The U.S. postsecondary education system provides students with many flexible pathways to earning a bachelor’s degree. One of the most important of these is the opportunity to start a degree at a community college and transfer to a four-year degree program. Community colleges provide access to postsecondary education in diverse geographies (urban, rural, suburban), are open access and low cost, and offer an array of programs and credentials focused on both immediate employment and subsequent degree attainment through transfer to a four-year institution.1 However, while nearly 80 percent of community college students say they intend to transfer and eventually earn bachelor’s degrees,2 actual transfer and degree completion rates are a challenge: only 16 percent of students who start in community colleges ultimately earn bachelor’s degrees within six years, with lower rates for students from low-income backgrounds and students of color.3 Addressing this gap can help save students time and money in getting a degree, and will help diversify baccalaureate pathways because over half of students of color and low-income students start in the two-year sector.4 The latter is especially important in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling severely limiting the use of race in college admissions. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) has developed a resource guide for states and institutions to identify key strategies to improve the transfer system and completion rates.5
The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President, to recognize and honor our nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. Max Aulwes, Alan Mo, and Sreeya Pittala are three of the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program recipients for excellence in Career and Technical Education (CTE). They took the time to check-in, respond to our questions, and share their experiences from high school CTE and beyond with us.
The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) asked: Sreeya, what do you want others to know about CTE?
The career-oriented focus of CTE is very helpful because it teaches you many soft skills (employability skills) that you wouldn’t learn in a classroom setting. The level of engagement will prepare you for many opportunities down the road.
OCTAE asked: Alan, why do you think participating in CTE courses in high school is important?
CTE provides a wide range of activities to provide students with skills required in the industry and makes academic content accessible to students by providing it in a hands-on context. CTE education offers students opportunities to explore career options and acquire the technical skills and knowledge to work towards industry-recognized certifications and high-demand careers.
OCTAE asked: How did your CTE teachers help guide your interest in these pathways?
Max credits his CTE education teacher as one of the most important pieces to his high school career. She consistently pushed me out of my comfort zone when I needed it; and encouraged me every step of the journey.
Sreeya’s teacher encouraged her and her classmates to follow their passion. My teacher asked what excited us and urged us to explore that topic or profession further. My teacher always saw potential in me and never stopped encouraging me to take on new challenges and opportunities.
Max and Alan and Sreeya express it best when discussing the role of their CTE Teacher:
As a freshman in college taking entry level business courses, the knowledge I already have coming into the course work is fantastic. It’s all to the credit of the amazing dedication and hard work of my teachers. I regret not being more thankful for them during high school. -Max
I am thriving in college completely covered by scholarships studying a major I love. I only hope that I will be as good of a technical expert as Mr. Robert Fox. We keep in touch even as I leave high school and enter the university environment. – Alan
Ms. Mundell – Thank you for making the education of your students a priority. Your support has been one of the most remarkable aspects of my entire high school experience and I am forever grateful to you. – Sreeya
These students thrived in their High School CTE programs and have carried the lessons they learned into their post-secondary experiences. None of this would have been possible without the excellent CTE educators who helped them along the way. These students are already leaders in their field and well-equipped to achieve their ambitious goals. We can’t wait to see what their future holds.
The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program recognizes distinguished graduating seniors every year. The program started in 1964 through an executive order. In 2015, the program began recognizing students who excel in the field of Career and Technical Education.
The Department of Education (Department) is interested in stakeholder input regarding the Senate Committee on Appropriation’s Explanatory Statement for the 2023 Appropriations Bill, which directs the Department regarding Elementary and Secondary Education Act School Safety National Activities funds as follows:
- School Infrastructure and Sustainability.—Recognizing the growing challenges high need LEAs face in ensuring that their school facilities provide safe, healthy, and engaging learning environments, the Committee directs the Secretary to use up to $50,000,000, with the precise amount still to be determined, for grants to States for technical assistance to high need LEAs in leveraging existing resources to make needed improvements to their highest-need public school facilities. … [A]s the planning and management of elementary and secondary public school facilities has gotten more complex, there has not been an investment in providing the information, education, or training of the LEA personnel responsible for decision making, planning, budgeting, operations or management of public school facilities. In making grants to States, the Secretary is encouraged to prioritize applications that describe how under-resourced LEAs, including small and rural LEAs, will be provided with technical assistance and training for facilities related challenges associated with risk management, preparing for natural disasters, strategic planning, and applying for and leveraging existing resources to improve the health, safety, and learning environment for students.
- National Clearinghouse on School Infrastructure.—The Committee recommendation includes $2,000,000 for the proposed National Clearinghouse on School Infrastructure and Sustainability to compile and make available technical assistance and training materials to State educational agencies and local educational agencies on issues related to educational facility planning, design, financing, construction, improvement, operation, and maintenance. The Committee encourages the Department, in establishing and operating the clearinghouse, to consult and engage with public and private sector stakeholders with expertise in school infrastructure, green schools, and sustainability education with the goal of including robust and trusted resources.
Department staff welcome your input as they consider the Committee’s statement. Please send your comments to InfrastructureandSustainability@ed.gov by Friday, February 17. Please include your contact information, your organization name and type (i.e., State Educational Agency, Local Educational Agency, school, non-profit organization, etc.) or individual information in the body of your message. The Department will consider all input but will not be able to provide individual responses to emails.
Secretary Cardona has challenged us to not just refine the same strategies but to make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform education. We have a clear challenge to reimagine our schools, and the Department is making investments in education innovation through programs like EIR and other federal grants.
The Department recently announced $160 million in new grant awards through the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program. This year’s cohort of grantees is comprised of 28 entities that include state education agencies, local education agencies, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations across the U.S. Through the EIR program, grantees will design, scale, and validate programs that can help solve education’s most pressing problems. Most importantly, they’ll be working to address the continuing impacts of the COVID19 pandemic.
Here are 5 examples of how EIR grantees are responding to support students:
- San Diego Unified School District introduces work-based learning experiences
EIR funds will help support the development of the district’s MetaSocratic Peer Tutoring Project. Tenth through 12thgrade math students from across the district will be paired with 9th-11th graders to provide math tutoring. Through this experience students will be introduced to education and child development career pathways. Work-based experiences like this can help students better decide career pathways and feel better prepared to enter the workforce.
- CommonLit, Inc. offers a blended learning curriculum to help student achievement in reading, writing, speaking, and listening
CommonLit, Inc. was awarded EIR funds to advance a blended learning curriculum for grades 6-12. The curriculum will include aligned PD, assessments, and school district support framework. Through digital assessments, teacher professional learning, and cultural and technology-based supports, the project helps students improve their English Language Arts skills.
- Wisconsin Center for Education examines a web-based classroom assessment system
EIR funds will help the Wisconsin Center for Education examine a web-based classroom assessment system that promotes data-driven instruction and student autonomy. This program supports high-need middle school science learners, particularly multilanguage learners. Visuals, graphics, animations, and on-screen assists will help students who would otherwise be disadvantaged by traditionally language-heavy assessments.
- The M-SENS project led by the University of Oregon Foundation develops a program to support kindergarten student math achievement and support positive behavior management strategies
The “Math Ready-Supporting Early Number Sense (M-SENS)” at the University of Oregon Foundation was awarded EIR funds to work with kindergarten teachers to integrate positive behavior management strategies. M-SENS is meant to help students improve in math faster, reduce challenging behavior in whole-class settings, and give teachers more tools to help students with their early math and behavior needs.
- The RWDS project from PREP- KC helps students solve real-world challenges and become data scientists
EIR funds were awarded to the “Real World Data Science (RWDS)” project from PREP-KC to help middle school students learn data science skills. Through the program, students prepare for a STEM-focused career by combining STEM learning with hands-on learning. Industry professionals serve as mentors and experts on the subject matter. Students will solve problems in data science that come from the Kansas City area and their own interests. These real-world problems are the core of a curriculum that aims to make every student feel like a data scientist and align data science instruction with important math and science standards, which will help students do better in STEM-focused classes.
These FY22 grantees reflect Secretary Cardona’s priority to promptly respond to the effects of the pandemic and ensure that all students have equal access to high-quality educational opportunities, as well as the FY22 directive from congress to prioritize innovations focused on social-emotional learning and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
Learn more about the EIR program and see the full list of grantees: https://oese.ed.gov/offices/office-of-discretionary-grants-support-services/innovation-early-learning/education-innovation-and-research-eir/awards/