Alliance’s June Retreat showcased projects across network

Poster sessions at the Future Ready Alliance’s June Retreat showed that districts are taking a wide variety of approaches to improving opportunities for students to explore and prepare for post-secondary education and careers.

The Alliance is a network of educators that the Consortium brings together to design and implement improvements aimed at ensuring their graduates are well prepared for their futures, not just academically, but also developmentally. The emphasis is on helping all kids find the answers to three critical questions—Who am I? Who do I want to be? and How do I get there? 

The June Retreat showcased projects completed during the school year and provided resources for continuing work into 2018-2019, including a presentation on the state’s career education standards and an index the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will begin using next year to assess whether students are receiving the preparation needed for “future readiness.”

Projects that district and school teams undertook in 2017-2018 ranged from designing a professional development opportunity for faculty at South Allegheny High School to organizing a “Career Camp” at Yough High School and creating a new credential for students to demonstrate “future readiness” at Steel Valley High School.

South Allegheny’s professional development opportunity took the form of a Classrooms to Careers Conference that featured presentations by representatives of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and workshops with 21 different business partners. The Conference was designed to give educators information they need to help students learn about anticipated job opportunities and workplace expectations.

At Yough, a Career Camp offered opportunities to learn about careers, practice soft skills and understand the job application process. Yough’s team planned activities around these elements and offered them during downtime students have in the days when standardized testing occurs. Some were modeled on activities that students participating in the Consortium’s career exploration program, The Future Is Mine (TFIM) use to create a breakout session at the annual Student Leadership Conference, the school’s TFIM advisor Gina Hipps noted. Hipps also sits on Yough’s Alliance team.

Steel Valley’s new credential is aimed at certifying competencies beyond those reflected in a high school diploma, said Superintendent Ed Wehrer. “It will have more value,” he said, noting that diplomas alone merely show that students completed their classes with passing grades and give no indication, for example, of whether they’ve developed other essential skills.

PDE’s Career Readiness Advisor Laura Fridirici told Alliance participants that the work they’re doing should contribute to moving students toward state goals.

A stakeholders’ report compiled when the PDE was formulating its response to ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act that Congress passed in 2015) “found kids graduating without a plan,” Fridirici said. Under the Future Ready Index assessment, PDE wants kids to show progress toward career awareness and preparation at every grade level. Among other things, it will look to see what percentage of a district’s 5th graders are engaged in exploration and preparation. By 8th grade, PDE will be looking at what percentage of a district’s “students have created plans” that identify possible career paths that connect to their interests and engage in activities that would help them explore or prepare for those paths.