Outreach for K-12 Helps Schools Implement New Academic Standards
Pennsylvania College of Technology's Outreach for K-12 Office has taken the role as a key resource for Pennsylvania schools as they plan to implement the state's Career Education and Work Standards, hosting events on campus and traveling to the schools.
The standards were enacted in July 2006 and are one of 12 sets of academic standards the state requires school districts to address for all students. They address skills to help students make career decisions according to their own talents and preferences, to earn employment, to perform according to employers' expectations on the job, and to learn the basics of entrepreneurship.
To help school districts start their planning, the Outreach for K-12 Office − which works closely with the state Department of Education − hosted a Governor's Institute for Career Education and Work, during which 15 teams from school districts across Pennsylvania assembled on the Penn College campus in June to develop strategies to implement the standards in their districts.
"It was invigorating and amazing to see educators working so wholeheartedly on a project during the summer," said Donna Politza, supervisor of curriculum and instruction for Line Mountain School District in Northumberland County. Jeannette F. Carter, director of the Outreach for K-12 Office, conducted a daylong session at the school district, which then sent a team of about a dozen people to the Governor's Institute to further develop their plan.
Politza said school district counselors who attended the event are invigorated and plan to open the school year with a presentation to faculty regarding the school's strategies to incorporate the Career Education and Work Standards.
In August, Carter is scheduled to work with family and consumer science teachers through an event organized by Temple University, and she is set to offer full-day sessions for faculty and administrators at Wellsboro Area School District, Gettysburg Area School District and Monroe Career and Technical Institute.
Not long after the standards were instituted last summer, the Outreach for K-12 Office and the state Department of Education introduced a Web-based "toolkit" to guide schools in incorporating the standards. The Web site , which the Outreach for K-12 Office continues to maintain in order for schools to sort through the abundance of resources available, was developed by the Career Development Leaders Network − a panel of the state's career education experts − and the Outreach for K-12 Office. The network was facilitated by the college and chaired by Carter.
The office continues to support school districts as they make requests for help with the standards, which Carter said can be implemented within existing courses by, for example, changing the way a teacher discusses math or talking about the careers addressed in an assigned novel.
The Career Education and Work Standards online toolkit includes "crosswalks" that show how activities can meet more than one set of the state's required academic standards simultaneously.
When working with schools, Carter emphasizes the importance of the standards, which have been advocated by the business community, and the ways in which the world of work has changed.
The Career Education and Work Standards have four goals:
- Helping students learn who they are and where they fit in the world of work (their likes, dislikes and talents)
- Helping students develop the skills they need to get a job, such as interviewing and resume writing
- Helping students develop the skills they need to keep a job, such as punctuality, working in teams and being responsible
- Helping students learn how to create the job they want if it is not available in the labor market where they live (entrepreneurship)
According to Carter, the goal is not for students to have a concrete, "forever" job goal out of high school. The goal is for students to be able to make good decisions when it comes to career choices throughout their lives.
"The thing I love about these standards is that they're the only standards that are really about making people happy," Carter said. "Every person in this world deserves a job they love. It's not an unreasonable expectation."
The standards not only help students find jobs that they enjoy and are good at, but also help the business economy as employers receive workers who care about their jobs and have learned basic employability skills.
Text included in the introduction to the Career Education and Work Standards explains the reason the state created them: "Pennsylvania's economic future depends on having a well-educated and skilled workforce. No student should leave a secondary education without a solid foundation in Career Education and Work. It is the rapidly changing workplace and the demand for continuous learning and innovation on the part of the workers that drive the need to establish academic standards in career education and work."
And, a national survey of human-resources offices conducted jointly in Spring 2006 by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management ("Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers' Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce") found employers believe new employees hired out of high school lack such skills as oral and written communication, professionalism/work ethic, and critical thinking/problem-solving.