Eight districts convene around career learning and student plans

More than a year after the Pennsylvania Department of Education implemented its Future Ready Index, districts still are finding their way toward meeting the state’s standards around career learning.

The Index is a yardstick for measuring how well schools are preparing students to establish career paths and achieve success in the workplace. Among other things, all students are expected to create career plans in the 8th grade and revise them as juniors in high school.

At each grade level, schools also must gather evidence, or artifacts, showing students have achieved certain milestones, such as aptitude assessments, or had certain experiences, such as mock-job interviews or work-based learning.

One hurdle is getting teachers in all subject areas to recognize they can play a role, educators said at our Future Ready Alliance’s February Target Day, which focused on student plans.

Many schools are attempting to focus on career and work standards either in seminar classes primarily devoted to career exploration, planning and preparation, or as part of a specific class, such as social studies.

But teachers across all subject areas can play a role in helping students assemble artifacts that show they’re gaining certain career-related competencies, Woodland Hills High School teacher Lauren Baier and Librarian Kevin McGuire told attendees during the Alliance Target Day session.

For example, under standards requiring schools to help students learn about “Career Acquisition,” or how to get a job, one artifact might be a letter a student composed, demonstrating the ability to communicate with an employer in writing.

English teachers often assign letters as a writing exercise, but many don’t think to archive the letters as artifacts that could help students meet career readiness standards.

Baier and McGuire said their team was planning an in-service training to help teachers across disciplines contribute to artifacts to student records documenting career learning.

Because Woodland Hills is using Google Classroom, artifacts for each student are being kept on Google Forms that teachers can use, McGuire said.

Consortium Program Director Christy Kuehn, who helped organize the Alliance Target Day, said many schools are still adjusting both to the new standards and the record-keeping they require.

“So far, responsibilities for meeting the standards have mostly been in the hands of counselors and social studies teachers, but the mindset is changing,” she said. “Now, we’re trying to get to a point where this becomes an important concept in classrooms across the board.”

Along with Woodland Hills, districts and schools participating in the Target Day session included Baldwin-Whitehall, Blackhawk, Clairton City, Duquesne City, Franklin Regional, Greensburg-Salem, and Lawrence County Career & Technical Center.