Posted by: Tom Ross | January 8, 2015

2015 Webinars From California Career Cafe

Even though the new year has barely begun, our friends and colleagues at the California Career Cafe are hard at work.


This month they are kicking off a series of Webinars that will “share and celebrate the experiences of our counselors and career professionals that have successfully transformed their students’ learning.” The first webinar will take place on January 22. Register now. And check out those that follow as well.

Webinar #1

HOW DO I KNOW IF THIS IS THE RIGHT CAREER FOR ME? WORKBASED LEARNING THAT WORKS. Thursday, January 22, 2015, 12 noon till 12:45 pm.

  • The California Career Pathways Trust and SB 1070 grants are requiring work-based learning for students. How do we  “get them ready” for those experiences?
  • Learn about a 3-step process that can be assigned using outcome oriented lessons for your students. Listen in as faculty share their most successful strategies. Learn how one campus has supported the process.


Upcoming Webinars:

Webinar #2


Webinar #3

“WHAT’S WORKING” FOR STUDENT SUCCESS? Thursday, March 19, 2015, 12 noon till 12:45 pm.

The free webinar series is brought to you by the California Career Cafe Team–Susan Coleman and Rita Jones–and hosted by Irvine Valley College.

The CA Career Cafe is a “virtual career center for California Community College Students.” They even have an app!


Posted by: Tom Ross | December 31, 2014

Disney & Friends

Young people are volunteering at a record rate. It’s a win-win for both them and the community. Youth who volunteer feel more connected to the community, have a higher level of academic success, and are more likely to find employment.

ysaYouth Service America is helping young people find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues.

YSA’s mission is to fund, train, and recognize young people and their adult partners through the following program strategies:

  1. Large-scale mobilization campaigns, such as Global Youth Service Day and Semester of Service.
  2. YSA Grants of approximately $1 million annually. YSA Grants are available to youth, educators, and organizations around the world for youth-led service projects.
  3. Resources and training that equip youth and their adult mentors to lead high-quality, high-impact service and service-learning programs.
  4. Awards that recognize exceptional youth and the adults who are champions of youth voice.


Working with YSA, Disney is offering $500 grants to young change-makers and their friends for projects that “harness the creativity and commitment of young people to use their skills, interests, and talents to meet the needs of others.” They believe that “when youth find their voice and take action together, they can make a lasting, positive change in the world.”

You can apply for a Disney grant from the page cited above. And you can learn more about Disney Friends for Change here.

Applications are due by 5pm EST February 18th, 2015.

Winners will be announced during the Global Youth Service Day events, April 17-19, 2015. Global Youth Service Day is YSA’s campaign to provide youth and their adult mentors with funding, tips, tools, and the training they need to lead high-quality, high-impact volunteer projects. Just enter your zip code to see what’s happening in your area.

YSA also provides a Service Project Toolkit to help you prepare your project for presentation. Other tools and languages can be found here.

Best of luck!


Posted by: Tom Ross | December 16, 2014

New Linked Learning Study

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

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Linked Learning is a curriculum that integrates academics with a career-related pathway. It improves student engagement by connecting what students are learning to their interests and skills, to a job and a career, and to the modern workplace.

sri_logo_blue31SRI International just published a report with significant if not mixed findings: Taking Stock of the California Linked Learning District Initiative. It evaluated 9 California Linked Learning programs over a five-year period.

In brief the study finds that, compared to students in traditional high school programs, students involved in Linked Learning:

  •  Feel more positive and engaged in school as well as challenged in their studies;
  • Score higher than their peers on the English portion of the high school exit exam;
  • Are more likely to graduate from high school and with more credits;
  • Can see the relevance in what they are learning to the real world.


  • Underserved groups—such as English learners, African Americans, and Hispanic/Latinos—perform better than similar groups in traditional high school programs.
  • Girls were disproportionally both more likely to enroll in health career pathways and less likely to be found in engineering.

At the same time, students in Linked Learning did not score higher than other students on the math portion or on other standardized tests. But the researchers add that:

“Test scores are hard to affect: even if students are more engaged and complete more credits, if pathways do not deliver more rigorous instruction and better student supports than traditional high schools, pathway students are not going to perform better on standardized tests. The progress that has been made in this area is too recent to be reflected in students’ test scores. And where progress has been made, the focus of integrated projects may not be aligned closely with the content measured on the state tests. In light of these findings, Linked Learning practitioners should pay particular attention to delivering rigorous instruction to all students as they continue to expand and develop pathways.” (See “Implications” on pages 62-63 of the report.)

An Executive Summary of the report is available as well.

For more about Linked Learning in general, visit ConnectEd and the Linked Learning Alliance. For a new article by Gary Hoachlander, President of ConnectEd, on how Linked Learning enhances the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), go to this month’s issue of Educational Leadership.

ConnectEd     LinkedLearningAlliance


Posted by: Tom Ross | November 19, 2014

CTE Teachers Speak Out

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

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The American Federation of Teachers recently conducted an online survey of K-12 CTE teachers who are members of the AFT or have participated in an AFT event. The report was written by Randi Weingarten, President of the AFT, and is called The Voices of Career and Technical Education Teachers.


The 570 teachers who responded hail from 26 states and the District of Columbia and 373 different schools. They give us a broad picture of:

  • CTE teacher characteristics: levels of education, certification, and industry experience
  • the range of CTE courses currently being taught and how they relate to career clusters
  • the kinds of CTE partnerships schools are establishing, including employer and community involvement
  • their successes and their challenges.
A few interesting findings:
  • More than half of the teachers have one or more certificates in their field and/or a bachelor’s degree in their industry.
  • The top three subject areas are business, health sciences, and computer applications.
  • 80% of the classes have a real connection to post-secondary courses.
  • 55 percent of respondents said their programs strongly consider local labor market needs.
  • Their greatest concerns are related to space, equipment, technology, textbooks, and, of course, funding.

The report concludes with a summary of the challenges that need to be addressed:

  • the need for up-to-date equipment, technology and instructional resources
  • the time to develop placements with employers and connections to the community
  • the problem of large class sizes and inadequate learning environments
  • the diverse program offerings required to engage more students and serve labor market needs
  • the financial resources to support it all–especially in economically challenged and isolated urban and rural settings.
 Also from AFT:
Posted by: Tom Ross | November 13, 2014

Putting Children First in the Central Valley

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

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ABC30 in Fresno and the Central Valley will present a half-hour special this Sunday, November 16, at 6:30 pm called “Children First: Career Technical Education.” It’s about local programs that help high school students move forward from classroom to career. Action News anchors Liz Harrison and Warren Armstrong will be hosting.


This special includes a closer look at Central Valley Career Tech Night where students learn to weld pipes and operate cranes as well as get career advice from experts in a variety of fields. ABC30 visits a Madera County campus as students study computer technology, Duncan Polytechnical High School to see how students train for medical careers, and Reedley College to watch students develop their skills in the Culinary Arts. The programs also looks at a local Arts and Engineering charter school that has a 98% graduation rate. —KFSN TV Fresno

Children First is a year-long effort focusing on the challenges, problems, and opportunities for children in Central California. The program is sponsored by Children’s Hospital of Central California, the Fresno County Office of Education, Educational Employees Credit Union (EECU), and KFSN in Fresno.

Recent Children First presentation have focused on how students volunteer and give back to the community, safety at school, kids and the arts, and teachers who make a difference in kids’ lives.


Don’t forget to tune in this Sunday evening. For those of us who don’t have access to this channel, the Specials are posted online on the AB30 website after the broadcast. In the meantime, you can go to the Children First topic links to view related videos and resources.

Posted by: Tom Ross | November 4, 2014

Up in Smoke

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

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When the unmanned Antares rocket exploded last Tuesday on its way to the International Space Station, the news that resonated with many of us was the shock and loss suffered by the students who had experiments on board.



 It all began with the Student Space Experiments Program or SSEP in 2010, a competition that is part of the U.S. National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative. It is designed to provide opportunities for students to have their experiments included on board both the Space Shuttle and later the International Space Station. Students in grades 5-12, community colleges, and 4-year universities are encouraged to submit experiments for consideration.

From the 1,487 student proposals submitted, 18 experiments were chosen for this flight. The level of sophistication of these experiments is remarkable, and they are worth reviewing. For more information about any of them, click here.

  1. McGowan Park Elementary, Kamloops/Thompson, British Columbia, Canada; Grades 6-7: Creating crystals in space.
  2. Urban Promise Academy, Oakland, CA; Grade 6: Composting in Microgravity.
  3. San Marino High School, San Marino, CA; Grade 11: Effects of Microgravity on Early Musca Domestica Growth. (The common housefly.)
  4. The George Washington University and Georgetown University, Washington, DC; Sophomores and Juniors: The Effects of Microgravity on the Development of Chrysanthemum morifolium Seeds.
  5. Iberville Math, Science & Arts Academy-West, Plaquemine, LA; Grade 4: The Effect of Microgravity on Phototropism and Geotropism on the Germination of Soybean Seeds. (How plants react to light and gravity.)
  6. St. Monica Catholic School, Kalamazoo, MI; Grade 8: Microgravity’s Effects on Dry Lake Fairy Shrimp. (Sea monkeys. No, really.)
  7. Wilkinson Middle School, Madison Hts, WI; Grade 7: Coliform Bacteria. (An indicator of the sanitary quality of foods and water.)
  8. St. Peter’s School, Kansas City, Kansas City, MO; Grade 7: Biocides and Bacteria. (Biocides are chemicals that help control harmful organisms.)
  9. Columbia Middle School, Berkeley Heights, NJ; Grade 7: Baby Bloodsuckers in Outer Space. (Just mosquitoes.)
  10. Gregory School, Long Branch, NJ; Grade 5: Hydroponics vs. Microgravity. (Growing plants without soil or gravity.)
  11. Ocean City High School, Ocean City, NJ; Grade 11: Attachment of Escherichia coli K-12 Strain to Lettuce. (A genetic variant or subtype of E. coli. Pass on the salad.)Chiaguy
  12. World Journalism Preparatory School, Flushing, NY; Grade 7: Can Zero Gravity Affect the Germination of Chia Plants?
  13. Colleton County Middle School, Colleton County, SC; Grade 6: Milk in Microgravity. (Differences in milk protein structure and bacteria growth in low gravity.)
  14. Palmetto Scholars Academy, North Charleston, NC; Grades 9 and 11: How Does Spaceflight Affect the Formation of Tin Whiskers on Lead-free Solder? (Spontaneous metal crystal growth caused by stress.)
  15. L&N STEM Academy, Knox County, TN; Grades 5-11: Waste in Space: Exploring the Effect of Microgravity on the Rate of Decomposition of Corn Starch by Rid-X. (Rid-X is used for septic tank maintenance.)
  16. Fayette Academy, Somerville, TN; Grades 9-10: Reishi Mushroom VS. Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. (The mushroom extract inhibits cancer cell growth.)
  17. Williams Middle School, Rockwall County, TX; Grade 8: How Microgravity Effects Yeast Cell Division and How it Relates to Human Cancer Cells. (Yeast cells reproduce asymmetrically in a manner similar to cancer cell division.)
  18. Howsman Elementary and William P. Hobby Middle Schools, San Antonio, TX; Grades 5-6: Crystal Formation. (More about the Texas schools.)

For information about each school and community, go the to SSEP site.

The loss of Mission 6 is immeasurable. But there is good news: Mission 7 is being scheduled and Mission 8 is in preparation. Calling all students: Back to the drawing board, everyone!


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

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

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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.

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