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9/15/2016

Credentials Count: Why Industry Credentials are Important for Our Students, Schools and Communities

By: Emily Passias

Industry-Recognized CredentialsThis week, the Ohio Department of Education is releasing updates to our approved industry-recognized credential list. This list of credentials allows students to qualify for high school graduation through the credential and WorkKeys pathway, as well as gives schools and districts credit on their report cards for their efforts to prepare students for careers. I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss why credentials are important for our students, schools, businesses and communities.

What’s in it for students?

In addition to being a key piece of one of Ohio’s new graduation pathways, there are many reasons earning industry credentials is valuable for students. The process of earning an industry-recognized credential (and career-technical education in general) allows students to experience education through work, about work and for work. Students learn more deeply by practicing and applying their knowledge through work and employment experiences – learning through work. They learn about workplace expectations in terms of professional or “soft” skills needed for employment, as well as learning about career pathways and what the labor market for particular occupations looks like – learning about work. And, they learn the job-specific skills they will need to perform day-to-day tasks – learning for work.

Earning an industry-recognized credential isn’t the end of something – for many students, it’s the beginning. It’s the first step in achieving career aspirations. It’s an opportunity to earn a good wage while pursuing additional education. Industry credentials aren’t obtained instead of going to college – often they’re part of a larger plan to help pay for college. Credentials are evidence of work ethic, drive and persistence that can be used to catapult students into the future. It’s an achievement to be celebrated and will continue to pay dividends back to the students throughout their careers.

It’s important to note that not all industries use credentials as validation of knowledge and skills. Students whose interests lie in those fields shouldn’t be required or encouraged to work toward credentials that won’t offer them value in their future careers. Instead, those students should work toward obtaining whatever is needed in their future careers. For some students, that might be taking advantage of College Credit Plus, while for others, that might be engaging in meaningful, work-based learning experiences in their areas of interest.

What’s in it for schools?

Let’s start with the practical – schools get credit in the Prepared for Success measure on the report card for students who earn approved industry-recognized credentials or groups of credentials. Including industry credentials in this component places an emphasis on the career readiness of students. In a world where “what gets measured gets done,” the inclusion of industry credentials in the accountability system signals Ohio’s commitment to the career preparation of students.

In addition to the Prepared for Success measure, industry credentials are a key component of Ohio’s new graduation requirements. In fact, earning an industry credential as part of the graduation pathway gives schools a bigger bang for their buck in terms of accountability, since those credentials both qualify students for graduation (thus counting positively in the graduation rate), as well as being included in Prepared for Success.

Accountability measures aside, I know from conversations with educators around the state that we’re all working toward the goal of ensuring our students are ready to move on to whatever comes after high school. Helping students earn industry credentials while still in high school is tangible evidence that your students are walking out the door ready for the future. If knowing your students are prepared for the future isn’t motivation enough to encourage students to work toward a credential, then I don’t know what is!

What’s in it for businesses and communities?

Imagine you’re a business owner looking to hire some new employees. A stack of applications sits on your desk, and they all look about the same. How do you decide which applicants to interview? How do you assess their knowledge and skills? This is where industry credentials come in to play.

Businesses across the state are clamoring for highly qualified employees with industry credentials of value. Finding, hiring and retaining high-quality employees is a monumental task. But, industry-recognized credentials help employers validate the knowledge and skills of potential employees and saves valuable time in assessing the skills of job applicants. Knowing an applicant selected for an interview has the knowledge and skills your company needs gives employers peace of mind that their future employees will be ready to hit the ground running. When businesses thrive, communities thrive as well. Having highly qualified workers can actually draw businesses to a particular area, creating even more job opportunities for local workers.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on industry-recognized credentials and helping students be prepared for success.

  • What are you doing locally to help students earn credentials?
  • How can we restructure the high school years or the delivery of career-technical education programming to ensure that students have the time and opportunities to get the critical work-based learning experiences needed to qualify for many credentials?
  • How do we communicate the value of credentials to parents and students so that more students can take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them through earning approved industry-recognized credentials?
  • In my future posts, we’ll discuss how the department identifies credentials of value, as well as how to support students in earning industry-recognized credentials.

Dr. Emily Passias is director of the Office of Career-Technical Education at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on state policies aimed at preparing students for college and careers. You can learn more about Emily by clicking here.

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9/8/2016

Owning Our Learning: What are you learning? How are you learning?

By: Virginia Ressa

This summer in my ExtraCredit posts, I wrote about professional learning, specifically personalized professional learning for educators. In Ohio, many teachers have Individual Professional Development Plans (IPDP) to plan their learning and earn licensure renewal. One of the goals of the IPDP is to allow teachers to identify their own goals and plan their own learning; this is a great opportunity to create goals that match your needs and interests! What are your goals in your IPDP? How are you working to meet those goals? Are you taking full advantage of available learning opportunities?

Last month, I challenged you to engage in professional learning, utilizing local and web-based resources to improve your practice. Since we know that modeling is one of our most effective teaching practices, I would like to share some of my professional learning with you.

My goal: To understand and apply Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to the professional development I plan and provide and to support districts and schools in implementing UDL systemically.

How will I know when I’ve met this goal? When I have successfully planned and led a professional learning experience modeling UDL principles.

How am I going to close the gap between what I currently know and my goal? My plan includes reading about UDL from two different resources in order to see more than one perspective. I’ve already read UDL Now by Katie Novak – I need to find a second source. I will review the resources available on the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) and CAST websites (both sites have videos, research papers, case studies, etc.) and read the research literature supporting UDL (realistically, I’ll read some of the research).

We often forget that our colleagues are great resources, so I’ll check with my work colleagues for recommendations and use outlets like Twitter, Pinterest and blogs to learn from colleagues beyond my local circle. I also plan to take time to reflect on my learning and practice (I wrote about the importance of reflection last month), so I can identify my questions about UDL as I’m learning. Then, working with colleagues at the Ohio Department of Education and OCALI, we will plan and lead professional learning for our staff.

That may all sound like a lot of work, but I worked on this plan all summer and am really enjoying my inquiry. It feels great to identify an area of study that I know will benefit my work and then take on the task of setting my own goals and finding my own path.

Here are some of the resources I have found for learning more about UDL:

I would love to hear what you are learning about and how you are learning. What resources are you taking advantage of? How will you know when you have reached your goal? Please share your thoughts via the comments below or through Twitter using @VirginiaRessa or @OHEducation and #mylearningOH or #ohedchat.

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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9/1/2016

Building Student Success Through Relevant Career Pathways

By: Steve Gratz

Credential for All: An Imperative for SREB StatesI had the opportunity to be part of the Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB) Commission on Career-Technical Education that brought together legislators, educators and experts from across the United States to explore how to build career pathways leading from high school to good-paying jobs, training programs and postsecondary education in high-demand fields. Moreover, it focused on answering the question, "How do we help more young people earn credentials and degrees that matter in today’s economy?"

Labor market economists project that by 2020, two-thirds or more of all jobs will require some postsecondary education — either a certificate, a credential or a degree at the associate level or higher. At present, however, the SREB’s analyses of educational attainment data suggest that millions of young Americans are being left behind in the transition from high school to college and well-paying jobs. Significant numbers will never graduate, and many who do go on to college will not complete a credential with value in the marketplace. Furthermore, according to the Snapshot Report - Yearly Success and Progress Rates, fewer than 35 percent of all college-going students graduate on time.

For many young people, high school may be the last chance they have to acquire foundational literacy and math skills and earn a credential of value in the workplace. For these students, it is absolutely essential that we figure out how to get them into early advanced programs that will help them earn credentials. States can put more students on accelerated paths to credential attainment by offering career pathways in settings that blur the lines between high school, higher education and the workplace.

The commission’s report, Credentials for All, offers eight actions that can help reach the goal of doubling the number of young adults who hold relevant credentials or degrees by the age of 25.

Eight Essential Actions for Building Relevant Career Pathways

Action 1 — Build bridges from high school to postsecondary education and the workplace by creating rigorous, relevant career pathways driven by labor market demand.

  • Combine a college-ready academic core with challenging technical studies and require students to complete real-world assignments.
  • Align three stages of learning — secondary, postsecondary and the workplace — through strategies like dual enrollment and work-based learning.
  • Create guidance systems that include career information, exploration and advisement, and engage students in ongoing career and college counseling beginning in the middle grades.
  • Allow students to choose accelerated learning options in settings that provide the extended time needed to earn advanced industry credentials that lead to further education and training and high-skill, high-wage jobs in high-demand industries.

Action 2 — Expect all students to graduate academically ready for both college and careers.

Action 3 — Select assessments of technical and workplace readiness standards that offer long-term value to individual students, employers and the economy; carry college credits; and are directly linked to more advanced certifications and further study.

Action 4 — Provide all high school career pathway teachers, especially new teachers from industry, with the professional development and fast-track induction programs they need to meet high academic, technical and pedagogical standards and enhance students’ academic and technical readiness for college and careers.

Action 5 — Adopt a framework of strategies to restructure low-performing high schools around rigorous, relevant career pathways that accelerate learning and prepare students for postsecondary credentials and degrees.

Action 6 — Offer early advanced credential programs in shared-time technology centers, aligning their curricula, instruction and technology with home high schools and community and technical colleges.

Action 7 — Incentivize community and technical colleges and school districts to double the percentage of students who earn certificates, credentials and degrees by setting statewide readiness standards and aligning assessment and placement measures with those standards. Other strategies: Use the senior year of high school to reduce the number of students who need remediation, retool developmental education, adopt individualized support strategies for struggling students and improve postsecondary affordability.

Action 8 — Design accountability systems that recognize and reward districts, high schools, technology centers, and community and technical colleges that double the number of young adults who acquire postsecondary credentials and secure high-skill, high-wage jobs by age 25.

The alarming statistic in the Snapshot Report - Yearly Success and Progress Rates led the Ohio Department of Education to create a unique opportunity for seniors prior to graduation — the Senior Only Credential Program. Seniors who participate in this program have the opportunity to earn in-demand credentials in fields related to their career pathways that would serve as an “insurance policy” should they be one of the 65 percent who don’t persist and graduate on time from college. For example, in the health care sector, nursing is an in-demand job and many high school graduates head off to college with a goal to become a registered nurse. If we overlay the previous statistics, we may infer that fewer than four out of every 10 students will not persist and graduate on time. In this example, students could earn credentials including, but not limited to, medical assistant, STNA and phlebotomist. While this may not be their ultimate career goal, these credential are in a related field, they are in-demand in Ohio, and they would help the student earn a wealth-building wage should they have to postpone their college education for a period of time.

In addition to the Senior Only Credential Program, the Ohio Department of Education has created numerous resources for districts to utilize to help all students be more successful as they transition to post-high school endeavors. You can read about many of these resources at our Career Connections webpage.

In an effort to stimulate conversation through the ExtraCredit blog, I offer up the following questions and look forward to reading your comments.

  1. How do we help more young people earn credentials and degrees that matter in today’s economy?
  2. What can you do to increase the number of high school graduates who successfully reach their chosen career pathways?
  3. What barriers do you face if you would implement the eight action steps?
  4. What does it mean for all students to graduate academically ready for both college and careers?
  5. What changes need to occur in accountability systems to recognize and reward districts that double the number of young adults who acquire postsecondary credentials and secure high-skill, high-wage jobs by age 25?
Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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8/25/2016

Addressing the Needs of Students who are Chronically Absent from School

By: Chris Woolard

The end of August is always a bittersweet time of year as the end of summer combines with the excitement and nervousness of a new school year. I still get butterflies, and I know how anxious my own kids are for the new challenges ahead. My three are so excited about going to school (maybe not so much the earlier alarm clock), but they are ready to go.

One issue that has been getting more attention, not only in Ohio but nationally, is the importance of addressing the needs of students who miss a significant amount of school. It may be common sense that students need to be in school, but data and research is starting to add much more insight into just how important it is. Students are missing more and more instructional time, and it’s having a very real impact on the way that our students are able to learn, grow and be successful.

Every day can’t feel like that first day, but every day is still important

Chronic absence is more than just attendance, as it focuses on students who miss a significant amount of instruction. In Ohio, we define it as students who miss more than 10 percent of the days in a school year. This adds up. It could be two days of every month or longer stretches throughout the year, but regardless, that translates into big chunks of missed instructional time. A student who habitually misses a day here and there but adds up to 20 days over the course of a year may have much different needs than a student who misses three straight weeks of school. This makes it a challenge for students to keep up and for teachers to be able to keep pace. Chronically absent students are less likely to be readers in the early grades and less likely to graduate. In some parts of our state, nearly one-third of students are chronically absent.

There are many reasons why students are chronically absent beyond just illness — bullying, homelessness and other family situations to name a few. But there are many more reasons why students may not be regularly present in school. These are serious issues that require community efforts across sectors to address.

Across the country, many schools and organizations are coordinating efforts to help communities address their unique concerns. There are some fantastic examples of schools working with community partners to provide dental clinics, after-school programs and mental health services. Cleveland’s recent campaign included support from the Cleveland Browns and focused on students who were missing a few days of school per month.

The U.S. Department of Education recently released a toolkit to help guide the conversation with health care providers, juvenile justice authorities, nonprofits and other community partners. Attendance Works is a project working with many states and districts to help develop proactive strategies. Its effort to call attention to these issues through September Attendance Awareness month includes many resources and promotional materials.

What can communities do? Attendance Works has created a list of 10 things communities can do to help address chronic absenteeism. But it starts with making sure that school attendance is a priority for your own children. You also can get involved in your neighborhood schools and see what they need. Help students find ways to connect school to their passions. Volunteer as a mentor, support a club or offer to drive a carpool in your neighborhood. Every school is unique and will have different needs, but the common thread is that the school should be a place where students are safe, supported and engaged in classroom instruction.

As a parent, I know how disruptive it is to our family schedule when one my kids misses a day or two of school and the work that goes into getting back to our routine. As a state, we want all Ohio students to be ready for success when they graduate from our schools. With data, we can understand some of the factors that can be hurdles for that goal. Chronic absence is one of those hurdles. We are looking closely at the data to better understand how many students are chronically absent, why they are chronically absent and what we can do to get them back in class.

Chris Woolard is senior executive director for Accountability and Continuous Improvement for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Chris by clicking here.

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8/17/2016

GUEST BLOG: 5 Promising Practices from High-Performing Schools - Bobby Moore, Battelle for Kids

By: Guest Blogger

essa10.jpgThe Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to identify and provide comprehensive support to improve their lowest-performing schools, but gives them more flexibility to choose what strategies to use to reach that goal. This creates opportunities for states to partner with school leaders, teachers, and parents to pursue innovative ideas for moving education forward for all students. It also presents some challenges, among them:

What strategies have proven successful in accelerating the growth of all students?

For more than a decade, Battelle for Kids has brought together nearly 100 urban, suburban, and rural Ohio school districts to collaborate and innovate around promising practices for student success through the SOAR Learning & Leading Collaborative. We also partnered with the Ohio Department of Education to sponsor regional workshops featuring the promising practices of teachers and leaders in districts that have had great success in closing achievement gaps and improving student growth. And, we surveyed and held discussions with central office staff, principals, and teachers from high-growth buildings and districts in Ohio to help all educators learn what works to accelerate student learning.

Five high-growth strategies emerged from our engagement with these districts that could help schools across the country improve learning opportunities for their students: 

1. Limit goals and initiatives to focus on student learning.

One of the most consistent characteristics of high-performing schools is their ability to cut through the noise and stay focused on the core mission of educating students. While remaining compliant with state and federal requirements, high performing schools continually evaluate what they’re doing and will eliminate or suspend initiatives that are not directly contributing to improved student learning.  

2. Strategically leverage time, talent and resources. 

Rather than viewing time as a never-ending challenge, educators in high-performing schools embrace the challenge of time as an opportunity to optimize their strengths and refine their focus. Their most important questions are: What are our priorities, and how can we use time differently to better focus on our priorities? Effective and purposeful teacher collaboration is also an essential element in high performing schools. These schools also have implemented Multi-Tier Support System/Response to Intervention (MTSS/RTI) with fidelity. High-performing schools squeeze out every possible minute during the school day for high-quality instruction in math and reading, intervention and enrichment time, and teacher collaboration. 

3. Develop a balanced assessment approach. 

Nearly every high-performing school we discovered stressed the importance of developing the capacity of teachers to use formative instructional practices, design sound assessments, and use data from short-cycle/common assessments to understand where students are, where students are headed, and what students must do to get there. A rigorous, balanced assessment system is the only way to understand connections between the curriculum, standards, and how those concepts translate into student learning. Although this work is difficult and challenging, high-performing schools never abandoned their focus on pedagogy. 

4. Use multiple measures to inform improvement.

High-performing schools understand the importance of using multiple measures, including growth measures, to improve teaching and student learning. Sir Ken Robinson says if you focus too much on one set of data, you may miss lots of other strengths, talents, and innovation happening in your district. These schools collect and analyze data from year-end state tests, surveys of teachers, parents, students, and other internal and external stakeholders, as well as data from other districts against which they benchmark their performance. 

5. Empower teachers and develop leaders.

You may have heard that “Culture trumps strategy.” So what is your strategy for developing a great culture? A common theme across high-performing districts and schools is strong leadership at all levels. Empower means to give or delegate power, enable, or permit. High-performing schools empower, coach, and support their teachers. They also establish ambitious goals and hold high expectations for every staff member. By allowing teachers to help create the world in which they work, greater levels of engagement and ownership follow. 

Conclusion

As states and school districts prepare for full implementation of ESSA in the 2017‒2018 school year, these promising practices can serve as a guide to educators across the country for moving education forward and helping all students succeed.

Read Five Strategies for Creating a High-Growth School for more examples and suggested practices from high-performing schools. 

Bobby Moore is a Senior Director of Strategic Engagement at Battelle for Kids. Connect with him on Twitter at @DrBobbyMoore. This post originally appeared on the Battelle for Kids Learning Hub on March 3, 2016.

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