Higher Education News

It’s Time to Rethink Career and Technical Education

U.S. Department of Education Blog | Ed.gov - December 19, 2018 - 1:16pm

A recent state reported data set on CTE participation shows only 8 million of America’s 15 million high school students participate in a CTE course in a given year. Additionally, only 1 in 5 high school students chose to concentrate in a CTE program of study. At the same time, the numbers of transfer students at community colleges are outpacing those enrolled in CTE certificate or associates degree pathways. This results in an America where employers face a profound skills gap and students carry $1.5 trillion in financial aid debt. Too few students are taking advantage of CTE educational opportunities that lead to great jobs and careers. It is time for Career and Technical Education in the U.S. to be the nimble, demand-driven talent development system that it is meant to be.

To address these issues, in July, President Trump signed Perkins V into law. The law requires robust stakeholder engagement to encourage local and state-driven innovation and advancement. Due to its engaged nature, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) has released the draft State Plan Guide for public comment and will be issuing the final guide in early 2019. Additionally, OCTAE has gathered teams from 47 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Somoa – each eager to launch their state plan development process and excited about the opportunities the act provides to establish a new vision for CTE.

To continue stakeholder involvement, on Friday, December 14, OCTAE hosted the Rethink CTE Summit. The summit brought together 150 business and industry representatives, associations and educators that demonstrated commitment to preparing America’s future workforce. Five intentionally crafted sessions equipped participants to mobilize their networks to engage with states and local education agencies on the development of their state plans.

Additionally, participants left prepared to ask the tough questions:

  • Why aren’t work-based learning and “earn and learn” programs (like apprenticeships) the rule and not the exception?
  • Why can’t employers play a larger role in preparing students for their futures?
  • Why is CTE for some and not all students?
  • Why do barriers exist between the levels and types of education?

Success for the summit did not rest in answering each of these questions or simply talking about the new law. Rather the summit sought to assist participants in identifying questions that need to be asked at their state and local levels. If the right questions are asked in states across the country, stakeholders will be empowered to find bold solutions in providing students with multiple pathways and better preparation for what comes next!

For more information about how you can get involved in the state planning process, please visit the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, navigate the resources on the Summit website, or reach out to Richard Pettey at Richard.Pettey@ed.gov.


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The post It’s Time to Rethink Career and Technical Education appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

10 Fun Ways to Encourage Learning this Winter Break

U.S. Department of Education Blog | Ed.gov - December 18, 2018 - 1:49pm

With the holidays quickly approaching, winter break is a time of celebration and relaxation. While the time away from school provides a well-deserved break for your student(s), it also provides the opportunity for significant learning loss. Keeping your student(s) learning this holiday season can be fun and easy while ensuring they return to school both revitalized and ready for a new year of learning.

Here are 10 fun ways to prevent learning loss this winter break:

1.) Giving your student gifts this holiday? Gift your student educational toys/games that will keep learning exciting and fun! Science experiments and scrapbooking kits are great ways to make learning fun and hands-on.

2.) Spending time with others during the break? Ask your friends/family members to bring books to read with your student during their visit.

3.) Is it too cold to play outside? Find free yoga and dancing videos online for your student to follow or dance as a family to encourage movement.

4.) Need an easy way for your student to exercise their knowledge? Have your student play educational video and computer games or watch an interesting historical movie.

5.) Are there free concerts or plays in your community this holiday season? Attend a production to expose your student to the arts.

6.) Feeling crafty? Complete a holiday craft for your student to engage their creative side and for the younger students to practice their motor skills.

7.) Are you traveling this break or staying local? Find and visit a museum or historical site to expose your student to new concepts. Don’t forget to ask about student and teacher discounts!

8.) Need an extra hand in the kitchen? Cook/bake a new recipe for your student to practice their math and measuring.

9.) Do you have family coming over? Include your student in engaging conversations that require them to answer open ended questions and practice their communication skills.

10.) Does your student love their teacher? Have them practice their writing skills by writing a holiday greetings card to their teacher or thank you notes to those they received gifts from.


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Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Alaska Magnet School Provides Career Readiness in District the Size of Indiana

U.S. Department of Education Blog | Ed.gov - December 13, 2018 - 1:59pm

Paul Bartos knew about education in rural America after serving as a 7th grade biology teacher, assistant principal and a principal in Poplar and White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

However, Montana was not considered rural for a majority of the students in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District in Kotzebue, Alaska. “Kotz” as Alaskans call the town, is home to just over 3,200 residents and 2,000 students. Despite the small population, students are spread throughout an area the size of Indiana. It is here that Paul served as an assistant principal at Kotzebue High School and now serves as principal of Star of the Northwest Magnet School.

Students in the Introduction to Culinary Arts class at Star of the Northwest Magnet School take cheese cake out of the freezer to firm up the icing prior to serving.

Due to the rural nature of the Northwest Arctic district, an important educational need had not been met:

“The greatest piece that was not being met was career readiness or secondary-education readiness. The kids were not ready for the workforce, for the jobs that were in high demand here in our region.”

In response to this need, the regional school board enacted a plan to create the Star of the Northwest Magnet School. Star of the Northwest has partnerships with the Alaska Technical Center and University of Alaska at Fairbanks, designed to provide students with pathways to careers and higher education. Alaska Technical Center provides students with education in process tech (technology needed in the mining industry), culinary art and health care.

Trevor Ayunerak, 12th grade, from Alakanuk, practices basic techniques for his welding class.

“The kids will go to high school, but then they’ll go over to the tech center (four blocks from the magnet school). It’s dual-enrollment credits. They’re earning their certifications and their high-school diploma at the same time. The University of Alaska campus provides Star of the Northwest teachers with certification as adjunct professors. This way, our teachers are able to provide classes in high school for college credits.”

Star of the Northwest also works with Anchorage-based Voyage to Excellence. Typically, a Star of the Northwest student lives with his family in a camp 35 miles up the Noatak River. If the student wants to be a pilot, the curriculum is not offered in Kotzebue but Voyage to Excellence provides the necessary pilot ground school in Anchorage.

Star of the Northwest’s partnerships underscore that this magnet school’s success comes from being part of a team.

“We cannot do what we do without every stakeholder involved – from the parents to the janitor to the neighbors to the mom and dad. To me, it’s unreal when parents say, ‘Yes, we believe in what you’re doing. We trust you with our child. Do what you can to support them.’ I think we do a pretty good job at it.”


Joe Barison is a public affairs specialist with the Office of Communications and Outreach.

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Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

The post #RethinkSchool: Alaska Magnet School Provides Career Readiness in District the Size of Indiana appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

9 Myths About the FAFSA® Form and Applying for Financial Aid

U.S. Department of Education Blog | Ed.gov - December 11, 2018 - 12:40pm

There’s so much information available about financial aid for college or career school that it can be hard to tell the facts from fiction. We’ve got you covered! Here are some common myths—and the real scoop—about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for any aid.

FACT: The reality is there’s no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. It doesn’t matter if you have a low or high income; most people qualify for some type of financial aid, including low-interest federal student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your family size and your year in school—are taken into account.

TIP: When you fill out the FAFSA form, you’re also automatically applying for funds from your state, and possibly from your school as well. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA form. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the application and find out!

I support myself, so I don’t have to include my parent’s info on the FAFSA® form.

FACT: This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself, live on your own, or file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes. The FAFSA form asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. If you’re independent, you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA form. But if you’re dependent, you must provide your parents’ information.

If you’re a dependent student, find out who is considered your parent for FAFSA purposes. (It’s not as obvious as you might think.)

I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA® form.

FACT: Don’t wait. You can start now! As a matter of fact, you can start as early as your senior year of high school. You must list at least one college to receive your information. You SHOULD list all schools you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form.

  • You can add up to 10 schools at a time.
  • If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.
  • If you want to add another school after you submit your FAFSA form, you can log in and submit a correction.

The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive.

If I didn’t receive enough money for school. I’m just out of luck.

FACT: You still have options! If you’ve received federal, state, and college aid but still find yourself having to fill the gap between what your financial aid covers and what you owe your school, check out these 7 options.

I should call “the FAFSA® people” (Federal Student Aid) to find out how much financial aid money I’m getting and when.

FACT: No, you’ll have to contact your school. Federal Student Aid does not award or disburse your aid so we won’t be able to tell you what you’ll get or when you’ll get it. You will have to contact the financial aid office at your school to find out the status of your aid and when you should expect it. Just keep in mind that each school has a different timeline for awarding financial aid.

There’s only one FAFSA® deadline and that’s not until June.

FACT: Nope! There are at least three deadlines you need to check: your state, school, and federal deadlines. You can find the state and federal deadlines at StudentAid.gov. You’ll need to check your school’s website for their FAFSA deadline. If you’re applying to multiple schools, make sure to check all of their deadlines and apply by the earliest one. Also, if you’re applying to any scholarships that require the FAFSA form, they might have a different deadline as well! Even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, we recommend you fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on any aid.

I only have to fill out the FAFSA® form once.

FACT: You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.

I can share an FSA ID with my parent(s).

FACT: Nope, if you’re a dependent student, then two people will need their own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form online:

  1. You (the student)
  2. One of your parents

An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites. Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on ED websites such as StudentAid.gov.

If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need his or her own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form electronically. If your parent has more than one child attending college, he or she can use the same FSA ID to sign all applications. You’ll need a unique email address for each FSA ID.

Your FSA ID is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature. Don’t give your FSA ID to anyone—not even to someone helping you fill out the FAFSA form. Sharing your FSA ID could put you at risk of identity theft and could cause delays in the FAFSA process!

Only students with good grades get financial aid.

FACT: While a high grade point average will help you get into a good school and may help with academic scholarships, most federal student aid programs do not take grades into consideration when you first apply. Keep in mind that if you want to continue receiving aid throughout your college career, you will have to maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by your school.

So what’s next?

Go to StudentAid.gov and fill out the application. If you applied for admission to a college or career school and have been accepted, and you listed that school on your FAFSA form, the school will calculate your aid and will send you an electronic or paper financial aid offer telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at the school.

The post 9 Myths About the FAFSA® Form and Applying for Financial Aid appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Struggling Student Discovers Path through Colorado Apprenticeship Program

U.S. Department of Education Blog | Ed.gov - December 6, 2018 - 12:53pm

Sierra didn’t always dream of working in the insurance business. In fact, until recently, she didn’t even know if she’d finish high school.

But with the help of a caring counselor, a local business and an innovative state effort, Sierra is now thriving in her new role as a full-time employee at Pinnacol Assurance.

Her journey from struggling student to working professional began when Sierra’s counselor approached her with a new opportunity through CareerWise, a Colorado nonprofit that helps businesses recruit talent through paid apprenticeships that begin in high school.

Sierra (center) speaks in a meeting with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

“I was stuck. My life is kind of different. I have no parents, so I am really on my own,” said Sierra. The Colorado resident says she spent her early years being “tossed around a lot” without a stable home to ground her academically or personally – so she planned on dropping out.

Despite Sierra’s reservations, her counselor thought the program would be a “good fit.” So the high schooler conducted research and then attended a presentation by Pinnacol, a Denver-based insurance company. Work at the company had exciting benefits, including a tuition reimbursement program.

“I knew I had to have this opportunity,” said Sierra. “I grabbed it.” During the first year of the program, CareerWise students attend high school classes three days a week and participate in on-the-job training for up to 16 hours per week. By the third year, students have finished their formal academic classes, and begin working 32 hours or more.

Work-based learning opportunities like Sierra’s are part of a statewide push to promote apprenticeships. By strengthening the talent pipeline, state leaders believe Colorado can build a competitive economy now, and maintain that edge in the future.

The Business Experiential Learning Commission – a state effort – travelled to Switzerland in 2016 to learn about the country’s successful apprenticeship model and find ways to adapt what’s working there for Colorado businesses, communities, and students. Since then, the Commission has developed a work-based learning system – including apprenticeships – that prepares residents to meet the demands of today’s economy.

Students with Senator Bennet

Sierra learned about those demands firsthand – among them, communication and collaboration. “Looking back even in pictures — even the way I held myself — to seeing it now, I see how I’ve drastically changed,” said Sierra. “I’ve seen it in myself.” After a challenging start at Pinnacol, Sierra now identifies herself as a “professional.”

“[Apprentices] provide a lot of energy and new perspectives,” said a Pinnacol representative. “They are more tech savvy than a lot of our employees.”

Drawn from a pool of both struggling and high-achieving students, apprentices are highly motivated to succeed – motivation they might not find in traditional classroom settings. Coupled with on-the-job training, their skills fill much-needed gaps in a variety of fields.

“[Apprentices] are better consumers of their education because they’ve been in the workplace and know exactly how to apply that education,” said Hollis Salway, Director of Development for CareerWise. “We really have to get away from the traditional concept of school… and away from the ‘four-year college path only’ concept.”

For Sierra, a career at Pinnacol truly is the perfect fit.  The company certainly agrees.

“When I got hired full-time, I cried,” said Sierra. “It’s unbelievable to think that this opportunity is mine.”

In Colorado, opportunities like these are helping to strengthen the prospects of individual businesses, and the state’s economy. And, whatever her career holds, one thing is clear to both employee and employer: Sierra has a bright future.


Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

The post #RethinkSchool: Struggling Student Discovers Path through Colorado Apprenticeship Program appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

How Computer Science Encourages Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

U.S. Department of Education Blog | Ed.gov - December 4, 2018 - 2:31pm

Five years ago, I sat in front of my computer with my 7-year-old daughter and completed the Hour of Code. She absolutely loved the idea of typing something and seeing animation as a result. This was the first time she was exposed to computer science and coding.

We spent hours completing various activities online and seeing things move, jump and make sounds. I have always loved technology, so seeing my daughter enjoy it made me proud.

However, after a while, I noticed she didn’t enjoy typing on a computer as much as I did. We were missing a physical component, beyond the visuals on the computer screen.

Then, I saw the trailer for the LEGO Movie and it came to me. I went out, purchased several LEGO sets and told my daughter to think about using the LEGO blocks like she would use “blocks of code” to create something.

I soon realized the LEGOs targeted her spatial thinking, which was sparked by her coding. She wanted something more tangible than typing on a keyboard. Like many of her female classmates, she wanted a more hands-on experience, which students are unfortunately not often afforded. Additionally, nearly all the LEGO sets and coding activities, such as Minecraft, were targeted toward the male student population from their characters to their design colors.

Despite this, my daughter started asking me questions like “Can I be an engineer, architect, or even a programmer?” I emphatically responded “YES” and have always tried to let her know that she can be anything she wants.

During the summer of 2014, I saw a special research institute set of LEGOs that had female scientists focused on STEM careers. To my knowledge, this had never been done by LEGO. I was so excited when I ordered and surprised my daughter with the set. She could hardly contain her excitement either! It reminded me of the first time we sat down to code and her eyes lit up with the joy of learning something new.

Since then, LEGO has released a Women of NASA set (which my daughter told me I had to buy). With my daughter’s continued passion for coding and love of LEGOs, we have started to look at more advanced projects that have both a computer science and a physical, hands-on component.

I am happy to see my daughter interested in STEM careers because of the computer science component. This all started with my daughter learning how to type a few lines of code and now a world of opportunities await her!


Snehal Bhakta (@Snehalstocks) works in the Career and Technical Education Department of Clark County School District (CCSD) in Nevada. Snehal leads CCSD’s Non-Traditional Careers initiative and his exciting work particularly focuses on women and girls in STEM and Technology. Over the last 3 years, he’s had the pleasure and opportunity to lead the school district’s efforts to engage and encourage more young women to consider STEM and Technology career fields.  With the help of his daughter, he uses the combination of computer science and physical activities like LEGOs, to inspire, encourage and bring awareness of STEM careers to all girls in CCSD.


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Categories: Higher Education News


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