

Universities making necessary changes

While not every goal has been achieved, speakers at the summit expressed gratitude for what has been accomplished.

Gary Cook, chancellor at Dallas Baptist University, received the Hispanic Education Impact Award for his longterm support of Hispanic education. Gus Reyes, director of the BGCT Christian Life Commission and Girien Salazar, executive director of Faith and Education Coalition presented the award. (Photo / Isa Torres)

Because of the Hispanic growth in the country, universities realize they have a lot left to do, Palacios said. So, schools are beginning to recognize the changes required to serve Hispanic students better, she noted.

Scholarships for Hispanic students, focused on their particular needs, are increasing in more and more schools, school administrators reported.

In order to establish a better connection with students and their families, universities and colleges realize information must be presented both in English and Spanish, they noted.

Through school recruiters, universities also aim to provide information in the best way possible to family members who perhaps come from another country and who may have little formal advanced education.

The support schools offer to Hispanic students increases when they bring in staff and faculty who understand the historical and cultural contexts of Hispanic education in the country and who strengthen their relationship with students by understanding their needs, speakers noted.

Educators also encouraged churches to understand more about topics related to science, technology, engineering and math so they can encourage young Hispanics to expand their horizons and maintain their faith while they pursue education.

Churches can invest in Hispanic students

Girien Salazar is executive director of the national Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s Faith and Education Coalition. (Photo / Isa Torres)

Girien Salazar, executive director of the Faith and Education Coalition, also highlighted efforts of congregations and ministries that invest in education for Hispanics. Salazar noted churches that set apart funds in their yearly budgets for scholarships, as well as ministries that help young Hispanic students visit universities and learn what they need to get in college.

Efforts for Hispanic college completion can start at the local church, Salazar said. As increasing numbers of Hispanics seek higher education, costs, distance from family, language and culture still present enormous challenges for them, he noted.

Salazar expressed his hope that the next 10 years, both universities and churches will offer better care to Hispanics seeking an academic degree, even though those students may not entirely fit the typical profile of a college student.

“I’ve seen and experienced the challenges we face,” Salazar said. “Our next 10 years, we must continue fighting for all of God’s children to pursue higher education.”

Department of Education launches high school fifth-year pilot program

The Louisiana Department of Education is seeking applications from school systems, colleges and businesses to test a new pilot program called “Extension Academy,” aimed at reducing student debt and helping high school graduates get jobs.

The department is billing the program as “an alternative graduation model” where certain students would participate in what is essentially a fifth year of high school, where they could learn career skills and college credits. Businesses can participate through offering apprenticeships, for example.

Extension Academy pilot programs will specifically support students who are positioned to graduate from high school but have yet to earn TOPS scholarship.

Entities interested in applying must outline how they will help students move into careers, higher education or industry certification over the course of the pilot. In their pitch, applicants must also detail the types of support and post-secondary transitional coaching that will be available to the participating students.

One pilot plan has already been approved. The Orleans Parish School Board—in partnership with YouthForce NOLA, an education, business and civic collaborative that prepares public school students for career pathways—was the only school system to submit a pilot application for 2019-2020.

The approved plan brings together 29 area schools and various local business and nonprofit partners, to provide hands-on opportunities to build workplace skills and training in construction crafts, graphic design, video editing and software development. The higher education partner, which will provide dual enrollment courses for college credit, is Southern New Hampshire University. Read the full announcement. 

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My Turn: Daniel J. McKee: Close the parent information gap

By Daniel J. McKee, Providence Journal

Rhode Island must close the parent information gap if we want to close the student achievement gap. Every parent, no matter their zip code or socioeconomic status, wants their child to have the best education possible. If parents know that their child’s school is letting them down, they will be the fiercest advocates for reform.

Unfortunately, too many parents are being left in the dark about the quality of their school district. According to a nationwide study by “Learning Heroes,” 84% of parents believe their child’s school provides an “excellent” or “pretty good” education, and nearly 90% of parents think their child is performing at or above grade level in math and reading.

The actual numbers paint a far more pessimistic picture. Here in Rhode Island, only 30% of students are proficient in math and only 38% are proficient in reading.

The Providence Journal’s Linda Borg further underscores this disconnect in an Oct. 6 piece (“R.I. SAT scores don’t keep pace with grad rates”), where she highlights the inconsistency between schools’ high graduation rates and low proficiency scores.

Something is not adding up. What parents believe and what students achieve are at odds in Rhode Island and nationwide. The underlying cause is due in part to the difference between what parents see on student report cards and the reality. Parents who believe their child is succeeding have no reason to change how they engage in their child’s education, and schools have no reason to set the record straight with parents if they are not required to do so.

We can change this by requiring, through state law or regulation, that every parent receive a school performance card from the school their child attends. These school performance cards will highlight information like the school’s math and reading proficiency scores compared to the grades on student report cards; student and teacher attendance rates; a school facilities overview; and a comparison to a similar school in Massachusetts.

While most of this information is available online, it is lumped in with district averages and requires parents to spend time deciphering charts and graphs. Busy parents should not be expected to play detective just to find out if their child attends a good school.

School performance cards would be presented to parents at an annual public meeting in every public school in Rhode Island. Administrators would explain their school’s performance and offer a plan for improvement. Local elected officials would be invited to attend. Parents who cannot attend would be given the tools to view and sign off on the information electronically. Parents who do not respond would receive a personal visit at their home.

We know that informing parents encourages them to hold schools accountable. The Learning Heroes study shows that when parents compared their child’s report card and their state test scores, 36% changed their opinion about their child’s school. When parents begin to understand the reality of their school system and the outcomes it produces, they will demand action.

I saw this play out on a small scale in Cumberland when, as mayor, I held community meetings and actively notified residents that we had two failed elementary schools, a middle school on the brink of failure and a high school in disrepair. When people became aware of the problem, the community dialogue shifted and parent involvement increased. These changes created a new culture of accountability in our households and in our public schools.

States like Massachusetts, South Dakota, New Mexico, Louisiana and Texas have already taken steps to better inform parents and close the parent information gap. Rhode Island should raise the stakes by setting a goal of having the most informed and engaged parents in the country.

Daniel J. McKee, a Democrat, is the 69th lieutenant governor of Rhode Island and a former mayor of Cumberland.


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OpenLearning to list on ASX

By David Braue,

Online education provider OpenLearning will leverage the proceeds of a planned $6m ASX listing to continue expanding the portfolio of courses it delivers on behalf of a growing range of university and professional-services partners.

Founded in 2012, the Sydney-based company has enjoyed strong success supporting online learning efforts by universities, private training providers and corporate educational service providers.

Its software-as-a-service (SaaS) learning management system enables delivery of a broad range of educational content, as well as tracking which courses each student has completed and providing attestations to their capabilities.

To date, some 1.65m students in more than 150 countries have studied 8900 courses from 3300 different educators, with 800,000 ‘micro-credentials’ issued to students since the company began.

Unlike formal online university degrees, micro-credentials are individual certifications that recognise completion of smaller courses imparting particular skills or knowledge.

OpenLearning offers courses in cybersecurity, big data and analytics, the Doppler effect, financial literacy, and many other eclectic topics.

The flexibility and shorter-term commitment required for micro-credentials has increasingly seen them recognised as a way of helping individuals gain and demonstrate competencies through professional development, and they have also been flagged as a way of targeting skills development to more rapidly address areas of high skills demand.

The Australian Computer Society’s 2019 Federal Election Manifesto called for the establishment of a $100m Industry 4.0 skills fund that recognised the importance of micro-credentials as a way of rapidly building capabilities in crucial emerging technology areas including data science, artificial intelligence, blockchain, IoT, and other fields.

Selling Australian education

Online giants like Digital Promise and Bloomboard have built up significant businesses administering micro-credentials on behalf of third parties and universities, and OpenLearning has followed the curve with strong success in the emerging Australian and – more since 2015 – Malaysian markets.

Malaysia was chosen to lead the company’s expansion into south-east Asia because its students have been enthusiastic adopters of overseas learning – particularly in Australia, where around 14,000 Malaysian students are enrolled in Australian universities.

That represents around 3.5 percent of an international education market that was worth $32.4 billion to the economy in 2017-18 alone.

Australian institutions like Monash University, Swinburne University of Technology and Curtin University have reciprocated, opening campuses in Malaysia to position Australia’s educational brand within the heart of surging demand.

Yet physical campuses are massive investments that have seen universities looking for a way of delivering coursework via more cost-effective online channels.

“OpenLearning solves a problem that every university, college, and company has,” CEO Adam Brimo said, “which is moving their education business online without compromising quality – and without the executions risk of building or integrating various systems.”

OpenLearning is also benefiting from its Malaysian connection and plans to use some of the funding from its ASX debut – expected in November with the issuance of 30 million shares at $0.20 each – to further extend its reach and scalability in Malaysia and beyond.

This expanding footprint will be positioned to help universities and other education and training providers rapidly extend their educational content to customers in Asia and other parts of the world.

“We can help them meet the challenges presented by the future of work,” Brimo said, “[by] delivering the transformative education they need in an enjoyable and interactive way.”


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A Q&A with Ryan Craig, investor and author of a new book about the changing landscape for education and training credentials and the implications for traditional higher education.

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Rethinking STEM Preparation from Educator to Student

By Kellie Lauth and Melissa Risteff, Getting Smart

STEM and Computer Science (CS) jobs are among the fastest-growing in the nation, accounting for more than 50% of major industry employment opportunities. Yet in 2015, STEM job postings outnumbered unemployed STEM workers by a factor of almost 17 to one. In 2016, a Gallup/Google study reported that less than 40% of schools taught computer programming.

There’s an obvious roadblock causing the gap in the STEM jobs available and those taking up these career paths. What may not be so obvious is the cause. STEM and CS education has not kept pace with economic demands and industry needs, but it’s not just from the standpoint of student preparation. Highly qualified teachers are the missing link that impedes the long-term sustainability of education-to-employment pathways.

Educators who teach CS are often lacking STEM credentials. The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) reports that of its 26,000 members, only one in nine have taken a college-level course in CS and only 5-7% have a degree or certificate in CS. It’s this lack of qualified educators that is causing students to lose interest in future STEM/CS careers. In fact, Junior Achievement surveyed thousands of 13- to 17-year-old students and found a drop in teenagers’ interest in STEM careers. Boys considering a STEM job decreased from 36% to 24% between 2017 and 2018, while girls’ interest remained at 11% year after year.

If something doesn’t change, we’ll continue to see a decline in high school and college graduates taking on STEM positions. For those who do, they will enter the workforce feeling completely unprepared. Employers will also feel the effects of a subpar workforce, having to spend time and resources to upskill their new hires for entry-level positions.

If we refocus STEM preparation on both the educator and student, we can better equip our future workforce for STEM and CS career paths. There are a variety of STEM-related programs to get young students engaged early, but if educator training is lacking, so are those student-focused programs.

Unfortunately, the existing educator preparation programs are not closing the STEM/CS talent gap effectively. Why? Some programs just focus on skill development or classroom practice solely aligned to a specific CS course. Both of these approaches lack a link to industry. Partnerships with industry provide insightful career and workforce knowledge and experience, especially when layered with skill development and professional learning. The most disruptive (and at times, destructive) preparation programs require significant occupational experience and/or content knowledge prerequisites that, once attained, lead to teachers leaving the classroom for higher-paying industry jobs anyway.

We believe STEM preparedness shouldn’t be a compromise. Together, our organizations identified three critical components of teacher preparation that are rarely offered in a unified manner:

Graduate-Level Coursework

Let’s start with the obvious. Rather than providing a lone professional learning course on a specific STEM or CS-related topic, our educators deserve to become STEM/CS experts spanning multiple topics. Much like industry supports their professionals, schools and districts can support educators by sharing resources that provide a deep-dive into the STEM world. These resources can equip educators with extensive knowledge beyond a summer institute or workshop.

By partnering with a professional learning organization or directly with a local college or university, educators can access the most up-to-date training on STEM-related hot topics like programming and coding, cybersecurity, and IT systems. Graduate-level classes provide the coursework and learning experiences necessary to better retain the information versus quick reviews from ad hoc training days.

Integrated Professional Learning Topics

By integrating both coursework and professional learning topics into STEM preparation curriculum, educators can tie in innovative practices that support STEM/CS teaching in the classroom. For example, a professional learning section focused on design thinking can help educators get into the mindset of creative problem-solving while encouraging them to establish a culture of innovation in their classrooms.

Courses covering topics like career literacy for computer science fields and information science also go hand-in-hand with STEM educator preparation, as both can provide important insights into workforce readiness and labor market needs.

These professional learning units build on the participants’ educational background and prepare them for additional certification in technology-related fields to help them teach STEM courses like CS, information technology and cybersecurity.

Work-Based Learning Opportunities Through Industry Externships

Arguably the most crucial component of this trifecta approach is the work-based learning experiences. By partnering with the local industry, educators have the opportunity to put their smarts to the test with authentic, real-world challenges in a STEM work environment. Exposure to intensive industry-relevant work experiences in STEM and CS fields not only provides hands-on experiences, but it also sparks inspiration for projects that can be recreated in the classroom.

What makes these externships so valuable is that they typically result in the strongest ROI of improved teacher motivation and confidence, increased teacher commitment to teaching, enhanced teacher knowledge and abilities, and sustained changes to classroom practice. Ideally, educators will undergo classroom integration training so that they can learn the best ways to implement their new knowledge and ideas into the classroom.

The marriage of graduate-level courses, professional learning, and work-based learning opportunities provide a well-rounded, well-informed perspective of STEM and CS far beyond the traditional CS skills of coding and programming. Each step in this model compliments each other, truly enabling educators to be the STEM champions for their students.

While rare, there are programs that combine these three critical STEM certification components such as STEMpath, a 12-month graduate-level STEM certification program available through a partnership among mindSpark Learning, Couragion, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Colorado Succeeds. The first cohort is half-way through the program and has reported a reignited passion for teaching STEM and sharing their knowledge with colleagues to create a solid, schoolwide strategy for teaching CS and STEM. On average, each educator will impact the lives of 400-650 students annually.

Educators discuss possible solutions to a challenge posed by their STEMpath facilitator.

It’s not just educators and students who benefit from this type of preparation; industry does, too. By playing a role in developing these STEM experts for the classroom, the industry ensures that future employees are better prepared for the positions that will one day be available to them.

Why rethink STEM education and preparedness now? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that there will be 1.4 million open computing and STEM jobs by 2020, but only 400,000 CS and STEM graduates with the skills to fill them. We can change the trajectory of the future workforce by first preparing our educators, who are the face of this systematic change. When they become the CS and STEM advocates for their schools, they create relevancy and excitement for students and ultimately increase the number of skilled individuals entering the STEM workforce.

For more, see:

Stay in-the-know with innovations in learning by signing up for the weekly Smart Update.

Kellie Lauth is the CEO of mindSpark Learning.
Melissa Risteff is the CEO of Couragion. 

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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Backs Teacher-Directed Professional Learning with DonorsChoose

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) today announced a $1.2 million grant to DonorsChoose designed to empower teachers through the funding of professional learning projects that reflect the diversity – and aspirations – of classroom teachers nationwide. The grant automatically funds nearly 700 professional development projects that 600 teachers across 36 states have identified for their own continued learning. Secondly, the grant also provides access to NeuroTeach, an online professional development tool that helps teachers and school leaders translate the latest research on how students learn into their own classroom practice, for teachers who would like to use the resource. In addition to funding all current teacher professional development projects and providing access to NeuroTeach, CZI is matching donations to new professional development projects on DonorsChoose, while funds last.

The public can support a classroom today and have their donations doubled as a result of the match from CZI. And teachers looking to make the most of CZI’s match offer can visit donorschoose.org/teachers to create a new professional development project to share with their social networkCZI and DonorsChoose are also encouraging teachers to share why teacher professional development is so important using the hashtag #SupportTeachers.

“As an educator, I know that teachers want professional development opportunities to both improve their instructional practice as well as meet their immediate needs in the classroom. That is why we’re partnering with DonorsChoose to help teachers apply the latest findings on how students learn best within their classroom practice and funding the individual professional development asks of teachers across the country,” said Priscilla Chan, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of CZI. “We’re excited to support more learning-science-based tools, like NeuroTeach, in the classroom and power projects that individual teachers know will make a real difference for their students.”

According to recent research, nearly all teachers report wanting effective, ongoing, relevant professional development opportunities – with 84% wishing they had more professional development tailored to their needs.

“Professional development allows me to grow my knowledge, expand my skill set, re-evaluate my teaching methods, share experiences with my peers, and learn from other educators. I walk away with new teaching strategies that I can immediately implement into my classroom to enhance student learning,” said Fernanda Garofollo, a middle school teacher at John Ruhrah School in Baltimore.

Examples of the kinds of professional development projects funded through the the $1.2 million grant from CZI include attending professional conferences to learn improved literacy instruction practices to increase student achievement to obtaining certification in teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to training in instilling mindfulness, social-emotional learning and kindness in students.

“We see that teachers are willing to ask social networks for support funding classroom materials, but are often reluctant to seek funding for their own professional development,” said Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose. “This grant gives hundreds of teachers the chance to invest in themselves, turn research into practice, and stay ahead of the curve in a dynamic, challenging profession. These teachers will use the skills they learn to help thousands of students across the country achieve.”

Since DonorsChoose first expanded to include professional development projects in 2015, more than 10,000 projects have been created by more than 7,500 educators. Professional Development projects are among the slowest growing project categories, as teachers are more likely to request resources for their students over development opportunities for themselves.

CZI’s education work is focused on ensuring that every student —not just a lucky few—can get an education that’s tailored to their individual needs and supports every aspect of their development. Part of that work is focused on supporting research, programs, and organizations that work to advance the understanding and science of how students learn and develop, and support the pivotal role of teachers in supporting a student’s academic, mental, physical, emotional and cognitive development. CZI has partnered with the Deans for Impact, the Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning, Jefferson Education Exchange and others in this work.

About Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges—from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit www.chanzuckerberg.com.

About DonorsChoose
DonorsChoose is the leading way to give to public schools. Since 2000, more than 4 million people and partners have contributed $885 million to support 1.5 million teacher requests for classroom resources and experiences. As the most trusted crowdfunding platform for teachers, donors, and district administrators alike, DonorsChoose vets each request, ships the funded resources directly to the classroom, and provides thank yous and reporting to donors and school leaders. Charity Navigator and GuideStar have awarded DonorsChoose, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, their highest ratings for transparency and accountability. For more information, visit www.donorschoose.org.

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Calling Louisiana to boost state’s trained workforce

By Holly Duchmann, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

It was a trip to a local community college during her junior year of high school that sparked Kassy Giroir’s drive to pursue a career in the chemical industry.

“That’s when I met a female—she used to be an operator,” Giroir, donned in her embroidered ruby red Shell jumpsuit, tells those watching the video of her story. It was that day, she recalls, when she decided to become a process operator.

Later in the video, under the cooling shade of an oak in Norco, she throws a cobalt Frisbee with two young boys in front of a new house.

“I recently built a home,” she shares at the video’s end. “I couldn’t have done that without this job.”

The 30-second commercial is one of five produced by the industry-sponsored initiative called Louisiana Calling. It was founded in 2013 by a group of Capital Region industry leaders who were concerned about the growing lack of skilled workers in Louisiana. Since then, the initiative—backed by donations from industry wallets—has embarked on a multi-year campaign using social media, concerts and videos to both spotlight the state’s high-demand jobs and the educational pathways available to get them as well as pique interest among students.

Girioir’s story, along with the other videos produced for the River Parishes region, embodies Louisiana Calling’s raison d’état: You don’t need a four-year diploma to get a well-paying job.

Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants says a household telephone survey conducted by the firm at the beginning of the initiative found roughly 50% of people thought less of someone without a four-year degree. It’s a stigma that she’s been fighting to change for most of the past seven years. There are plenty of jobs in-state that pay well—with starting salaries at $45,000 to $50,000—that only require an associate degree or a certification.

“We know what jobs are open today in different regions,” she says, “and we know what the projections are. We’re really weaving that in at the local level.”

The initiative officially launched in 2017 after testing the waters in late 2016 with a series of radio and television ads aired in three different markets.

Later that year, it partnered with a Southern favorite—Viacom’s country music channel, CMT—and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System to host an eight-stop music tour by rising country star Courtney Cole. The Mandeville native performed at eight community colleges around the state, including Baton Rouge Community College, to promote post-secondary education. The concerts helped attract people to visit the campuses and videos were shown of Louisiana natives with interesting journeys sharing their stories on how they got a career without a four-year degree.

“Our research has shown that people wanted to hear about people like them and how they got great jobs,” Slaughter says, adding they knew artistic commercials with flashy visuals wouldn’t be the way this campaign. “People want to hear stories.”

JOB TRAINING: A Louisiana Calling goal is to erase the community college stigma, convincing high school students that a well-paying job can come from programs like those offered at the McKay Automotive Technology Center at Baton Rouge Community College. (Tim Mueller)

To Monty Sullivan, president of LCTCS, the videos were an opportunity to showcase different career options available in Louisiana. Because of generational differences in educational attainment, it can be especially challenging for children whose parents didn’t finish high school or didn’t earn college credit to learn about the different paths they could embark on.

“Those people don’t have role models with careers,” he says. “They don’t know the universe of opportunities available.”

Because the initiative is trying to change attitudes, measuring results can be a bit tricky. While the initiative is statewide, the program has put a special initial emphasis on the River Parish region, hoping to boost the available workforce for that region’s industrial sector.

As part of its ground game, Louisiana Calling issues surveys at each of the major high schools in the parishes it’s targeting to gather a baseline understanding of what students think about jobs. The plan is for a second survey to be taken once the program matures, says Slaughter, to measure if there’s been improvement from the initial results.

She also points to some statistics that imply the needle is moving toward the right direction, although she’s quick to say that Louisiana Calling can’t take credit for the gains.

From 2012 to 2018, the number of students who earned career-tech certifications, advanced placement credit or college credit each rose by 167%. For the same six-year period, dual enrollment and advanced career credential earning students rose by 403%. Across LCTC’s 11 campuses, 8,777 students earned an industry-based certification last year. So far in 2019, that number has already nearly doubled, to 15,876.

Sullivan adds further depth to what those certifications mean to the students who earn them. After one year of work in Louisiana, those certification-wielding graduates earn $50,000 on average and those with an associate degree earn $45,000.

“The more aligned our schools are with the market and needs for employers, the better we can leverage those needs on behalf of the students,” he says. “The success of people depends on the success of the business community.”

After working in the River Parishes region for the past year, Slaughter says they’re “getting ready to come into the Capital Region,” and have already begun preliminary talks with some school districts, superintendents, community college chancellors, elected officials and different area chambers. At this point in the game, it’s not about fundraising, Slaughter says; it’s about getting various groups to collaborate.

They plan to recreate the 30-second videos for the Capital Region, as well as foster an ambassadors group, where companies can offer people to talk about their jobs.

“The reality is that Louisiana has a strong economy,” Sullivan says. “But those jobs are limited to people with the skills and education needed to be hired. News headlines talk about unemployment rates but those aren’t necessarily reflective of the skills in demand.”

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ExcEL Leadership Academy Partners with BloomBoard to Offer Micro-credential-Based Professional Learning for Teachers of English Learners

Today, one of every 10 students is an English Learner. That means most classroom teachers are or will be working with English learner students. However, the majority of those teachers will tell you they are underprepared and lack confidence in their ability to work with these students or connect with them and their families. A 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine confirmed that teachers who work with English Learners are often underprepared for the job.

The Excellence for English Learners (ExcEL) Leadership Academy is excited to announce a partnership with BloomBoard, the leading platform for educator training and advancement via micro-credentials, to offer a new micro-credential-based professional learning program designed to support and prepare all teachers working with English Learners (ELs). The program provides teachers with the opportunity to build deeper knowledge in a specific set of competencies that are required for working with EL students while advancing their career by successfully proving proficiency in these competencies.

“We believe that high-quality professional learning should be accessible to all teachers,” said Laureen Avery, the Northeast Region Director of UCLA Center X. “Our goal is to ensure that every classroom teacher working with English Learners has the opportunity to develop the skills needed to ensure they feel prepared to support their students.”

As part of the new competency-based program, ExcEL Leadership Academy has developed a sequential, tiered approach to career advancement based on earned micro-credentials. Every classroom teacher working with English learners will complete six basic micro-credentials. Those who are interested in becoming an ESL specialist teacher may go on to complete a second set of micro-credentials. All micro-credentials are aligned to national and local professional standards, including the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) standards. This means in those approved states and districts, teachers may earn ESL endorsement by completing job-embedded, competency-based micro-credentials.

A growing number of states are moving towards a competency-based approach to specialized endorsements. States such as Arizona and Rhode Island have established statewide plans for K12 Computer Science implementation, including specialized endorsements for teachers that can be earned via micro-credentials. In Louisiana, the Department of Education has implemented micro-credential-based licensure for all Mentor and Content leaders in the state. In Arkansas, educators who aspire to leadership roles can do so without leaving the classroom via the state’s Lead Professional Educator Designation, which also follows a micro-credential-based approach.

“Educators are the most important driver of student growth and learning, and we’re excited to partner with ExcEL to support teachers of English Learners,” said Jason Lange, Founder and President of BloomBoard. “Micro-credentials are a great way to provide job-embedded, hands-on professional learning that enable educators to apply their learning in their practice. The ExcEL micro-credentials help educators develop the core competencies they need for working with English learners.”

ExcEL has piloted the micro-credentials with 13 schools from districts in Connecticut and New York, including Shelton School District and Nyack Public Schools. More than 50 micro-credentials were awarded during this initial pilot. This year the organization expects to award more than 200 micro-credentials to classroom teachers. State Departments of Education and districts that are interested in learning more about ExcEL’s micro-credential-based professional learning program can visit https://www.excelleadershipacademy.org.


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Does Gen Z Need a Bachelor’s Degree?

By Kayla Kibbe, InsideHook

As massive amounts of student debt and poor employment prospects continue to paint the traditional, four-year college education in an increasingly unattractive light, experts suspect Gen Z’s growing population of high school grads may begin to pursue a different post-secondary path than the indebted millennials before them.

According to Harvard Business Review‘s Ryan Craig, faster and cheaper pathways to employment are expected to rise in popularity among members of the youngest generation poised to enter the workforce. Such quicker, less expensive post-secondary alternatives include fast-paced “bootcamps” and training programs designed to prepare students directly for tech jobs, as well as income sharing-based education models like Lambda School’s coding program.

As Craig argues, Gen Z has already shirked the burden of large, upfront investments in favor of cheaper, bite-sized products and services that cater directly to their needs of the moment. We don’t expect a generation who can summon a ride with an app to purchase cars, so why should we expect them to pour tens of thousands into a four-year liberal arts education when there are faster, cheaper, more refined paths that will likely lead to better-paying jobs?

Along with the death of the bachelor’s degree, Craig also predicts the modern return of apprenticeships — programs offered by staffing and service providers as an entry-level alternative to a college degree. “It’s logical that the largest apprenticeship providers will be those with a commercial incentive to scale the production and through-putting of purpose-trained, entry-level talent for clients facing talent shortages,” writes Craig, adding that he expects “apprenticeships of various flavors to emerge as a viable and scalable alternative to college as a first pathway to a good job in growth sectors.”

The result, according to Craig, will not be a reduction in post-secondary education, but rather a much-needed shift in the ways it is served and consumed.


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