Posted by: Tom Ross | August 18, 2014

New STEM Integrated Lessons from CTE Online

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

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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.

Posted by: Tom Ross | June 4, 2014

Gird Your Loins

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

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InternCoffeeMugImage thanks to the Society of Publications Designers (Check out their Job Board)

Internships as career development activities used to be exploratory by nature. Prospective interns were expected to come to the interview armed with the desire to learn and a battery of soft skills including knowing how to communicate, show respect for co-workers, and manage time. And how to dress for the occasion.

But things are changing. Students must now consider bringing specific skill sets to the interviews, skills that some employers are asking for up front in their internship postings. Potential interns are finding that they need to build their portfolios accordingly.

Last year employers posted 276,631 openings for internship positions. They break down in the following way:


In order to apply for an internship in Communications, Marketing, and Social Media, for example, a student needs to show some experience in:

  • Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Event Planning
  • Business Development
  • Journalism
  • Blogging
  • Market Research
  • Technical writing and editing

An Arts, Video, and Graphic Design intern must have skills in:

  • Photoshop
  • Graphic Design
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • InDesign
  • JavaScript
  • Web Site Design
  • Illustration
  • Photography

That’s a beginner’s portfolio to envy.

These findings come from the report Job Market Intelligence: Report on the Internship Job Market from Burning Glass, a Boston-based job-finding company.


Burning Glass focuses its energy on studying career patterns in the workforce and the job market, and it uses its technology to help job seekers create good resumes and find the right job.

You can read the full report from Burning Glass here.


There’s also a new student resource in the works called LaunchPath, developed by the Foundation for California Community Colleges and the nonprofit Linked Learning Alliance that EdSource recently announced. This online database—available this Fall—will help “match high school and community college students with employers willing to hire them as interns. Linked learning programs combine academics with real-world work experience.” Stay tuned.

Posted by: Tom Ross | May 23, 2014

Warren High School: Leading The Way

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

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Young people are naturally curious about how something works and why it’s designed the way it is. We’re all basically engineers, at least intellectually. Some of us are motivated to take the next step to create something that solves a problem or fills a need. But we need the basic tools.

PLTWProject Lead the Way (PLTW) capitalizes on all of this. Through an activity, problem, and project-based curriculum it inspires students to use what they know to solve problems. PLTW has developed a world-class curriculum of STEM programs and a teacher professional development model—as well as a network of industry and community partners—to help students develop the skills necessary to succeed in today’s world.

YamasakiGlenn Yamasaki, PLTW Engineering Teacher, Warren High School

Warren High School in Downey, CA, is a great example of how PLTW works. The PLTW engineering teacher there, Glenn Yamasaki, and his students are leading the way to award winning engineering programs.


Last year the Warren Engineering Team won the grand prize in the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge at the NASA Johnson Flight Center in Houston, TX, the bronze medal in Mobile Robotics Technology at the annual National Leadership and Skills Conference and SkillsUSA Championships in Kansas City, MO, and the high school’s Columbia Memorial Space Center’s Robotics Team won in the Central Arizona VEX Competition in Phoenix, AZ.

To see what the Warren High School Engineering Team has already done this year, check out their Bear Engineering newsletters, Issue 1 and Issue 2 (two of the spiffiest high school newsletters I’ve ever seen).

WarrenTeam2Warren High School Engineering Team and their Solar-Powered Boat

In addition, Chevron has formed a partnership with Project Lead The Way to expand student access to STEM education. Check out this amazing video of how Warren High School and Chevron are making things happen.

The California Project Lead The Way offers “both a pre-engineering and biomedical sciences sequence of course work for high school students and a challenging, 10 week long, ‘activity oriented’ engineering-technology program for middle school students. Students are introduced to the scope, rigor, and discipline of engineering and engineering technology to really get a feeling of the rewards and benefits of being a part of such a powerful career.”

For more information about PLTW at Warren High School, contact Glenn Yamasaki.




Posted by: Tom Ross | May 15, 2014

No Matter Where You Go, There You Are

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

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High school students have a lot to think about. And a lot of choices to make. If they decide that college is the next step, a recent Gallup Poll shows that it’s not so much which school you pick but what you do once you get there.


In March of this year, Gallup polled 30,000 college graduates who had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. The survey showed that making the most of the college experience was closely aligned with graduates’ sense of well-being and engagement at work.

Caralee Adams at Education Week sums it up: “Finding a mentor, caring professors who excited them about learning, having an internship, and being involved in extracurricular activities on campus were all strong indicators of satisfaction later in the workplace. The type of institution—large, small, public, private, prestigious or not—was not as much of a factor.”


Gallup concludes:

“The data in this study suggest that, as far as future worker engagement and well-being are concerned, the answers could lie as much in thinking about aspects that last longer than the selectivity of an institution or any of the traditional measures of college. Instead, the answers may lie in what students are doing in college and how they are experiencing it. Those elements — more than many others measured — have a profound relationship to a graduate’s life and career.”

You can download the full report, Great Jobs, Great Lives, here.


Posted by: Tom Ross | April 30, 2014

Tough Love?


“Kid, college may not be the answer. Let’s explore your other options.”

Is this what we should be telling some high school students?

Michael Petrelli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and executive editor of Education Next, thinks it is (see his recent article in And he’s raised some eyebrows.

If you are a student whose reading and math are at a 6th grade level in 9th grade, the likelihood of being college ready in three years is slim, according to Petrelli. “Nor have you had much of an opportunity to develop the ‘non-cognitive skills’ that would help you to remediate the situation. You are foundering, failing courses, and thinking about dropping out. In community college you will need to take remedial classes before you can do anything. You need another pathway, one with significantly greater chances of success and a real payoff at the end—a job that will allow you to be self-sufficient.”

This in spite of evidence that people who graduate from college earn more money and have healthier, happier lives? What about the PEW report, ‘The Rising Cost of Not Going to College”?

Petrelli believes it’s a “false choice,” that the odds are against some students ever getting beyond remedial classes to a degree, especially if they are from lower-income families. And that encouraging them to go to college “does them more harm than good.”

“The decision is whether to follow the college route to almost certain failure, or to follow another route to significant success.”

CautionSign-150x150Mr. Petrelli is responding to a recent white paper from Express Employment Professionals, the nation’s largest privately held staffing firm, challenging the conventional wisdom of the four-year college option in today’s economy and exploring the benefits of CTE. The paper is titled “Caution: College May Not Be For Everyone.”

“Let’s defy conventional wisdom, “ the report begins. “It’s time to break a taboo: College isn’t for everyone. For many, there’s a better—but much less advertised—option: Career Technical Education (CTE). Let’s be more specific. A four-year stay at a traditional university won’t be the best fit for everyone. College is right for many people—but certainly it’s not right for everyone.”

The report finds that:

  • CTE-trained workers are in high demand. The 20 fastest growing occupations require an associate’s degree or less.
  • CTE can lead to high paying jobs. Many workers with a certificate earn more than college graduates.
  • CTE is affordable—especially compared to a 4-year college; college debt averages $30,000.
  • CTE is good for the economy and the workforce and keeps this country globally competitive.

The paper makes three recommendations to students:

  • Weigh the costs and benefits of a four-year university and a CTE credential.
  • Consider the growing CTE-related careers available to you.
  • Explore the business-education partnerships in your area.


The National Association of State Directors of CTE Consortium (NASDCTEc) thinks Petrelli sells CTE short. Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director, writes in the NASDCTEc blog:

“I believe Petrilli did CTE a major disservice with his piece. By setting up CTE as the option for students who are not “college material” he ultimately undermined the value CTE has for all students. And, perhaps more importantly, he reinforced the image problem the CTE community has to deal with every day: CTE remains the place you put kids who just can’t make it to college.”

“Students taking CTE sequences are more likely to graduate high school (at rates upward of 90%, well above the national average) because they find value in the authenticity and relevance CTE brings to their learning.” And they have the skills to be both college and career ready (ADP).

In the discussion that followed Mr. Petrelli’s article, Ms. Blosveren expanded on her reaction: “Ultimately, I believe that this piece fails to put forward the right message parents need and want to hear. If over 90 percent of parents want their children to go to “college,” it doesn’t really do CTE any good to frame itself as being the option other than college, but rather a pathway to a broader set of college options (since upwards of 75 percent of CTE concentrators go on to some postsecondary education within two years). By perpetuating the dichotomy of CTE vs. college, it still keeps CTE as “lesser than” rather than an equally viable (and more reliable) option.” You can follow this discussion on the Fordham Institute’s comments page.

What do you think?


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