A Consortium webinar on the Foundations of Future Readiness gave attendees an overview of how the state expects schools to prepare students for careers and equip them with the soft skills they’ll need in the workplace. Additionally, educators got a brief introduction to new graduation requirements that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is implementing, starting with the Class of 2023.
Although some of the process of meeting state standards may seem bureaucratic, it’s important to remember that each step offers a different kind of opportunity to help students explore and plan their post-secondary paths, Program Director Christy Kuehn, PhD, told attendees.
Collecting artifacts to document career learning experiences, for example, may initially seem an unnecessary bother. Importantly, however, PDE’s intent was ensuring that students weren’t just being offered career learning opportunities, but actually engaging in them, Kuehn said. Because of that, for example, merely attending a career presentation wouldn’t qualify, whereas writing a reflection on the presentation would, she added.
Similarly, PDE defined Career Ready Skills students should master so that they wouldn’t merely learn about different careers but be preparing for the workplace, Program Director Debbie Pixton told attendees.
Pixton said the skills directly correlate to goals for social and emotional learning, which, in turn, are “an articulation of the soft skills that employers continually emphasize they need.”
For example, PDE set Self-Awareness and Self-Management as one of three broad categories of Career Ready Skills. Effectively, it correlates to employability skills like professionalism and adaptability, among others.
“It’s an important message to convey in communities where there’s been pushback about a school’s role in social and emotional learning,” Pixton added.
Following the standards review, Consortium Program Director Aaron Altemus told attendees that new graduation requirements the state is rolling out for the Class of 2023 represent “a real opportunity because they move us away from a single measure for all students.”
Previously, performance on Keystone exams was the sole criteria for graduation. Alternative pathways have been under development since the legislature paved the way for them four years ago under Act 158.
“Under the new law, students have multiple options for demonstrating readiness, ” Altemus said, noting that the Consortium will be offering a professional development session devoted to Act 158 during the spring semester.