Educating the work force and helping students get into the appropriate post-secondary-schools are concerns shared nationwide, and some states have been getting attention recently for their approaches or proposed approaches.
Here are four examples of newsworthy plans, progress, and proposals that states are trying out to help connect their youth to productive careers in the future.
The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education released a report this month calling for state leaders to adopt a list of educational changes to keep up with the state’s high-tech economy.
According to the report, the New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the Next 20 Years, 69% of the 334 employers surveyed in the state have had difficulty hiring employees with the appropriate skills. Also, 84% of the employers believe the state’s school system needs to make moderate or major changes.
Among its recommendations, the report says Massachusetts should:
- Open more charter schools.
- Offer universal pre-Kindergarten.
- Allow individual schools to have more flexibility in staff hiring, extending school days, and making other changes.
- Adopt a statewide contract for all teachers, instead of having unions negotiate with individual school systems.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, singled out Hawaii for praise this month for its success so far in the competitive Race to the Top grant program, which allocates federal funding to states based on scoring for their implementation of education innovations and reforms. Duncan said during a media call that the state has “made huge progress” and “shown amazing leadership.”
Among Hawaii’s highlights from September 2012 to September 2013, according to the federal education department:
- The state showed improved scores on national benchmarks, along with access to more rigorous course work and advanced placement classes.
- Hawaii’s fourth- and eighth-graders showed some of the most improvement, compared to peers in other states, in math and reading achievement.
- The state ratified a contract with the Hawaii State Teachers Association in April 2013 that allows the Educator Effectiveness System to be implemented.
- Hawaii helped train educators during the transition to Hawaii Common Core college and career-readiness standards.
- The state provided extensive supports to help turn around low-achieving schools.
Also this month, Hawaii launched the 55by25.org website to support its “55 by ’25” campaign, which aims to have 55% of working-age adults hold a two- or four-year degree by 2025. Currently, only 41% of Hawaii’s adults meet that standard, and a recent study showed that by 2018, 65% of the jobs in the state will require some level of college.
Louisiana Connect is a website — or portal, using the organizers’ lingo — established to help students in the eighth through 12th grades, and their parents, plan their careers and post-high-school education. But the information on the site is also helpful to adult learners seeking training opportunities and colleges and businesses looking to connect with students.
According to Louisiana Connect, more than 130,000 people use the site to map their college and career paths. Quizzes help users identify their skills and interests to match them to potential occupations. The site also has a feature that helps users search for internships to “test drive” recommended occupations.
Among the other features on Louisiana Connect, the portal has features for:
- Searching for schools with specific majors or career training programs
- Searching for and comparing schools by size, cost, location, and other parameters
- Setting up individual graduation plans to help the student stay on track to graduate from high school and gain acceptance to post-high-school institutions
- Tracking grades, courses, SAT and ACT scores, and progress toward state scholarships for state schools
- Tools that calculate expected tuition costs, including family contributions, loan costs, and student debt loads compared to expected salaries
- Scholarship search tools
This month, the Montana Office of Public Instruction selected IBM and ConnectEDU to build a statewide system to link data between Kindergarten-through-grade-12 schools and post-secondary schools. The system will collect and warehouse student transcripts, and provide transcript delivery service. It also will help with college and career planning, and with student transitions to college. State education officials say the system should make college applications easier, provide data to policymakers, enable transcript sharing between school districts and universities in the state, track student progress, and help develop academic, financial, and career plans for students.
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