Posted by: Tom Ross | October 13, 2014

Middle Dearth

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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Where the Jobs Are

 A new report from USA Today (part 1 of a 4-parter) titled Where the Jobs Are: The New Blue Collar by MaryJo Webster estimates that 2.5 million new jobs will be added to workforce by 2017. But they aren’t at the top or the bottom. 40% of the job growth will be new, middle-skill positions, jobs that don’t require a 4-year degree. A two-year course at a local community college will do.

“Roughly 21 percent of all jobs can be considered ‘good middle jobs’—and of those, 29 million pay at least $35,000 a year”, write Anthony Carnevale and Nicole Smith of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) in the magazine GOOD.  “Nearly 10 million pay more than $50,000, and a significant number actually pay more than entry-level jobs requiring a Bachelor’s Degree. These middle jobs are essential to how we address the “skills gap” and community colleges are ideally positioned to train people for those jobs.”



Five Ways That Pay on the Way to the B.A, also by Carnevale (et al., 2012), states that “In a labor market with roughly 139 million jobs and 61 million jobs that pay a least middle-class wages, one in every five jobs and nearly half of all jobs that pay at least middle-class wages are middle jobs.” I would need second breakfast to make sense of that.

In other words, the dearth in the middle may be workers, not jobs. And that’s encouraging for those preparing to enter the workforce but need a path that’s less protracted and expensive than a four-year college .

The USA Today article includes an interactive graphic that shows where the hottest middle-level jobs will be as well as salary and education needed. It also discusses:

  • The effect off-shoring jobs has had and will have on the market as well as “supply and demand”–comparing the number of skilled workers completing training programs with the number of job openings, with a focus on middle skill jobs. (See How Many More Skilled Workers Do We Need? by Brian Wilson of the National Skills Coalition);
  • How to solve the image problem of jobs in the middle by pointing out their advantages;
  • Vice President Biden’s effort to create training program across the country;
  • How some companies are finding solutions of their own.

This is a great interactive report. Many thanks to California Career Briefs for making us aware of it.


Sign Up for CA Career Briefs today.

Posted by: Tom Ross | September 24, 2014

Kids Love Science

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Kids love science. From dirt and worms to trees and stars, from things they can touch to things that touch them—sunlight and rain and rainbows. They ask “Why?” Their minds are open and they search for answers. As Ken Robinson says in his TED presentation on creativity, “If they don’t know, they’ll have a go.” And “They’re not frightened of being wrong.” They are born scientists.

As kids grow, they pick up tools that help them understand the world. In school they are given the knowledge of what others have figured out about why and how. They gain hands-on experience and a chance to apply what they’ve learned. With water and sunlight, a seed becomes a sprout. Through a telescope, a star becomes a planet. A microscope reveals a whole unseen world in a drop of water.



Life is full of puzzles. How do I share three apples with six friends? I cut them in half…and discover there’s a way to represent that with numbers. How long will it take to bike 5 miles if you can go 10 miles an hour? At 10 cents a glass, how many lemonades do I need to sell to pay for a $3 bag of lemons?

Science goes hand in hand with math. A cricket can jump 20 times its length. How far could I jump if I were a cricket? If sunlight takes 8 minutes to reach the Earth, how far away is the sun? We’re doing science but we’re talking math.

A child who embraces science finds answers he can demonstrate as well as represent with symbols on paper. His solutions are relevant to the real world. This scientific literacy builds self-confidence, which in turn leads to more inquiries and more investigations and more answers.



Then for many students, something happens. Something gets in the way. Something about the way science and math are taught intimidates them, and they begin to tune out. They stop asking questions for fear of seeming dumb (Ibid. Ken Robinson’s TED talk). And they gradually leave behind the math and science that used to be such fun.

I was inspired to think about this by a blog by Lara Faye Tenenbaum in the Huffington Post titled Science Isn’t Just for NASA: You Can Bust Out Your Own Science Spark. Tenenbaum is a science communications specialist with the Earth science team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that studies global climate change. She also teaches oceanography at Glendale Community College.


Tenenbaum asks the right questions: Why do many young students think they aren’t smart enough to become scientists? Why do adults often say ‘I used to be good in math’ or ‘I used to love science when I was young’?

What would the world be like today if more people nurtured their inner scientist?


The Young Child and Mathematics by Juanita V. Copley, NAEYC, 2010.


“When will I use math?” a common question students ask math teachers. Check out We Use Math.

Mashable: How do we get more students interested in math, science, and STEM careers?

Like science but still can’t warm up to math? Some good–if anti-math–news from the Wall Street Journal: Great Scientist ≠ Good at Math.




Posted by: Tom Ross | September 8, 2014

Mark Your Calendar–and Set Your Alarm

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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Health Workforce Needs in California.

  • When: September 19, 12 noon till 1:30 pm PDT
  • Where: 1020 11th Street, Sacramento, and as an online webinar.
  • Live Webcast Registration

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) is hosting this webinar—as part of the James Irvine Foundation Briefing Series—on September 19 from 12 noon till 1:30 p.m. It’s physical location is the CSAC Conference Center, 1020 11th Street in Sacramento—if you can attend the event, it’s free, but space is limited. So be sure to register early. For those intending to join the webcast, you can sign in at this link.

About the program:

“Already a large part of California’s economy, the state’s health workforce will need to grow significantly over the next decade to keep up with a growing—and aging—population. PPIC researcher Shannon McConville will present new findings about California’s health workforce needs. A panel of experts will then discuss how the state can increase the number of health care workers and offer career opportunities to a diverse group of Californians.”

CareerPathwaysNational Dialogue on Career Pathways.

About the program:

“The Department of Education, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services are convening the National Dialogue on Career Pathways. Presenters, panelists and participants (including NASDCTEc President and Colorado State CTE Director Scott Stump) will discuss the crucial role of career pathways in ensuring that today’s students are tomorrow’s high-skilled, employed workforce.

Leading voices in CTE and workforce development will discuss lessons learned and best practices, mapping both onto the future of career pathways. The departments have also promised “information about a new technical assistance opportunity to help states, local areas, and discretionary grantees to develop or expand their efforts around career pathways system building will be announced during the meeting.”

That’s 9 am Eastern Daylight Time.

Alarm3© TRoss


Posted by: Tom Ross | August 26, 2014

No Such Thing

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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In 1959 C.P. Snow—novelist and research chemist—gave an influential lecture describing what came to be known as “The Two Cultures.” On one side, the humanists; on the other, the scientists. Between the two, he said, lay “a shameful gulf of mutual incomprehension.” It’s useful to remember that this was just after Sputnik. Shakespeare, some thought, would not help us win the space race.


We still feel the pull of this force today: academics on one side, career technical education on the other. But today CTE is integrated with academics and academics are infused in STEM-related fields. A sort of unified theory.

Here are a few good reads I was drawn to recently that not only bridge the cultural divide but explore how students learn and how schools work:

Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty by Vikram Chandra

In this book, the author, Chandra, “traces the connections between the two worlds of art and technology” with a focus on computer programming. Coding, he writes, “acts and interacts with itself, with the world. We already filter experience through software…which also, in turn, manipulates us. The embodied language of websites, apps, and networks writes itself into us.” As Paul Graham wrote in his book, Hackers and Painters, and his manifesto, “Hackers and painters have a lot in common–they are both makers.”


HOW WE LEARN: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens By Benedict Carey

Is hard work really the key to success, especially for students? Or are taking a break, listening to music, and napping more important for learning? In light of Tiger Moms and the grueling schedule of high achievers or Outliers, this is the counterattack. “In our zeal to systematize the process,” the reviewer writes, “we have ignored valuable, naturally enjoyable learning tools like forgetting, sleeping, and daydreaming.”


Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom, by Lewis Buzbee

Buzbee was a student and is a teacher in the California public school system. “My concern,” he writes, “arises from my own history there, a concern that is more than test scores and global ‘workplace’ competition.” That concern is the public’s unwillingness to fund public education. “The most basic issue cannot be avoided: money.”

Buzbee won me over personally when he quoted one of my favorite books and characters (in this case Joe, the narrator) on his epigraph page: “I never wanted school to be over. I spent as much time in school as I could, pouring over books we were given, being around teachers, breathing in the school odors, which were the same everywhere and like no other. Knowing things became important to me, no matter what they were.” This is from Canada by Richard Ford. For Buzbee and Joe, the classroom blackboard is a window to the world.


Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz

With Robin Williams’ death, I couldn’t resist watching “Dead Poet Society” again. The scene we remember best is when the students stand on their desks and recite “O Captain! My Captain!” from Whitman to bid their poetry teacher farewell. He’d been fired for his unorthodox teaching methods and his emphasis on learning how to “seize the day” and follow your passion.

Are students who make it into Ivy-League schools—what the author considers our ‘elite class’—reading, listening to music, making friends, or falling in love? Or are they wasting their youth building resumes? Do they have to choose between learning and success?

“This book is a letter to my twenty-year old self,” the author writes. It is about “the kinds of things I wish that someone had encouraged me to think about when I was going to college—such as what the point of college might be in the first place.”


Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher by Garret Keizer

Speaking of unorthodox teachers: “The day of the ‘lone wolf’ teacher is done,” Keizer writes in Getting Schooled. “The notion that the very same teachers who made the greatest difference in my life need to be purged from the ranks is dispiriting enough, but the outrageous suggestion that the ‘brutal facts’ of education have more to do with the schoolhouse than with the larger society in which my students live is enough to make me want to spit. Or teach.”

As I was researching these publications and the topics they explore–blending the humanities and science, how students learn, and teaching outside the box–I felt optimistic. And I thought of the words a high school student sings in John Mayer’s song, “No Such Thing,“:

I just can’t wait til my 10 year reunion
I’m gonna bust down the double doors
And when I stand on these tables before you
You will know what all this time was for

If you have a book to recommend, let us know.

Posted by: Tom Ross | August 18, 2014

New STEM Integrated Lessons from CTE Online

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CTE Online just announced the launch of a new set of STEM Integrated Unit Project Curriculum lesson plans. They were written by 45 CTE and academic educators in integrated teams and added to the thousands of lessons already available online.

CTEonlineCTE Online

The new lesson plans are in the following industry sectors:

  • Environment & Utilities
  • Public Services – Criminal Justice
  • Health Science – Biotechnology and Nursing Careers
  • Arts, Media, and Entertainment – Digital Photography and Media Design
  • Engineering & Architecture
  • Construction Technology
  • Computer Programming

You can browse through by sector or view all of the lessons at once.

CTE Online is also inviting grade 9-12 educators to their 2014-2015 STEM and Integrated “Linked Learning” Curriculum Writing Institutes.

If you teach within a STEM CTE area or if you are a non-CTE academic teacher who is part of an academy or Linked Learning program, and if you collaborate well with other educators (specifically, teachers in Math, English Language Arts, or other academic areas), you are eligible to apply to help write integrated lesson plans. And CTE Online will pay you $2000.

Accepted applicants will attend a 2-day Institute in Sacramento or Ontario in the Fall of 2014 or Spring of 2015 (locations and dates TBA). CTE Online will pay for your travel, sub, and meals. Continued work on these lesson plans and projects will be done remotely. You can read more about this and apply at this link.

With an average of 2000 visits a day, CTE Online is the place where real teachers share real classroom expertise in support of CTE, STEM, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and linked learning models.

Posted by: Tom Ross | August 1, 2014


 Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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When we lean toward leaders in any field, it’s often because they are able to express in a logical and persuasive way what we’ve been thinking all along. And what we’ve been hoping for.

Two women who were leaders in education died recently. One filled a library with her articles, speeches, and books. The other, left one slim volume, published posthumously. But both touched us in important ways.

MaxineGreeneMaxine Greene

Maxine Greene died last month at the age of 96. She worked tirelessly to convince educators that the arts are essential—she called it “aesthetics education”—and that students should be taught the Thoreauvian concept of what she called “wide-awakeness.”

“Without the ability to think about yourself, to reflect on your life,” Greene said, “there’s really no awareness, no consciousness. Consciousness doesn’t come automatically; it comes through being alive, awake, curious, and often furious.”

“We who are teachers would have to accommodate ourselves to lives as clerks or functionaries if we did not have in mind a quest for a better state of things for those we teach and for the world we all share.” (From Releasing the Imagination)

opposite-of-lonelinessThe Opposite of Loneliness

Two years ago Marina Keegan, 22, died in a car accident. Five days before she had graduated from Yale magna cum laude. She was a writer of essays, blogs, plays, and short stories that are so young and current and well written—try “Cold Pastoral”—they take your breath away. So good, in fact, she had just landed a job at the New Yorker. How many levels of tragedy can we bear?

While attending Yale she wrote an essay titled “Even Artichokes Have Doubts” for the Yale Daily News. In it she laments the fact that 25% of Yale graduates become “consultants” and “financial advisers.” This was not their goal originally. “In a place as diverse and disparate as Yale, it’s remarkable that such a large percentage of people are doing anything the same.”

In an editorial called “The Opposite of Loneliness” she continues her thoughts on a Yale education. “When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over…. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.”

Keegan believed a career should be about “producing something, or helping someone, or engaging in something we’re explicitly passionate about.” Greene believed “that students could be taught and encouraged to engage the world not just as it is but as it might otherwise be,” and that “the arts encourage a kind of thinking that best serves humankind.”

Both women lived full lives. They were alive, awake, curious, and furious.

In the CTE classroom, you as teachers consider many of the elements they espoused: mindfulness, teaching the whole child, relevancy, hands-on learning, community service, apprenticeships/internships, and entrepreneurship. There, you are the leader. You hold up a world brimming with opportunities and possibilities and say, “Make it better. WAKE UP!”

To learn more about Maxine Greene, visit the Maxine Green Center Library. And for more on Marina Keegan, pick up her book, The Opposite of Loneliness, recently released.

Posted by: Tom Ross | July 22, 2014


 Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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When odd bedfellows like Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates coordinate an Op-Ed in the New York Times, people take notice.


They came together to talk about what they consider to be Congress’s unbending ideologies when it comes to immigration reform and the effect that has on our workforce.

“We believe it borders on insanity to train intelligent and motivated people in our universities — often subsidizing their education — and then to deport them when they graduate. For those who wish to stay and work in computer science or technology, fields badly in need of their services, let’s roll out the welcome mat.”

They also recommend we ”remove the worldwide cap on the number of visas that could be awarded to legal immigrants who had earned a graduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited institution of higher education in the United States, provided they had an offer of employment.“ The bill also includes a plan to allow illegal residents to obtain citizenship after they have jumped through all the hoops.

What else catches our attention? When an underdog wins.

82004 Robotics Team members from Carl Hayden Community High School:Cristian Arcega, Oscar Vazques, Luis Aranda, and Lorenzo Santillan, with Fred Lajvardi, coach.

In 2004 at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, AZ, four teenagers in the Robotic Team—see above—took on a giant challenge: to enter a prestigious competition sponsored by NASA and the Office of Naval Research to build an underwater robot. They would be pitted against, among others, MIT.

And they won. (Watch this inspiring three-minute video.)

What’s the connection? Therein lies the rub. These four winning student engineers are undocumented sons of Mexican immigrants.

We now have a chance to see their story in a new documentary titled Underwater Dreams. It is written and directed by Mary Mazzio and produced by 50 Eggs, Inc.


“This is a story about grit, resiliency, inspiration and finding talent in places that you might not expect. These kids are extraordinary, but they are representative of hundreds of thousands of similarly situated kids capable of great things,” Mazzio told AZEDNEWS in a radio interview. “If you go to Carl Hayden today, there are kids saying I want to go to college and study engineering. They are throwing around engineering terms like cookies.”

The members of the losing MIT team are now engineers. The winners from the Carl Hayden Community High team are still fighting the system, even ten years later.

To know more about Underwater Dreams, check out their website, including the Reviews and Feedback page. Jonathan Alter from The Daily Beast said that this film “may be the most politically significant documentary since Waiting for Superman.”

In partnership with AMC Theaters and NBCUniversal, the documentary will be in 100 cities across the country. Non-profits and educators will have an opportunity to bring students to see the film, free of charge–send an email to It is also available from On Demand or for purchase.

The Carl Hayden Community High Robotics Team’s motto (taken from the film The Matrix) is: There Is No Spoon. “It is not the spoon that bends. It is only yourself.”

Posted by: Tom Ross | July 7, 2014

Summer Updates

 Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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Several of the themes we’ve explored here have made the news again recently.

Here are a few blog updates.



Boomerang Kids

Last August we reported—in our blog Under the Dome—on the large number of Millennials who are living at home either because of the high cost of a higher education and the housing market or their inability to find a job.

Last week the New York Times reported in their article, “It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave,” that “one in five people in their 20s and early 30s is currently living with his or her parents. And 60 percent of all young adults receive financial support from them.” (According the Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the number of kids living at home is almost twice that (36%).


For their personal stories on career goals, student debt, and the realities of living at home, check out this slide show. The amount of debt these student are carrying—nearly half of 25-year-olds owe over $20,000—is staggering.


A year ago we reported on the movement to teach every student how to code: Cracking the Code. This year, the New York Times reported about how coding has become a national movement, beginning with a story from Strawberry Point Elementary School in Mill Valley, CA.

“There’s a big demand for these skills in both the tech sector and across all sectors,” said Britt Neuhaus, the director of special projects at the office of innovation for New York City schools. Alana Aaron, a fifth-grade math and science teacher in Manhattan adds, “If my kids aren’t exposed to things like that, they could miss out on potential opportunities and careers.”

This story overlaps with our coverage of nontraditional careers.

Nontraditional Career Pathways

Since our blog The Career Path Less Traveled, Google announced it has created a $50 million initiative called “Made With Code” that will encourage girls to join the job force as coders. “Less than one percent of high school girls think of computer science as part of their future, even though it’s one of the fastest-growing fields in the U.S. today with a projected 4.2 million jobs by 2020, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics,” Martha Mendoza writes for the Associated Press.

girlswhocode2Girls Who Code

In addition, several articles and commercials have come out encouraging girls and young women to pursue their interests in STEM education despite societal cues to the contrary. You can watch both advertisements–from Verizon and Goldiebox (a toy company that makes engineering and construction kits for girls)–in this blog from Education Week. The University of Phoenix has a beautiful ad as well–it’s called Aim High.

The California Economic Summit reported a new program at California State University, Long Beach, called “Women-In-Engineering.” It is sponsoring two events: “Engineering Girls Internship” (website still in the works) and “Engineering Girls – It Takes A Village.” You can learn more about each in the CES article and at their sites.

WHwomenSTEMWomen in STEM

And Entrepreneur lays aside The 4 Biggest Myths Discouraging Women from Tech Careers. There are links here to other related articles as well.

Maker Movement

Finally, since our blog on the Maker Faire, a new controversy has arisen around how the maker movement fits in with the Common Core. Education Week’s Benjamin Herold interviewed the authors of a new book on the maker culture: “Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom,” Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager.


Do you see the rise of maker education and the advent of the Common Core State Standards as connected?

Stager: There are some overlapping interests between the Common Core and the maker movement, but [they are ultimately] incompatible. The standards are rooted in this idea of a centralized body of knowledge that all kids must comply with, which is in stark contradiction to the notion that learning is more fluid, more intimate, more personal.

You can read the article and interview in Education Week.



 Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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University of California Curriculum Integration (UCCI) has joined forces with the Bay Region Retail, Hospitality and Tourism (RHT) Initiative and the Bay Region Small Business Sector to create the next UCCI Institute. It will provide an opportunity for interested educators to create three program-status courses that integrate Spanish, history, and math with the content and skills of the Hospitality, Tourism and Recreation, and Business and Finance Career Technical Education sectors.

These courses will not only meet the subject matter criteria for the “e” (Language other than English), “a” (history/social science) and “c” (math) areas respectively, but will also be designed to articulate well to community college and California State University (CSU) programs in the hospitality and business CTE sectors.

The Institute will be hosted at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA, August 4-6, 2014.

Each course will be developed by a team of six educators representing high school, community college, and CSU. These three teams will work together over a two and a half day period to create innovative curriculum.  Stipends will be paid to attendees along with some accommodation for travel. You can be a part of this exciting curriculum project by completing the application.


The Institute is looking for interested high school teachers who specialize in the following areas:

  • Hospitality, Tourism and Recreation (2 teachers)
  • Business/Finance, particularly Entrepreneurship (2)
  • History (1)
  • 1 in Math (1)
  • 1 in Spanish (1)

Travel + Lodging + Stipend will be paid!

  • $300.00 for Participation
  • $100.00 for Food
  • $100.00 Mileage / Travel
  • $400.00 for Lodging (working on room options)
  • Total:  $900.00

For more information on the upcoming Institute, please visit the Bay Area RHT.

For questions, please contact: Andrea Vizenor, Deputy Sector Navigator, Retail, Hospitality and Tourism

For assistance, please contact: Alex Kramer, Deputy Sector Navigator, Small Business

Posted by: Tom Ross | June 18, 2014

Maker Faire Today at the White House

Today, June 18, President Obama is hosting innovators, entrepreneurs, and tinkerers of all ages from across the country at the first-ever White House Maker Faire. Its purpose is to celebrate America’s students and entrepreneurs, who are “inventing the future with these new technologies.”


The event showcases new and innovative projects, inventions, and designs that may create industries and jobs in the future.

The program is presented LIVE. And the White House has included a lot of Maker Faire information here as well.

President Obama has proclaimed today as the National Day of Making in this country. “I call upon all Americans to observe this day with programs, ceremonies, and activities that encourage a new generation of makers and manufacturers to share their talents and hone their skills.”


Obama is obviously interested in gadgets. At a White House science fair two years ago he shocked Secret Service agents by firing off a marshmallow cannon created by 14-year-old Joey Hudy. (Joey was later invited to the State of the Union address.)


What is a Maker Faire? “Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.”

For more information, visit the White House Maker Faire page, and go to the Maker Faire home page.

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