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By: Steve Gratz
Editor's Note: Our colleague, Steve Gratz, is retiring after many years in education. Steve’s blogs have challenged many education concepts and provided sage advice for innovation in education. Thank you, Steve. We wish you luck as you transition to your next opportunity.
I’m retiring from the Ohio Department of Education on Dec. 31, 2018, after 36 years in education and 10 state superintendents of public instruction — including two interims. Seven of those years were spent as a teacher of agriculture, and the remaining 29 were with the Department in various capacities — the last five serving as one of the agency’s senior executive directors.
When I started my career as a teacher of agriculture in 1983, I never envisioned the path my career would take. I’ve had the opportunity to teach thousands of students at the secondary and postsecondary levels and coach more than 200 Ohio FFA state officers. I love the teaching and learning process and will always consider myself a teacher and learner.
During my 29 years at the Department, I visited hundreds of schools — mainly high schools and career centers. I enjoyed visiting with students, teachers, administrators, board members and community members. Coupled with my teaching experience, these visits helped frame and solidify my teaching philosophy. At one time during my career, I thought I wanted to be a school administrator and went back to the classroom, but I soon realized I could have a greater impact back at the Department.
I have delivered hundreds of presentations throughout my career, including a few commencement speeches. During some of my recent presentations, I’ve shared a list of items those looking to redesign a school should consider. A few people asked for my list, so I felt it would be appropriate to share in my final blog.
These are not in any particular order of importance sans the first one. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather thought-provoking. This list is fluid, and I’m sure I’ll revisit it often.
- Transition all students to something and not out of high school. For too many years, we have been focusing on transitioning students out of school simply because they have met graduation requirements. It is time for us to adjust how we envision student success, and graduation alone is not the right measure. Graduation rates out of high school are not nearly as important as student success rates out of high school.
- Make your district the economic driver for your community and region by identifying in-demand sectors in your region — keep your talent local but don’t prevent students from pursuing their career aspirations. Some students may need coaching on differentiating a hobby and a vocation. The recently released OhioMeansJobs Workforce Data Tools website is an excellent resource to help start the process.
- Develop in-demand pathways beginning no later than grade 7, and show the progression of advancement. These begin as broad pathways and narrow as the student progresses. At a minimum, start a Personalized Professional Pathway program. This can be a quick win for students and the community.
- Blur the lines between technical and academic content. I firmly believe this will result in more meaningful teaching and learning. The burden shouldn’t fall on educators alone to make these connections. Employers, communities, and industry leaders should reach out and support educators in making academic and technical concepts real for students.
- Increase the number of integrated courses offered so students receive simultaneous credit. Integrated coursework and simultaneous credit can redesign the school day. If you don’t believe me, ask any STEM school.
- Increase the percentage of students completing Student Success Plans through OhioMeansJobs. Currently, this is only required for at-risk-students, but I encourage all students to have Student Success Plans.
- Ensure every school employee knows the career aspirations of every student. By knowing students’ career aspirations, teachers can contextualize their teaching to students’ interests during the “formal” teaching and learning process and help advise students during the “informal” teaching and learning process. I believe this would have positive impact on the ethos of the school.
- Embrace personalized learning for ALL students. Coupled with competency-based learning, personalized learning will allow students to progress at their own pace. The Future Ready Framework is a great resource to assist with developing personalized learning.
- Provide ALL students with the supports they need to succeed. This will look different from district to district; school to school; and student to student. A good place to begin is the Department’s webpage for Ohio’s Social and Emotional Learning Standards.
- Utilize the Literacy Design Collaborative and the Math Design Collaborative to ensure students are learning literacy and numeracy skills across all disciplines.
- Increase the percentage of students earning industry credentials, where applicable. Please make sure the credentials being earned align to students’ career aspirations.
- Increase the percentage of students participating in work-based learning experiences. There’s ample evidence-based research on the benefits of experiential learning not to mention the embedded work readiness skills.
- Increase the percentage of students earning the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal is for ALL students, and research indicates that students who have the attributes aligned with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal are more persistent in their postsecondary endeavors.
- Provide counseling to students for two years after graduation. I realize there are additional costs associated with this concept, but I truly believe this strategy would be extremely impactful to student success. This should be combined with the Career Advising Plan required of every district.
- Work with the Business Advisory Council and regional partners. Students need to learn skills that businesses require, so they can get well-paying jobs as adults. And who can do this better than business? Be sure to involve teachers with the Business Advisory Council too.
- Blur the line between secondary and postsecondary education. Schools need to increase work toward a system that eliminates grades, both student grades and class grades. Competency-based education is an excellent model for school redesign to help accomplish the elimination of grades.
- Encourage participation in all advanced standing programs when students are ready. College Credit Plus is one of the most robust dual-enrollment programs in the country. Districts with limited access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses can encourage student participation in Modern States' “Freshman Year for Free” program, where students can enroll and take tests in AP and CLEP courses for free.
- Start collecting longitudinal data on high school graduates. This data will prove invaluable when sharing the success of graduates. Data should include, but is not limited to, uninsured employment data and college persistence and graduation rates (National Student Clearinghouse).
- Establish metrics with your local board of education that define school and student success. These should be the metrics that are most important to the community.
- Continuous improvement is fundamental to ensuring students are prepared when they transition. This is imperative at all levels of the educational system.
- Communicate ad nauseum with school employees and the community members on the school’s or district’s vision and progress toward that vision.
- Maintain outreach to school and district alumni. One of my favorite ways to engage alumni came from a district that has a class reunion every year, including a parade spotlighting classes in five-year increments. After the parade, all alumni enjoy a picnic together at the community park.
- Share quick wins and promising practices on the SuccessBound webpage.
- Think big, start small, scale fast.
- Move forward with a sense of urgency.
No one should look at this list and feel compelled to try to implement too many at one time. Ideally, school leaders would collaborate with instructional staff to prioritize new initiatives.
Those familiar with Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education will see a strong correlation with my philosophy, especially with Strategy 10, and that makes me smile.
It has been a great and rewarding career in education, and I am looking forward to transitioning to my next career. Starting in early January, I will be helping a good friend with a program he founded — AgriCorps. AgriCorps focuses on ending generational poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. We’ll be traveling to Ghana, Liberia and Kenya to kick off 2019. Additionally, I’ll be assisting a few educational service centers and districts with school improvement and redesign.
I’m active on LinkedIn, so please reach out and stay connected.
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By: Steve Gratz
National Apprenticeship Week is a national celebration that offers leaders in business, labor, education and other critical partners a chance to demonstrate their support for apprenticeship. Gov. Kasich proclaimed Nov. 12-18, 2018, as National Apprenticeship Week in Ohio.
National Apprenticeship Week gives apprenticeship sponsors the opportunity to showcase their programs, facilities and apprentices in their community. The weeklong event highlights the benefits of apprenticeship in preparing a highly skilled workforce to meet the talent needs of employers across diverse industries. We’re seeing a resurgence of pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities across Ohio and the nation. Once considered a secondhand career path, today, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs are providing excellent pay and benefits. Many apprenticeship programs provide a salary of $30,000 or more with full benefits throughout the training program. On average, apprentices who complete their training programs earn $60,000 or more per year after graduation. You can learn more about apprenticeships by visiting ApprenticeOhio.
There are 19 National Apprenticeship Week events in Ohio this year. Most events are centered around apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing and construction. For example, the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee is hosting an event to bring awareness to SkillsUSA. SkillsUSA is a national membership association serving high school, college and middle school students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. Schools can participate in SkillsUSA and have students compete at the regional level. The event also includes information about the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and the programs offered, along with a tour of the campus.
Near my hometown of Bluffton in Allen County, GROB Systems, Inc., is hosting an open house for individuals interested in advanced manufacturing. GROB is a family-owned company and has been a leader in designing and building highly innovative production and automation systems. GROB has apprenticeship opportunities for individuals interested in manufacturing, computer numerical control, robotics, automation, machining and engineering. The company will hold an informational presentation describing the program in depth with a question and answer session to follow. After the presentation, GROB apprentices will take attendees on a tour of the very clean, state of the art, highly technical and temperature-controlled facility. Apprentices at GROB gain hands-on knowledge, a great hourly wage, a free associate degree from Rhodes State College, free health, vision and dental insurance, and a 401k match.
Ohio has many pre-apprenticeship programs that partner with companies like the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and GROB. Some of the most successful programs are located at Miami Valley Career Technical Center and Upper Valley Career Center. You can learn more about Ohio’s effort in establishing pre-apprenticeship programs by visiting the Ohio Department of Education’s webpage on apprenticeships and internships.
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By: Steve Gratz
Over the past few weeks at the Department, I've been overhearing the chatter of my colleagues getting their children ready for the return to school. Some of my co-workers are methodically getting their children up earlier and earlier in preparation for the first day of school. Many took full advantage of Ohio's sales tax holiday. And several shared how excited they were about finally getting back into a routine.
As a teacher, I relished the start of a new school year. Being a teacher of agriculture, I worked throughout the summer visiting students and discussing their supervised agricultural experience (SAE) projects with them and the upcoming school year with their parents. My goal was to visit every student three to four times per year. I have many fond memories eating dinner and visiting with students and their families. A couple of my favorite visits were to the Kain and Carpenter families — both were livestock farmers, and we always had great meals and conversations. On the first day of school, I already would have visited all the incoming freshman enrolled in my classes. The impact of home visits is amazing as you get to see the dynamics of each student’s family and a glimpse of what home life is like for the student.
Aside from reminiscing on my formative days in the classroom, I want to share how teachers’ words and actions impact students’ lives. One of my professors at The Ohio State University, Dr. Lowell Hedges, taught us a simple rule that I borrowed: Don’t prevent the teacher from teaching, and don’t prevent others from learning. A negative comment from a teacher can create a barrier to learning. Throughout my career, I have had countless students reminiscence about statements I made to them that were impactful in their lives. I’m sure many of my former students could share examples of when I was less than positive too. Too late in my career, I learned the lesson of how powerful the words of teachers are to students. The power of words matters not only to students and teachers — it is just as impactful to those you supervise, colleagues and family members.
Not to get too academic, but I want to share with you my frame of reference, so excuse me while I get a little nerdy. In her book, “Mindset,” Carol Dweck looks at the difference between people with fixed and growth mindsets, how one trumps the other and what you can do to adopt the right one. Dweck shows how success in school, and almost every endeavor, can be influenced dramatically by how we think about our talents and abilities. “Mindset” is a great read, and it uncovers how great parents, teachers and managers can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.
To explain a little further, people with fixed mindsets believe talent is everything and your qualities are carved in stone. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality and creativity are fixed traits rather than things that can be developed. If they’re not gifted with the ability to do something, people with this mindset think they’re doomed to fail. Their skills seem to be written in their genes, just like their looks, which is why they never try to improve. Who you are is who you are, period. Conversely, people with growth mindsets believe your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. Whatever they want to achieve is theirs for the taking, as long as they work hard for it, dedicate themselves to their goals and practice as much as they can. People differ greatly — in aptitude, talents, interests or temperaments — but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Apart from our parents, teachers play major roles in how our mindsets turn out. A bad teacher might tell a D student that he’ll never amount to anything, whereas a good teacher would encourage him to study more and do better on the next test.
David Scott Yeager and Dweck (2012) showed that students who believed (or were taught) that intellectual abilities are qualities that can be developed (as opposed to qualities that are fixed) tend to show higher achievement. Yeager and Dweck also showed that believing (or being taught) that social attributes can be developed can lower adolescents’ aggression and stress in response to peer victimization or exclusion and result in enhanced school performance. They conclude by discussing how psychological interventions that change students’ mindsets are effective and what educators can do to foster these mindsets and create resilience in educational settings.
As the new school year begins, take the necessary time to use your words appropriately and make sure you are encouraging a growth mindset. The power of your words can have a positive impact on those who you associate with and encourage a growth mindset. Conversely, the wrong words, your tone and body language can strain relationships, cause stress, shut down communications and support a fixed mindset.
Take a moment to watch Dweck’s Ted Talk on the power of believing that you can improve and then share in the comments what you can do differently as you interact with students, parents and colleagues this school year.
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By: Steve Gratz
During the summer after my first year of teaching, I went over to my colleague, Jim Boyd’s, biology classroom and snooped around to see what I might be able to “borrow” to enhance my teaching — I was working on embedding more science principles into my agriculture curriculum. While I was rummaging around his classroom, I found a syllabus from his 10th grade biology class, and I realized it closely paralleled my sophomore class agriculture syllabus. However, it did so through principles rather than the context from which I taught. For example, Mr. Boyd taught cells: homeostasis, respiration, photosynthesis, mitosis and meiosis; and genetics: fundamentals, DNA, RNA, inheritance and expression. I taught AgriScience 200 (Animal and Plant Biology): genetics, anatomy and physiology, growth and development, reproduction, and nutrition. The parallels were uncanny.
Aside from spending a majority of that summer conducting home visits to students, I invested many hours rewriting the agriculture curriculum with my colleague Brad Moffitt. Brad and I graduated together from The Ohio State University, and we focused on embedding more science principles into our agriculture curricula throughout our teaching careers.
During the fall semester of my second year of teaching, Jim stopped down to my classroom and asked me about my curriculum. I quickly shared with him my syllabus from my sophomore agriculture class. He carefully reviewed it, paused and said, “No wonder your students know the answers to all my questions, you are teaching biology in your ag class.” This was sheer luck and not planned on my part, but it really motivated me to continue to highlight the embedded science in the agriculture curriculum.
In addition to teaching animal and plant biology, I also remember introducing gel electrophoresis to my students. Gel electrophoresis is a laboratory method used to separate DNA fragments (or other macromolecules, such as RNA and proteins) according to molecular size. In gel electrophoresis, the molecules to be separated are pushed by an electrical field through a gel that contains small pores. Of course, gel electrophoresis has evolved tenfold since the last time I was in the classroom. These are just a few examples life sciences embedded in agriculture.
The National FFA saw the importance of embedding more science principles in the agriculture curriculum. In fact, it created a recognition program for teachers of agriculture who brought science to the forefront. Brad (1985) and I (1986) were both recognized by the National FFA for outstanding work in agriscience. We both experienced increases in program enrollment because of the curricular change. However, we weren’t satisfied and set our sights on ensuring that our students could receive science credit through our agriscience courses. In Ohio, local districts control the awarding of credit, and we saw a handful of schools granting science credit for students in agriculture courses due to the embedded sciences.
When I started working at the Ohio Department of Education, I provided leadership to the agriscience initiative that was sweeping the country. At the Department, I immediately started working to ensure more students could receive science credit through agricultural education. I recall visiting with staff from the Office of Educator Licensure to determine the coursework agriculture teachers needed to become certified science teachers. After several meetings, we determined that agriculture teachers needed a physics class to receive certification to teach science. I reached out to Ohio State and arranged for a physics course to be taught on Saturdays to help agriculture teachers get science teaching certificates.
With the passage of House Bill 59, schools may now integrate academic content in a subject area into a course in a different subject area, including a career-technical education course. Upon successful completion of the integrated course, a student may receive credit for subject areas that were integrated into the course. Moreover, credits earned for subject area content delivered through integrated academic and career-technical instruction are eligible to meet the graduation requirements.
Integrated coursework benefits students by creating authentic learning experiences, deepening student understanding and creating space in students’ schedules for additional learning experiences. These experiences can include elective courses, College Credit Plus, work-based learning or other innovative educational practices. Integrated coursework mimics real-world situations and makes learning more authentic. Students are actively engaged in learning because the design of the integrated curriculum creates challenging, meaningful tasks that help students connect information.
Innovative school leaders who take advantage of the integrated coursework initiative really can change a student’s experience in and out of school. I’ve witnessed this as a teacher and by visiting schools across the state. Below are videos showing how schools have integrated different subject areas into different courses. The Department will continue to capture examples of integrated coursework as this initiative gains momentum.
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By: Steve Gratz
“Those Were the Days” was in heavy rotation on the school bus radio when I boarded during the 1969-1970 school year. I was in elementary school and my big brother, Kevin, was a senior. We went to Bluffton, a small school in northwest Ohio in Allen County. I remember that Kevin would leave school early to go to work at Lima Lumber as part of his DCT program – Diversified Cooperative Training. You see, Bluffton was a small agricultural community, and vocational agriculture, home economics and shop class were still a strong part of the curriculum. I don’t know when the DCT program started, but it was for students whose interests were outside of the vocational agriculture, home economics and shop classes.
DCT taught students job readiness skills in class and then all students were released early to go to their places of employment. My brother and his friends worked in various job sectors. While I don’t remember much about the program or when it ceased to exist, I do recall that my brother really enjoyed the class and the work experience at Lima Lumber.
I’ve shared this memory with Department staff on numerous occasions. In fact, the more I shared it, the more I thought, “Why not consider bringing this program back?” This past September in Cincinnati, we had a team attend the fall convening for our New Skills For Youth grant. During our “team time,” we dusted off the DCT program from years gone by, gave it a face lift, added a few new dimensions and started thinking through how we could roll it out for the 2018-2019 school year. Our creative staff came up with a modernized name to replace the DCT moniker – Personalized Professional Pathways or P3.
I sat down with staff and we started to flesh out the P3 program to ensure it would be successful. Parallel to the development of the P3 program, staff also were working on developing the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, and it was a logical decision to blend the two together.
Similar to the DCT program, the P3 program will consist of a class on employability skills, with the foundation of the course aligning to the 15 professional skills that are part of the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. All students will be required to have work-based learning experiences. Ideally, the work-based learning experiences will be aligned to students’ career aspirations. Leveraging Ohio’s Credit Flexibility program, students’ work-based learning experiences will require training plans aligned to one of Ohio’s 39 career pathways. As a result of this alignment, students will earn career-technical education credits and possibly postsecondary credit.
Developing a traditional pathway program can be a little daunting as you consider which pathway will meet the needs of a majority of your students. Once the pathway is decided, you need to select a sequence of courses, determine classroom and laboratory space, purchase equipment and recruit enough students to make the program feasible. Many schools find this challenging due to the diverse interests of their students – especially smaller schools. Instead of choosing one or more pathways, the P3 program meets the needs of students’ various career interests and has very little startup costs.
Department staff are working with educators to develop a course outline for the P3 program that embeds the 15 professional skills on the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. This course outline will serve as the foundation of the in-school program. The essential part of the program hinges on student work-based learning. The P3 program requires the student, along with coaching from the instructor, to find employment in a sector aligned to his or her career aspirations. The instructor then works with the student and the employer to develop a training plan (resources can be found here) aligned to a career pathway course. This training plan ensures that the work-based learning experience is more than just a job – it is an authentic, work-based learning experience aligned to the content standards of the course.
A student enrolled in the P3 program will earn credit for the in-school class and credit for the work-based learning experience aligned to the student’s training plan. The employer ensures that the student is learning the technical content standards, so the student can earn course credit and be prepared to earn industry-recognized credentials aligned to the program. Students even have the ability to earn postsecondary credit through Ohio’s robust statewide articulation program (Tech Prep). The magic of the program is that it allows one teacher to help students earn credit in a variety of courses. Schools no longer have to choose which pathways they want to implement in their schools.
Staff still are finalizing plan details such as teacher qualifications, EMIS requirements and accountability aspects. I expect that to be available within the next few weeks. You can fill out this interest form to receive information about P3. Feel free to contact Cassie Palsgrove or Leah Amstutz should you have any questions on the P3 program.
And my brother, Kevin? He still works at Lima Lumber, but today, he owns the company!
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By: Steve Gratz
Nearly a year ago, Ohio’s efforts to strengthen and expand career pathways got a boost thanks to a $2 million grant from the Council of Chief State School Officers and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Ohio is one of 10 states to receive a New Skills for Youth grant, which directly aligns with many of Gov. John R. Kasich’s Executive Workforce Board’s initiatives. It also aligns with many Ohio Department of Education activities geared toward making sure Ohio’s students are ready for the workforce of the future. To help schools and families better understand the needs of future employers, Ohio launched the SuccessBound initiative. The SuccessBound webpage includes resources to help make students aware of the different career-focused opportunities available to them.
Students who are SuccessBound take active roles in planning their futures by exploring career interests early and considering how to align their interests to careers. They consider what education and training are needed to reach their goals. They respond to financial concerns by earning free college credits in high school. And, they follow pathways that allow them to work in related fields while continuing their education. These students dedicate themselves to long-term goals and commit to continuous lifelong learning.
Aligned to the SuccessBound initiative is the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. The seal was established as part of the sweeping workforce initiatives passed in House Bill 49 and outlined in Building Ohio’s Future Workforce. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal will be printed on students’ diplomas and transcripts once they meet certain requirements. The requirements include demonstration of work-readiness and work-ethic competencies. Students submit a form that records evidence of meeting the requirements. The form is validated by at least three individuals. These individuals are mentors to the students and can include employers, teachers, business mentors, community leaders, faith-based leaders, school leaders or coaches.
We know Ohio’s students must be ready to engage in a rapidly changing workplace. We also know that businesses are seeking talented workers who demonstrate professional skills, such as being reliable, drug free, personable and able to solve problems and handle conflict. To meet the needs of business, our current education system must identify and teach the professional knowledge and skills all Ohioans need to be job ready. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal will signify to employers that students have the professional skills valued by business and industry. These skills are essential in the 21st century workplace.
When this language was introduced in HB 49, I immediately thought about how I would approach helping my students earn this valuable credential if I was still in the classroom. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal requires students to demonstrate proficiency in the following professional skills to be deemed ready for work.
- Drug Free - The student commits to being drug free.
- Reliability - The student has integrity and responsibility in professional settings.
- Work Ethic - The student has effective work habits, personal accountability and a determination to succeed.
- Punctuality - The student arrives to commitments on time and ready to contribute.
- Discipline - The student abides by guidelines, demonstrates self-control and stays on task.
- Teamwork/Collaboration - The student builds collaborative relationships with others and can work as part of a team.
- Professionalism - The student demonstrates honesty. He or she dresses and acts appropriately and responsibly. He or she learns from mistakes.
- Learning Agility - The student desires to continuously learn new information and skills.
- Critical Thinking/Problem-Solving - The student exercises strong decision-making skills, analyzes issues effectively and thinks creatively to overcome problems.
- Leadership - The student leverages the strengths of others to achieve common goals. He or she coaches and motivates peers and can prioritize and delegate work.
- Creativity/Innovation - The student is original and inventive. He or she communicates new ideas to others, drawing on knowledge from different fields to find solutions.
- Oral and Written Communications - The student articulates thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms.
- Digital Technology - The student has an understanding of emerging technology and leverages technology to solve problems, complete tasks and accomplish goals.
- Global/Intercultural Fluency - The student values, respects and learns from diverse groups of people.
- Career Management - The student is a self-advocate. He or she articulates strengths, knowledge and experiences relevant to success in a job or postsecondary education.
As a teacher of agriculture, I had the fortune of teaching students throughout their high school careers. I reviewed the list of professional skills, I reflected on how I, as their teacher, could integrate these skills into the classroom experience for students.
For example, to be in the program, all students were required to have supervised agricultural experiences. During these experiences, students apply what they learn in the classroom in real-world settings. Today, supervised agricultural experience programs include entrepreneurship, placement, research, exploratory, school-based enterprise and service learning. Successful supervised agricultural experiences require students to demonstrate reliability, work ethic, punctuality, discipline, learning agility, critical thinking and problem-solving, professionalism and more.
During my time as a teacher, I made sure all my students were members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). For those of you not familiar, FFA is the youth development organization for agricultural education students. It provides life-changing experiences for its members. FFA programs and activities allow students to further demonstrate the professional skills listed above. This is evident in the FFA’s Code of Ethics.
FFA members conduct themselves at all times to be a credit to their organization, chapter, school, community and family. FFA members pledge to:
- Develop my potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.
- Make a positive difference in the lives of others.
- Dress neatly and appropriately for the occasion.
- Respect the rights of others and their property.
- Be courteous, honest and fair with others.
- Communicate in an appropriate, purposeful and positive manner.
- Demonstrate good sportsmanship by being modest in winning and generous in defeat.
- Make myself aware of FFA programs and activities and be an active participant.
- Conduct and value a supervised agricultural experience program.
- Strive to establish and enhance my skills through agricultural education in order to enter a successful career.
- Appreciate and promote diversity in our organization.
This blog is not intended to focus on the FFA — it’s merely my point of reference based on my personal experience as a teacher. There are numerous other programs and activities in schools and communities (band, choir, drama club, faith-based clubs and activities, 4-H, Invention Convention, science fair, robotics competitions, etc.) that can help students learn and demonstrate these professional skills. The key takeaway is to realize that many, if not all, of the professional skills required to earn the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal can be learned and demonstrated as part of a student’s total school experience and should not be considered additional work.
Supporting this initiative is the Business Advisory Council Operating Standards that the Department will be posting guidance on later this week. Strong relationships between education and industry are essential. The Business Advisory Council Operating Standards guidance document includes examples of how education and industry can partner together. The Department plans on sharing examples from districts that have successfully implemented business advisory councils.
Finally, here’s a great article I read on LinkedIn that speaks on Industry’s Role in a New Education System. The article addresses what is needed from the next generation of employees, including the following:
- Innovation and the ability think for oneself;
- Passion to design and create;
- Collaborative team members;
- Good communication and presentation skills
- Individuals who successfully can transition from school to the workplace.
Of course, these should sound familiar as they align with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, which should help all Ohio’s students be SuccessBound.
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By: Steve Gratz
Editor's note: This blog was originally published on December 21, 2016, but some things are so good they deserve another look! We are re-running the post so everyone gets a chance to read this staff favorite.
I spent most of my teenage years working on the farm. My experiences there naturally taught me how to solve problems, and we referred to this as “common sense.” We would even use the term to describe our more astute neighbors and friends who used good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.
As I think about my days working on the farm, I realize the agricultural way of life was built on a solid foundation of solving problems. Confronted with a unique problem, I could engineer a solution or temporarily jerry-rig it until I could get back to the shop for a permanent solution. I also remember the time one of my friends made a delivery of construction materials to a client and during the delivery he realized that he forgot a large box of nails. Instead of driving 30-miles back to the company, he simply purchased the large box of nails at a competitor’s store. He used good sense and sound judgment – common sense.
Like many of my friends, I developed my problem-solving skillset through work-based learning experiences throughout high school. In fact, I can’t remember a time during high school where I wasn’t working and serendipitously honing my ability to solve problems in the context of real-world situations.
In my 30+ years of education, I have participated in my fair share of philosophical conversations. Most of these conversations focus on the teaching and learning process, but the conversations often bleed over to a more holistic discussion on education. Some of those conversations focus on how to teach students deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems.
One of the most authentic ways to help students develop deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems is through work-based learning experiences. Recently, I was meeting with education and business leaders at the North Central Ohio ESC. A local physician shared that one of his recent hires earned her medical assistant credential through her work experience and not through the traditional path of attending medical assistant training program.
Absent of the ability to have work-based learning experiences, educators can help students develop deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems by requiring them to solve realistic problems. This can be done easily by using the project-based learning approach promoted by organizations like the Buck Institute. Another example is the Southern Region Education Board’s Advanced Career model. Most project-based learning approaches call for designing and implementing challenging, authentic projects and assignments in the context of realistic problems, ideally with employer and business involvement.
The passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) marked a major step toward ensuring all students are prepared to graduate from high school ready for college and careers. For example, districts may support efforts to integrate academic and technical content in the classroom that lends itself to students developing deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems. This can be done simply by developing and implementing coordinated instructional strategies that may include project-based learning and experiential learning opportunities for in-demand careers and occupations.
Here’s an example that provides a real-world application using the Pythagorean theorem. The picture below shows the formula for the Pythagorean theorem. In the picture below, side C is always the hypotenuse. Remember that this formula only applies to right triangles.
Students may be taught the Pythagorean theorem as illustrated, or the lesson could be enriched by making it a real-world application or, better yet, as part of a project-based lesson.
And here is how the theory is applied to roof framing in the construction industry where the Pythagorean theorem is referred to as the 3-4-5 rule.
This example is overly simple, but it is used to illustrate how connecting academic content standards to real-world applications can make the teaching and learning process more engaging and relevant for students. By helping students solve more real-world problems, students should begin to think more deeply about the standards they are learning.
One of the tenets of project-based learning is that the teacher helps students navigate through the learning process and assists students in solving problems, allowing them to take more responsibility for their learning – effectively teaching them to think for themselves. Teaching students to think more critically and to solve problems is a life skill that is immeasurably valuable to students.
I’m indifferent if it is called common sense, good sense and sound judgment, or the ability to solve problems; it is a life skill that needs to be integrated into all aspects of student’s education. It can even instill a sense of confidence in students, especially as they learn to apply this life skill to other aspects of their life.
Let’s teach students to think for themselves, solve problems and think critically.
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By: Steve Gratz
I’ve been involved with education on multiple levels for 35 years. I started teaching in 1983 as a teacher of agriculture. If you recall, in 1983, a presidential commission released the report Nation at Risk calling for significant changes to the educational system. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, we saw a steady decline in the number of students enrolling in vocational education as there was a greater emphasis placed on academics and college for all. At the time, schools considered students either in a vocational track, college prep track or general studies track. This was the first time I remember the adults showing great concern over what column we put the tally in as we “tracked” students.
As a beginning teacher, I worked hard to recruit students to enroll in our vocational agriculture program. At the time, to receive funding from the state, districts could serve only 48 to 60 students. This was to ensure that our vocational agricultural teachers had the capacity to manage their laboratories and to conduct the required number of home visitations throughout the calendar year.
When I started teaching, many of my students were “placed” into my program as guidance counselors determined that certain students were not college bound. I invested a lot of time during my first few years of teaching to increase the rigor of my program by emphasizing the embedded academics in the competencies that were part of my course of study. I did this as I had to change the perception of the program so ALL students were welcome, including those planning to attend college.
Paralleling this work was a movement across the country called AgriScience. With support from the agricultural industry, AgriScience became the rage as it demonstrated how schools could teach and reinforce academic content through technical education. My good friend, Brad Moffitt, and I were both AgriScience Teachers of the Year in the mid-1980s because of our early adoption of the initiative. I remember students earned science credit because of the embedded science standards throughout the program. Brad and I quickly tried to separate ourselves from traditional vocational agriculture programs by capitalizing on the ground swell of support for AgriScience. Looking back, I was adding yet another column in which to place the student tally. I fought hard to separate our program from traditional programs as I perceived we were different.
This wasn’t the first-time education experienced the merging of academic and technical education. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, which in turn led to our first STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) crisis. Sputnik triggered a federal response, the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), since many said that our public schools and colleges were doing an inadequate job teaching math and science.
"This Act, which is an emergency undertaking to be terminated after four years, will in that time do much to strengthen our American system of education so that it can meet the broad and increasing demands imposed upon it by considerations of basic national security…Much remains to be done to bring American education to levels consistent with the needs of our society. The federal government having done its share, the people of the country, working through their local and State governments and through private agencies, must now redouble their efforts toward this end." -Dwight D. Eisenhower
Education and educators continue to fight over which column to record the student tally. Today many of those columns are labeled with CTE, STEM, STEAM, Career Pathways, etc. and schools play the tally game with programs like High Schools That Work, FutureReady, etc. Again, I share this because I believe those of us in education spend too much time concerning ourselves with which column we place the tally. At times it seems we argue amongst ourselves which column (read initiative) is best for schools and students.
In education, we have numerous initiatives in motion at any one time. We can integrate some of these programs into current educational practices while layering others on top of current work. I think it is great that schools have options and that school leaders can choose the best options based upon the wishes of their community, but we need to coordinate.
Because of my education at Apollo Career Center, I was a trained as a certified mechanic. I built quite the inventory of tools to ensure I had the correct tool for the job. When I began a new repair, I rarely used the same set of tools as the previous one because each was unique and required a personalized approach. The same holds true for education. All educators need a toolbox that they can use to help personalize the education for ALL students. That might mean mixing up the tools and combining curriculum from various tracks. We need to limit our desire to narrowly label an initiative as appropriate for one track or another, because we need to personalize education for each student. Too much effort is spent on getting the tally in the right column. We need to redirect that effort into blurring the lines and doing what’s best for ALL students.
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By: Steve Gratz
My wife is a school counselor at Worthington Kilbourne High School, and we have interesting discussions on preparing students for their transition from high school. I’ve been an advocate for graduating students to something (i.e., college remediation-free, in-demand jobs, apprenticeship programs or the military) rather than simply graduating students from high school. In addition to both being employed in education, my wife and I enjoy riding our tandem bicycle. A couple of weeks ago, we spent several days riding our tandem in the Lake Tahoe Region on the California side. If you’ve never been to Lake Tahoe, you’re missing out.
During one of our tandem rides several years ago, we were discussing graduation options for students. The context for the discussion pertained to the state changing the school year from days to hours. Because of this change, many districts were struggling to add electives so students had more options for courses during their junior and senior years. I remember asking my wife how she would counsel a student on her caseload who has interest in becoming a registered nurse. Aside from the graduation requirements, she would recommend that the student take additional math and science credits and take advantage of Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) — this was prior to the days of College Credit Plus. I remember following up with questions about encouraging students to attend the Delaware Area Career Center, and she responded with the all too familiar response how students didn’t see the career center as a pathway of their choosing. Our discussion focused on establishing courses at Worthington Kilbourne High School that allowed students to earn industry-recognized credentials in in-demand pathways.
When I came to the office the next Monday, I suggested to Jamie Nash, the associate director in the Office of Career-Technical Education, that we needed to design courses for seniors only, where they could earn industry-recognized credentials in in-demand pathways. Jamie worked with other staff in the office and created a new program that grew into the Senior Only Credential Program. The Senior Only Credential Program was designed to complement, and not compete with, our traditional two-year programs at our area career centers. The Senior Only Credential Program can be offered as a career-technical education (CTE) program where the course can receive supplemental funds to operate the program or outside of CTE. If it is conducted outside of CTE, the school would not receive supplemental funds, but the credentialing program could be offered earlier then the senior year. Regardless of which funding structure is utilized, the course can be taught by a professional under the 12-hour temporary teaching permit. The 12-hour temporary teaching permit can be issued to a non-licensed individual who holds at least a baccalaureate degree with a major in the subject to be taught or has significant experience in the industry sector.
Since the inception of the Senior Only Credential Program, its utility has continued to evolve. Days to hours has come and gone, and the original demand for the program has changed to where today, the Senior Only Credential Program is a viable option for students to graduate and serves to mitigate risk as students enroll in postsecondary education.
Research indicates that 36 percent of students attending public colleges or universities graduate in four years. While the number does increase to nearly 58 percent after six years, the completion rate for students attending Ohio public colleges or universities isn’t stellar. Today, students who earn industry-recognized credentials prior to graduating from high school can use the credentials to earn college credit and for gainful employment while they pursue additional postsecondary credentials and degrees. Furthermore, earning industry-recognized credentials in in-demand pathways can serve to mitigate the risks associated with pursuing additional postsecondary credentials and degrees. We know that sometimes life gets in the way, and if postsecondary students need to take some time off from their studies, they know they can use the credentials they earned in high school to help them get in-demand jobs in Ohio until they can return to their studies. Additionally, those students who are successful and graduate on time can use the credentials to help pay for their postsecondary education.
Just last week, I visited with Tom Johnson, mayor of Somerset, Ohio, and with Randy Leite, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions at Ohio University, about opportunities in health sciences in southeastern Ohio. I shared with them how school districts could implement a credentialing program in the health sciences for several credentials including, but not limited to, phlebotomy, medical assistant, and state-tested nursing assistant for high school students. Randy immediately added that students graduating with these credentials could continue and become registered nurses with one additional year at Ohio University and preferably continue to earn bachelor of science degrees in nursing.
Today, students have many options where they can earn industry credentials — a pathway that was typically completed at the career center. Students can earn credentials not only at their area career centers, but also at their local high schools through credential only programs, at area community colleges through College Credit Plus (see Stark State’s Learn to Earn Program) or even through work-based learning using Credit Flex.
Redesigning the senior year, or even the entire high school experience, takes major commitment from school leaders, faculty and staff. Fortunately, there are great examples of this work taking place throughout Ohio. I am familiar with the work at Fairport Harbor, Perry Local, Marion City, Akron City and Cleveland to name just a few. On Oct. 24, 2017, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Educational Service Center Association are holding another career pathway network meeting to help school districts learn how to develop enhanced career pathways and more meaningful partnerships with business and industry leaders in their communities. This will be a great opportunity for school leaders to learn from their colleagues about redesigning the senior year or even the entire high school experience.
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By: Steve Gratz
Leadership is key in business and in education. Those of us in education understand the critical importance of the education leader in every school district and school building. While contemplating this blog post, I wanted to focus on the importance of leadership regardless of the industry and your position within that industry. As a result, I decided to reach out to my friend and leadership guru, Mark Sanborn, and ask him a few questions.
Mark and I have been friends since the 1970s and lived together as members of Alpha Zeta fraternity at The Ohio State University. Today, Mark is an international bestselling author and noted expert on leadership, team building, customer service and change. You can learn more about Mark at his website.
During my career, I have had the opportunity to be a personal coach to more than 200 individuals. A vast majority of these individuals have gone on to secure leadership positions, not only in education but also in industry. With the shared passion for leadership, I decided to ask Mark a series of questions on being a leader and leadership. Although the questions I asked Mark are fairly broad, they are transferable to those of us in education.
1. If you were beginning a career today or were still early in your career, what would you do differently? What advice would you give to those in that stage of life today?
Happily, I wouldn’t do anything differently. My strategy those many years ago is valid today: try lots of things. Get as much diverse experience as possible. More often than not, we find our true calling through experience — trial and error — rather than contemplation. You don’t find out which foods you like by thinking about them but by trying them. The same is true with career strengths, likes and dislikes.
2. What is the greatest change you've seen in the workplace since you began your career? Does that change the way you lead today? If so, how?
The greatest change is the complexity of business and life. We’ve always faced change and challenge, but technology has been one of many factors that has dramatically increased complexity. We are deluged with information. Nobody can know everything there is to know nor even hope to keep completely up to date. That means leaders need a carefully designed learning strategy that includes trusted experts and sources to help fill in the blanks, the things we don’t know.
3. What three words might people use to describe you as a leader?
The more accurate answer would come from those who have experienced my leadership, but based on feedback I’ve gotten, those descriptors would include erudite, intense and funny. I invest much time in thinking and learning (hence erudite). I’m very focused on what’s important (hence intense). People who don’t know me well would be surprised to find I’m a prankster who finds the humor in almost everything (hence funny).
4. You seem to write a lot about your experiences with others and what you learn from them, such as you did in “The Fred Factor.” What would you hope people most learn from you and your work?
I hope people learn how they can learn from everything they do and observe. That’s how I was able to extract good ideas and lessons from my encounters with my postal carrier Fred Shea. G.K. Chesterton said, “The world will never lack for wonders, only wonder.” If we stay interested, curious and engaged with life, we can keep continually learning and growing.
5. What is the hardest thing you have to do as a leader? What have you learned that has helped you in this area?
One of the hardest things I’ve done as a leader is let an employee go who was a good person and conscientious employee but not the right fit for the job. The person didn’t have the skills or demeanor to succeed in the role that was required. Employers and employees need to recognize that all jobs are role specific, and being good isn’t enough if the employee isn’t the right person for the job. I’ve learned the importance of clarifying what is needed in a position and to determine if a possible candidate is just a good employee or the right employee for the job.
6. What one business or leadership book would you recommend to young leaders, besides one of your own, to help them in their leadership?
There are many excellent books on leadership, but I’d suggest “Good to Great,” because Jim Collins does a great job of showing how the leadership piece fits into the bigger organizational puzzle. I like his take on Level 5 Leaders and that his book is based on quantitative research.
7. What motivates you personally to get up in the morning? What is it that keeps you pushing for more personally or professionally? How do you continue to find inspiration in life?
For me, it comes down to faith, family and friends. Those three aren’t the icing on the cake — they are the cake. If you are clear in your beliefs and care for the relationships that matter, the rest follows. After that, I am about combining purpose and profit. Making money is easy, but making money by being of larger service and benefiting others is a blessing. I feel fortunate in my work to be able to do both.
I encourage you to reflect on the questions I asked Mark and think about how you would respond to the questions. This would be a great activity to share with other school leaders in your district.
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Last Modified: 5/17/2019 3:20:37 PM