Alliance maps out year, gets research overview from REL

Educators involved in our Future Ready Alliance  got their 2017-2018 work underway this week, reviewing network goals and refining projects they plan to undertake in their schools and districts.

The Alliance, which also enlists partners from business and higher education, aims to help ensure students are getting the opportunities and experiences they need to prepare for post-secondary education and careers. Participating teams focus on giving students support, beginning in kindergarten, to answer three questions crucial to imagining and planning—Who am I? Who do I want to be? and How do I get there.

Greensburg Salem team analyzes project options

Formation of the Alliance comes at a time when federal and state education policymakers are putting greater emphasis on career readiness. To support that aim, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Laboratory at Mathematica has established career readiness as one of seven areas of focus.  Representatives from the REL were on hand at our October kickoff to present a workshop for Alliance teams and to offer research and technical support.

Education Researcher and REL representative Becky Smerdon said Pennsylvania education policymakers are ahead of the national curve in emphasizing career readiness. Although it’s been a hot topic in education research, only

REL reps Jan Anderson (left) and Becky Smerdon  

a couple of states are giving it such a high priority in response to the federal Every Child Succeeds Act.

Smerdon said research divides the essentials of career readiness into three categories of knowledge and skills—academic content, pathway knowledge and lifelong learning skills.

The categories encompass the three critical questions at the heart of the Alliance’s work. Pathways knowledge is what kids get by asking who they want to be and how to get there. They also inevitably find when asking “how”  that they’ll need transferrable nonacademic skills to succeed over a lifetime.

“The questions help make ‘future readiness’ less abstract,” said Consortium Program Director Candice Murrell as she reviewed overall goals at the Alliance kickoff meeting.

“Future readiness is about a lot more than being able to pass this or that test,” added the Consortium’s Director of Organizational Advancement Jackie Foor. “It’s also about developing those transferrable skills students need to be successful.”

Foor and Murrell both are members of the Consortium team that organizes the Alliance.

The Alliance grew out of several exploratory discussions the Consortium organized over the past two years among secondary and post-secondary educators and regional business representatives, including the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Partnerships between these stakeholders have been gaining momentum as schools find increasing value in “real world” learning experiences, as businesses anticipate workforce shortages and as employers point to a “soft skills gap” among young hires.