Understanding Each Child, Our Future: High School Success and Postsecondary Connections (Strategy 10)
Each Child, Our Future is Ohio’s five-year strategic plan to ensure each student enjoys a bright future thanks to an excellent preK-12 education experience. More than 150 Ohio-based partners helped develop Each Child, Our Future, along with feedback from 1,200 Ohio parents, caregivers, preK-12 and postsecondary educators, employers, business leaders, community members, state legislators and students.
This is the last in an 11-part series that walks EdConnection readers through the plan. Last week, we covered strategies 8 and 9, which dealt with early learning and literacy. This week, we take a close look at strategy 10, which promotes high school success and postsecondary connections. These are among five key elements that comprise a high-quality education experience. Find strategy 10 on pages 23 and 24 of the document, which appears in its entirety here.
In high school, each child should see the relevance of his or her learning, be exposed to practical, real-world work settings and begin to define his or her future. High schools set the stage for a student’s future success. As students grow and mature, most begin to see they are becoming responsible for their own lives. Unfortunately, many students struggle with the transition that comes after high school. Some do not graduate from high school. Others leave their postsecondary experiences before crossing the finish line to a credential, certificate or degree. Those who go straight into the workforce often lack the skills and dispositions required for success. Strategy 10 seeks to change this by maximizing the high school experience.
Strategy 10: Ensure high school inspires students to identify paths to future success, and give students multiple ways to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for high school graduation and beyond.
This strategy contains five priority activities:
- Focusing on careers: Choosing a “path” does not mean that a student makes a career choice that cannot change. It means gauging a student’s interests and passions, based on what a student enjoys and is good at, and identifying aligned fields that might interest the student. Giving each student an opportunity to focus on careers will require teachers, staff and partners to understand career exploration. It also means that, when possible, instruction should be infused with connections to careers so that students can see the relevance of what they learn. Some high schools apply a career theme across the entire school.
- Advancing successful models: There are many models of redesigned middle and high schools that can contribute to a more successful learning environment. Ohio has early college high schools, STEM and STEAM schools, project-based learning high schools, expeditionary learning high schools, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, global awareness high schools and more. The Department should collaborate with key stakeholders to help identify and disseminate models for high school that can be used to inspire transformation.
- Expanding work-based learning experiences: Helping students connect to business is key to high school improvement. Students who participate in work-based learning gain valuable, relevant skills and often can discern whether particular professions are a good fit. They gain insight from business mentors who can help them achieve a deeper understanding of various career areas. Many of Ohio’s innovative high school principals have established partnerships with local businesses to enrich students’ experiences.
- Honoring and promoting career-technical education: Career-technical education continues to face a stigma, which harms student opportunity. Ohio needs to tackle this cultural bias head on. Students who enroll in career-technical education programs and earn industry credentials are poised to directly enter the workplace or go on to two-year or four-year colleges — whatever they may choose.
- Expanding paths to graduation: Ohio can help schools formulate student-focused plans to ensure that graduates possess the habits and dispositions necessary for success after high school (refer to the Possible Attributes of a High School Graduate framework in the Appendix of the strategic plan). The following suggestions could inform such plans:
- Emphasize equity and access;
- Start early to identify career and postsecondary aspirations and counsel students how best to stay on a path to excellence;
- Push and challenge students to reach rigorous levels of knowledge and skill acquisition;
- Identify learning options — including career-technical experiences, work-based learning, project-based or case-based learning approaches and others — most appropriate for students’ success;
- Validly, reliably and consistently measure how students demonstrate competency and mastery;
- Use rubrics to gauge student progress and assess performance;
- Consider a robust portfolio of measures, including end-of-course tests, the ACT or SAT and demonstration-based measures (for example, capstone projects); and
- Expose students to relevant concepts and work-based, experiential learning.
Find a recap of the Understanding Each Child, Our Future
series next week that includes the principles that will steer implementation of the plan.