ExtraCredit, the official blog of the Ohio Department of Education, offers commentary and insight on a wide range of education issues from department experts and guest bloggers from throughout Ohio’s schools and support organizations. We encourage your ideas, feedback and comments to promote a two-way dialogue. See our Comment Policy for more information.

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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.

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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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