Monday, February 10, 2014

Career Pathways Task Force Finishes Its Work.  The Career Pathways and Technical Education Task Force that has been meeting since last August finished its work today with a 5-hour session that featured a lot of discussion and several amendments were added to the draft final report.

Here are the recommendations of the Task Force:

  1. Utilize the World's Best Workforce initiative to strengthen the implementation of statutory requirements for a comprehensive individual student plan that incorporates assessment data and clarify the process for review and revision of that plan.
  2. To enhance the learning process and the development of a student's life plan, all students should have regular and frequent access to multiple individuals within the school community who have reliable and accurate information/resources about post-secondary education, career and technical education, and training options.
  3. All Minnesota families, including families of youth with disabilities, families experiencing socio-economic challenges, those with first-generation college bound students, and multicultural families, will have the opportunity to engage in students' planning activities and will have access to training and resources so they may help their youth make appropriate career planning and education choices.
  4. Create a standardized process for experiential learning required for students for high school graduation that includes career exploration through a specific class or as work-based experiences embedded within classes such as job shadowing, mentoring, entrepreneurship, service learning, internships/cooperative work experience, or youth apprenticeship (Experiential Learning).
  5. Require districts to expand opportunities for students designed around career clusters and strategies for post-secondary preparation that may include course offerings, options for on-line credit, dual-credit, or credentialing (Experiential Learning).
  6. Develop and explore new roles for education professionals by allowing for flexibility in licensure while maintaining high standards, and expand professional development experiences in order to support and assist students and their families in developing individual life plans, incorporating career development, utilizing experiential learning, and accessing early college opportunities (System Flexibility).
  7. Provide flexible governance structures that allow schools/districts to have the capacity and opportunity to modify/alter current practices to meet the learning needs of students to ensure smooth transitions among educational levels or into the workforce.
  8. The Minnesota Department of Education in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and post-secondary systems utilize technology to implement a state-led focus as a resource for students and families that profiles careers and employment trends and outlines the educational paths necessary for success in these fields.
  9. Promote board levels of collaboration among public, private, and non-profit entities with established strategies that increase opportunities for students to gain knowledge and experience in career fields by working with business/employers focused on future career and college participation.  This collaboration should involve employers, labor unions, and community-based organizations.

There were some changes to the language in these recommendations (and the supporting verbiage that falls under each of these recommendations), but the primary vision remained largely unchanged.  While there is a lot of busywork involved with these recommendations, there does not appear to be any major mandates that will greatly change the way in which programs are delivered.

I have followed the career and technical education issue very closely over the years (I was the lobbyist for the Minnesota Association for Career and Technical Educators from the mid-1990s until 2001) and believe a lot can be done to help all students, but especially those students who flourish in applied education settings and may or may not be college bound or are not college bound.  At the same time, I wonder how much schools can do in the modern commercial age.  Career and technical education programs were the strongest when they fed students directly into local economies.  The nature of local economies has changed dramatically over the past half century, which leads to a new set of challenges.  Schools cannot do this alone, but they can play an important role in availing students to all of the possibilities that may be open to them.

Stolen School Bus.  One is tempted to chuckle, but the story really isn't that funny.  A 14-year-old student got behind the wheel of an empty school bus that was running at a gas station while the driver had left the wheel to go inside the station.  The student, who contends he was trying to return the bus to the bus depot, ended up crashing the bus at a Holiday station.  He attempted to escape, but was apprehended.  It's just another reminder that there are procedures that school bus drivers need to follow and they clearly weren't followed in this instance.


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