Experts Tie Student Success to Bridging Education and Workforce

Experts Tie Student Success to Bridging Education and Workforce

WASHINGTON – Better integration of education at all levels, eliminating the distinction between higher education and career preparation and more cooperation among local, state and federal policymakers can remove barriers and better prepare a workforce that increasingly includes individuals who don’t fit the traditional profile of college students.

Those were some of the suggestions made by two experts at a policy roundtable discussion Wednesday presented by Higher Learning Advocates, a nonprofit organization devoted to connecting federal policies with the needs of postsecondary students, employers and communities.

At the roundtable, titled “Bridging the Education-Workforce Divide: Upskilling America’s Workforce,” Dr. Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, and Dr. Jason Smith, partnership executive director of Bridging Richmond talent hub in Virginia, discussed challenges to bridging higher learning and the workforce and issues of access and success for students.

“The conversation itself is problematic and where to place emphasis in the pipeline,” said Smith. “We have to stop separating education and workforce preparation. We take those two parts and separate them out, and I think that’s really problematic. We need to start thinking about it all as being workforce preparation.”

Given the demographic changes and projections of postsecondary school populations in the United States, neotraditional or new traditional may be better terms for students long described as nontraditional. Through most of America’s recent history, the profile of an average college student was an unmarried middle-class White student attending full-time immediately after high school with parental financial support, living on campus and earning a bachelor’s degree in four to five years.

Today, however, only 13 percent of college students live on campus, 26 percent are parenting, 38 percent are older than 25, 40 percent attend part-time, 42 percent live at or below the federal poverty line, 47 percent are financially independent, 57 percent attend two-year colleges and 58 percent work while in school.

Add to those factors the unprecedented cultural diversity of student populations and diversity of postsecondary education options and the need to remove barriers to quality, affordability and successful outcomes for students becomes clear, said moderator and HLA deputy executive director Emily Bouck West.

A significant change in recent years, Thompson observed, is more students who perceive that they don’t have access to higher education and that they lack opportunities to succeed in that space, in spite of financial aid and other support systems designed to help students achieve both.

“Our job is to put value back in that value proposition,” said Thompson. “How do we change that? How do we talk about quality?”

A central part of the discussion should be greater alignment of educational arenas from preK-12 to two-year and four-year institutions, Thompson said. Providing quality education in a seamless continuum with career preparation as a central driver can help skeptical prospective postsecondary students – especially from underrepresented groups – see that education beyond high school is affordable and valuable, doable in a reasonable time and leads to employment, he said.

Breaking down silos between different types of postsecondary institutions can benefit students, said Smith, whether community colleges, baccalaureate programs, vocational-technical programs or online for-profit learning.

Data-sharing and articulation agreements that promote more thoughtful and efficient transfer of credit between schools can benefit students, Smith added. For example, a student may transfer from a community college to a four-year university without having earned a credential, but may find after one or two courses that those credits can be reverse-transferred to the community college and qualify the student for an associate’s degree.

Post-secondary students drop out or stop out for a range of personal issues, from financial to family concerns. Better credit-transfer rules and other such policy changes – which local, state and federal policies could promote – would increase the number of students completing a credential and help move more workers into the employment pipeline.

“One very different thing for students today is it is no longer the experience that you went to one institution and stayed there until you completed it,” said Smith. “People now are looking for learning they need for employment now. And where can I go later to add on? How can I stack into something that helps me over a long period of time?”

Smith and Thompson agreed that employers and schools must begin to work more closely together, and earlier in the formal education process, to ensure that student learning fits employer needs and expectations.

“There’s a need to get employers more involved on the front end in creating programs that matter and teach what they’re looking for,” said Thompson. “Everybody doesn’t have to go to college, but should have education post-high school that works. We need to be far more intentional in putting people on pathways, with employers engaged throughout the process for a continual-improvement model. We in higher education have to rethink how we’re doing business. And so do employers.”

Policies around financial aid also need to be revisited as both an access issue and a success issue, Thompson and Smith said. Paying for school and having the financial resources to meet human needs are concerns for traditional students as well as students from low-income and underrepresented groups, and guidelines around student loans and the Pell grant should be aligned with those needs, Thompson said.

Policymakers at the state and federal levels can play a role by incentivizing “disconnected” systems in higher ed to work better together for post-secondary students, said Smith.

Curriculum redesign informed by the employment sector as early as elementary school and wise use of outcomes data can close completion gaps and help students become culturally competent workforce participants, Thompson said.

“Schools need to align ourselves with a student success paradigm so we’re on the same page when talking about issues of quality and engagement,” he added.

Treating higher education as one system rather than multiple systems and helping students experience wrap-around services in a more integrated way “would go a long way” toward promoting the success of all students, Smith said.

“There needs to be a shift from an access-for-all mentality to a success-for-all mentality.”

LaMont Jones can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter @DrLaMontJones.

DanceLogic Teaches Girls Dance and Computer Coding

DanceLogic Teaches Girls Dance and Computer Coding

Participants in the DanceLogic program. (Facebook)

[/media-credit] Participants in the DanceLogic program. (Facebook)

Shanel Edwards, co-instructor of danceLogic, stated that “danceLogic is helping these girls have access to the arts realm and science world as possible career paths, it is allowing them to stretch their own boundaries of what success looks like for them. ”DanceLogic, a unique S.T.E.A.M. program that combines dance and computer coding leading to the development of original choreography and performance, is continuing onto its second year. Girls ranging from the ages of 13 through 18 years participate in the program held at West Park Cultural Center in Philadelphia and learn the value of focus, dedication, and teamwork, as well as industry standard coding language.

During the dance class, led by instructors Edwards of D2D The Company and Annie Fortenberry, a performer with Ballet 180, the girls learn dance skills and movement techniques. This is followed by an hour of learning industry standard coding language under the direction of coding instructor Franklyn Athias, senior vice president of Network and Communications Engineering at Comcast. “I’m helping the kids see that someone, just like them, was able to use Science and Technology to find a very successful career,” Athias expressed in a press release.

The girls use coding to create their own choreography. “The combinations of dance and logic have good synergies. Learning something like dance requires practice, just like coding,” said Athias. “The dance is more physical, but it requires the students to try, fail, and try again. Before long, the muscle memory kicks in and the student forgets how hard it was before. Coding is really the same thing. Learning the syntax of coding is not a natural thing. Repetition is what makes you become good at it. After learning the first programming language, the students can learn other programming languages because it becomes much easier.”

“My favorite thing about the program is that the students can explore leadership roles. By building their own choreography and supporting each other in coding class, they navigate creating and sharing those creations, as well as resolving conflict to make one cohesive dance. There’s a lot of beauty and bravery in that process,” stated Fortenberry.

]The very first session of danceLogic culminated with the girls performing choreography and sharing what they learned through coding and how it has impacted their lives.

For more information, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

Birmingham City Schools Amends Dress Policy, Gives Students More Freedom

Birmingham City Schools Amends Dress Policy, Gives Students More Freedom

By Erica Wright

Birmingham City Schools students will now have more freedom to wear clothing they want during the upcoming school year, which began Aug. 6.

The Birmingham City Schools board voted to change the uniform policy for the upcoming school year. Under the new policy, effective immediately, K-12 students will have the option to continue wearing uniforms such as the solid blue, white, black and khaki shirts, pants and skirts or clothing that meets the dress code such as jeans and other items.

“Giving students choices in what they wear will free up administrator’s time that has previously been spent on enforcing the dress code policy and will give them more time for instruction . . . as well as student achievement,” said Adrienne Mitchell, Strategy and Communications Officer for BCS.

The board’s decision was influenced in part by students and parents asking to change the policy for the last few years. The BCS has required students to wear uniforms since 1996.

Though students will now have more freedom to choose, some of the policies will remain in place such as having students wear closed-toe shoes, no clothing with obscene writing and no tight fitting clothing, Mitchell said.

“This is a year of transition so families and students that choose to wear uniforms, can still wear uniforms, however families that choose to follow the dress code policy can make some choices in the clothes they wear but there are still guidelines that all students must follow,” Mitchell said.

This decision means that some families, parents, can take advantage of shopping for clothes during the Tax-Free weekend starting Friday, July 20 through Sunday, July 22.

Reaction on social media to the change has been mixed. Many have applauded the change while others expressed concern that the new policy may lead to bullying.

Mitchell said she doesn’t see that happening.

“Our administrators are extremely watchful about behaviors that occur in schools and we fully expect them to continue to enforce the rules and the guidelines in school,” Mitchell said. “We anticipate that students will take this freedom and flexibility and use it responsibly. Making choices are a part of what we’re teaching students because it’s going to be a significant thing that they are going to have to do in life.”

For more updates on the dress code and additional announcements parents can download the Birmingham City Schools app through the App store on any Apple device and on Google Play for any android device.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

Summit Helps HBCU Students Prepare for Pursue Law School

Summit Helps HBCU Students Prepare for Pursue Law School

ATLANTA—Several hundred students from historically Black colleges and universities across the nation gathered at Emory University over the weekend to hear from experienced lawyers and current law school students about attending law school. Now in its 5th year, the annual National HBCU Pre-Law Summit & Law Expo was created “to address the unique challenges and concerns that HBCU students and graduates have as they prepare to apply to law school,” says Evangeline Mitchell, the Summit’s founder. “Don’t be confused about all of the melanin in the room,” Adria Kimbrough, the Pre-Law advisor at Dillard University told the participants who gathered to hear her speak. “The practice of law continues to be the least diverse profession. It’s important that you all are here and it’s important that you affirm one another.”

Kimbrough—who attended Talladega College before earning a law degree from the University of Cincinnati—was one of 14 Black students in her law school class. Since leaving law school, Kimbrough (who is the wife of Dillard’s President Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough) has held a number of high-profile jobs practicing law in private and university settings with a particular focus on labor and employment. “Success is not always a straight shot,” she said. “There are twists and turns along the way. ”Still, she told the students that if they had the determination and passion for the law, they should persevere. “Somebody is waiting for you to offer them culturally relevant representation,” she said.

Her message resonated with Bryant Williams, 20, a junior at Alabama State University. He arrived at the Summit looking for guidance as he prepares to take the LSAT and begins the process of applying to schools.“This has been a great event,” said Williams, who has dreams of becoming a criminal defense lawyer. “I’ve gotten a lot of information and the speakers all broke down the admissions process. I feel better prepared.”

The impact of the Summit was felt by others, too. “I’ve been to a lot of law school conferences but this one is different because it’s proof that African-Americans are succeeding in the field of law,” said Donte Johnson, 21, a senior at North Carolina A&T University who attended the Summit for the second year. When he graduates in May, Johnson is going to work for two years and then he will begin the application process. Xavier Donaldson, a partner at Donaldson & Chilliest in New York encouraged the students attending the Summit to take the application process seriously.

“Please take a [LSAT] class and a practice test,” said Donaldson, adding that the LSAT and high grades remain the most important criteria for law schools. “It’s not about how smart you are but how well you prepare.”

History at Harvard: Four Black Women Head Colleges

History at Harvard: Four Black Women Head Colleges

By LaMont Jones, Diverse Education

click on image to play slideshow.

When Harvard University students arrive for classes Aug. 15, they will return to history in the making: for the first time in the Ivy League school’s history, four of its colleges will be headed simultaneously by African-American women.

Dr. Claudine Gay’s appointment in July as the first African-American and the first woman dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences followed Dr. Bridget Terry-Long’s appointment in May as the first Black woman dean of the Graduate School of Education. They join Dr. Tomiko Brown-Nagin, the first Black woman dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Dr. Michelle A. Williams, an epidemiologist and professor at the School of Public Health, who became the first Black person to head a faculty at Harvard and the first female dean of that school, according to a story in The Harvard Crimson.

Less than three years ago, not one of Harvard’s 14 schools was headed by a Black woman, according to the Crimson.

In an interview with the college newspaper, Gay said: “If my presence in this role affirms someone’s sense of belonging and ownership, the same way [former president Dr. Drew G. Faust’s] appointment affirmed my own sense of belonging, then I think that’s great. And for people who are sort of beyond our gates, if this prompts them to look again and look anew at Harvard and imagine new possibilities for themselves, I think that’s great, as well.”

The advances in diversifying the ranks of administrators have elicited praise on campus. They signal “that Harvard is getting ready for a new future for itself and for the country and for the world,” said John S. Wilson, a key leader in the university’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Dr. Danielle S. Allen – a government professor who spearheaded a Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging that issued a final report in March calling for more faculty diversity – said it’s “great to see such wonderful, talented individuals in leadership posts and to see the university diversifying its leadership ranks.”

Eutaw Primary designated as an Alabama  Bicentennial School

Eutaw Primary designated as an Alabama Bicentennial School

Eutaw Primary was selected from a pool of 400 schools to serve as an Alabama Bicentennial School. The very competitive process included schools throughout Alabama submitting applications and proposed projects. Alabama Bicentennial projects must foster community and civic engagement. Eutaw Primary will receive $2,000 in the fall to assist with implementation of the project. A press conference will be held in early August to recognize the Alabama Bicentennial School designees throughout the state. Congratulations Eutaw Primary School!

Money makes the difference for kindergarteners in the summer

Money makes the difference for kindergarteners in the summer

By Jill Barshay, Hechinger Report

Kids arrive at school with large achievement gaps between rich and poor, and the achievement gaps grow over the summer. Now two new studies show that the summer learning gap between the lower and middle classes may be narrowing while the rich surge ahead of everyone.

A May 22, 2018, report from the National Center for Education Statistics tracked more than 18,000 kids who attended kindergarten in 2010-11 and followed up with their parents in the fall of 2011 to see how they spent their summer. It’s a nationally representative group, expressly selected to mimic the actual racial, ethnic, income and geographic diversity in the country.

By many measures, poor kids participated in fewer educationally enriching activities over the summer than middle class and wealthy kids. Only 7 percent of poor kids and 13 percent of “near” poor kids (families of four living on an income of $22,000 to $44,000 a year) went to summer camp. Roughly 40 percent of non-poor kids — middle-class and wealthy — attended summer camp. The poor were less likely to go on cultural outings. For example, only 32 percent of poor kids and 44 percent of “near” poor kids went to an art gallery, a museum or a historical site over the summer. Almost two-thirds, or 63 percent, of non-poor kids, did. Only 15 percent of poor kids attended a concert or a play. One third of non-poor kids did.

More than half of rich and middle-class parents said they read to their children every day during the summer. Fewer than 40 percent of poor kids’ parents did so.

But there were surprises too. A larger subset of poor families than non-poor families said they had their children work on math and writing activities every day. For example, one fourth of poor families said they engaged in writing activities with their kids each day. Only 12 percent of non-poor families did this.

A couple pieces of egalitarian news: three-quarters of kids played outside every day, regardless of household income. And one-third of kindergarten graduates of all income levels looked at or read books every day.

Disparities in how low, middle and high income parents invest in their children during the summer are nothing new. But it’s interesting to see how they have changed over time. The last time NCES studied how kindergarteners spent their summer, in the summer of 1999, the questions were slightly different. But it seems that low-income families were even less likely to participate in activities with their children back then. For example, only 20 percent of children from low-income families with less educated parents went to art, science or discovery museums over the summer — roughly 12 percentage points lower than in 2011. Forty-five percent of low-income children went to a zoo, aquarium or petting farm back in 1999 — roughly 9 percentage points lower than in 2011.

At first glance, it seems that low-income families are now more involved with their children and investing in them more. Perhaps the summer experience gap between low- and high-income children is narrowing. But the 2011 NCES report focused on children living in poverty and not in wealth. All the non-poor children are lumped together, be they middle, upper-middle or upper class, and their summer experiences are all averaged into one number. It doesn’t detect or highlight growing disparities among these income groups.

Sociologists, however, are finding that parental investment in their children has diverged sharply over the last 40 years with growing gaps between the middle and the upper classes. In a May 2018 paper published in the American Sociological Review, researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and Colorado State University found that the most affluent Americans are driving this difference, spending ever higher amounts of money on their children’s education and enrichment, from after-school lessons to summer camps.

They also found that this increase in parental investment in children was directly related to growing income inequality. That is, in states where income inequality grew a lot, so did disparities in parental investments. The higher the income inequality, the larger share of their income rich people spent on their children.

“Affluent parents might see rising income inequality as really making a winner-take-all economy and feel a strong push to give their kids every advantage they can,” said Daniel Schneider, professor of sociology at Berkeley, in a press release.

In other words, rising income inequality not only leaves the rich with more money to spend but also reshapes parents’ desires to invest larger portions of their money in their own children. High-income parents are not simply spending more in general but are targeting their spending toward their children.

Money doesn’t seem to be a replacement for time. Despite time-pressured lives, the sociologists found that high-income parents did not reduce the amount of time they spent together with their children.

Today’s income inequality is not only leading to unequal investment in children, but also laying a foundation for even more unequal adult lives in the future.

This story about kindergarten summer was written by Jill Barshay and produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.

Unlocking STEM Pathways for All Students

Unlocking STEM Pathways for All Students

Education Week logoWhat do you think of when you hear the word “gateway?” Is it a promising image, perhaps an invitation to a lush garden? Is it a forboding one, conjuring up the image of a heavy lock on a rusting door?

That’s the double-edged nature of gateways, and in this special report, Education Week aims to explore both facets as they relate to students’ progression through science, technology, engineering, and math in K-12 schools and into their futures.

Gateways can swing open, giving students opportunities to master the ability to think logically, reason, model solutions to problems, and troubleshoot, all of which are in demand among employers both in STEM fields and, increasingly in non-STEM ones.

Or gateways can shut and lock, cutting off the ability to acquire those skills and putting students at a disadvantage, perhaps for the rest of their lives.

Despite its reputation as a field flush with opportunity, even STEM can pose dead ends for students, such as the traps of remedial math education or course sequences that don’t lead to high-paying, satisfying careers.

In one sense, the problem with defining high-quality, flexible STEM pathways in K-12 education begins with the looseness of the term STEM itself. Too many advocates use it glibly, implicitly giving it the suggestion of limitless promise and opportunity. But a close look at labor-market data suggests it’s not as simple as that

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.

Students at NUSA Conference get crucial lesson in politics

Students at NUSA Conference get crucial lesson in politics

By Ariel Worthy

More than 100 students at the 43rd Annual Neighborhoods USA (NUSA) Conference in Birmingham on Friday created their own city where technology is paramount and littering and cyberbullying are not tolerated.

The City of Diversity – with the slogan, “Where Everybody Counts and YOU Matter” – was a “tech city” and it even came with an election season to give students a taste of politics.

Birmingham is hosting the 43rd Annual Neighborhoods USA (NUSA) Conference. The four-day event, which ends May 26, features a series of panels, workshops, and collaborative events that encourage networking, camaraderie, and idea-sharing. The theme for 2018 is “Building Tomorrow’s Community Today.”

Creating a city during the youth conference was a lot harder than imagined, said Annissa Owens, a rising junior at Shades Valley High School.

“You have to find neighborhood presidents, city councils, a mayor; you have to find transportation, how to get around,” she said.

However, Owens, 15, said she is grateful for the experience which included her role of getting people out to vote.

“[Citizens] have to get the law they want to be passed, and to do that, they have to vote for whoever they want to be mayor,” she said. “I think my part is important because if you want your voice to be heard you should go vote. So, you can’t get mad when the change you wanted didn’t happen if you don’t vote.”

DeRenn Hollman, 13, who will attend Ramsay High School in the fall, was a mayoral candidate and said his goal was to “make the city more comfortable and like easier for people.”

“I want more technology, and you won’t have to work as hard for things,” he said. “It’s a tech-heavy city, so it’s easy, but the easiest thing to do is to participate in the things the city has going on.”

Running for elected office wasn’t as easy he thought.

“Campaigning is hard because you have another candidate who is just as qualified as you,” he said. “But you also have a team behind you and people who support you and believe in you. It’s still hard to go up there and speak in front of people though.”

The candidates had two major campaign issues: cyberbullying and littering.

“You’re either for littering to be a crime or against littering to be a crime,” Owens said. “You’re either for social media to end because of cyberbullying or you’re against social media to end because of cyberbullying.”

Hollman said, “as a mayor I want some cyberbullying to stop, but I don’t think social media should have to end because of it. Social media is fun but use it responsibly.”

Campaigning taught the students some valuable lessons.

“You still have to go through a lot of different people (such as the legislative branch) and if they don’t like it, they cannot go through with it,” Hollman said. “You can’t just say ‘littering is a crime’; you have to send it to your council to approve it. If they don’t like the law they can vote against it.”

Owens said he now sees some things differently.

“Some things are not as easy as it sounds,” she said. “Like getting extra transportation is not as easy as I thought it was. Like getting a new bus. You have to go through voting and funding to get those new things.”

Danny Brister, operations manager for the City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office Division of Youth Services and co-chair for the NUSA Youth Conference, said the message for students was simple.

“We told them that we need their impact, their intelligence, we need them to engage,” Brister said. “At the age of 18 a young person can serve as neighborhood president. That’s important for them to know. As early as 16 they can vote in their neighborhood elections. We hope they gain an understanding that it takes a lot of work. We hope they leave inspired to make a change.”

Birmingham is hosting the 43rd Annual Neighborhoods USA (NUSA) Conference. The four-day event, which ends May 26, features a series of panels, workshops, and collaborative events that encourage networking, camaraderie, and idea-sharing. The theme for 2018 is “Building Tomorrow’s Community Today.”

Early-Grades Science: The First Key STEM Opportunity

Early-Grades Science: The First Key STEM Opportunity

Education Week logoIn a Mobile, Ala., elementary school, students regularly don hard hats, goggles, and lab coats to conduct science experiments. They design ramps for toy cars, observe the process of chicks hatching in an incubator, and build beaver dams by using materials from nature and design.

“I don’t want them to pretend to be scientists,” said Julie Neidhardt, the instructor and founder of the Nurturing Engineering, Science, and Technology (N.E.S.T) lab at Hutchens Elementary School, which serves grades pre-K-2. “I talk to them like they are scientists.”

That sort of inquiry-based, hands-on instruction in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is rare in elementary grades, experts say—despite the fact that young children can be sponges for the kind of information taught in those subjects.

“Young kids are, all on their own, completely committed to being excited and interested in STEM topics,” said David Evans, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association. “The sad thing is, if there isn’t good support in schools, they lose that by the time they get to middle school.”

Indeed, research shows that students who are engaged in STEM by the time they are adolescents are more likely to pursue the field as adults

Read the full story here: May require an Education Week subscription.