Byron's Babbles

Teacher Evaluation Norming: “What Can We Create Together?”

file4When creating the ideal school community for meaningful teacher evaluation we must clearly define the expectations for effective teaching at our schools. We must also effectively communicate the criteria that will be used to evaluate teacher performance. Personally, I believe the most important aspect of teacher evaluation is to ensure professional growth for our teachers in order to move them toward being highly effective. Our school has become a part of the Indiana Teacher Appraisal and Support System (INTASS) and I love how Dr. Sandi Cole, Director of Center on Education and Lifelong Learning puts it: “Teacher evaluation must be something done for teachers, not to them.” This statement has become a core value of our work of overhauling our entire teacher evaluation process. The INTASS process rests on four basic elements of a quality evaluation plan: a) Clear, frequent, and transparent communication among a wide base of stakeholders; b) Professional practice measures that are mutually agreed upon by stakeholders; c) Multiple measures of student learning outcomes, and d) Fully aligned post-evaluation processes, including job-embedded professional growth and support for all educators.

Another crucial part of this process is the norming of evaluators. We have chosen to have a monthly retreat of our evaluation team to ensure that evaluators have an accurate and aligned perception of classroom practice and student growth. This norming process also guarantees assigned evaluation ratings that are accurate reflections of teacher effectiveness. During norming, evaluators align or “calibrate” their scoring so that every member of the team applies the rubric consistently across teachers, and of the team of evaluators scores consistently with one another (inter-rater reliability). Having similar scoring and uniform expectations of teacher effectiveness is critical if you want to make meaningful comparisons among teachers.

I have also found the norming to be a good time for our administrative staff to engage in professional development for the purpose supporting effective leading of learning. A healthy team culture—and ultimately the school’s performance—rely on the team’s ability to encourage individual improvement in constructive ways. Through our norming process, administrative team members are learning and practicing the skills and dispositions necessary to mentor, coach, and evaluate colleagues. Our norming process has enabled the team to practice a model of shared leadership. By having regular norming retreats, team members are able to refine their collaboration skills and dispositions to ensure the team’s ability to act according to its shared purpose of enabling and empowering all of our teachers to be highly effective.

At this past week’s norming retreat I was struck by the amount of learning and professional growth that also went on with the administrative team of evaluators. There were discussions of how to more effectively use technology, sharing of best practices witnessed such as for checking for mastery, and new ways of engaging students; just to name a few. We even discussed the use of Emojis for engaging students. I couldn’t help but draw my own Emoji (shared in the picture above) as I graphically facilitated the norming retreat. We also were able to identify areas where we need to provide professional development learning opportunities for our teachers. I believe my role as a leader is not necessarily to always be a better role model or to drive change; my role is to create structures and experiences that bring our community of staff members together to identify and solve their own issues and drive improvement. Holding these norming retreats has enabled this structure of experiences for our administrative staff.

This norming process has become an important piece of being able for our school community to answer the question of “What can we create together?” I believe we are creating a community of continual improvement and one where our teachers are valued as professionals and given the feedback and resources to be the very best. I am attaching images of our notes from our latest norming retreat so you can see what went on:

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Community Is The Culture

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-6-26-00-amThis past week I had the opportunity with Mike Fleisch to do a design sprint (what others would call a workshop) on our school’s Focused Leader Academy. During our design sprint we built models together of what a community would look like where there is a serious commitment to developing leaders. I told the design sprint participants that I now described what we were doing as community building, not culture building. Culture emerges from the past values we develop together. I would rather us live in the context of the world we live in now and, more importantly, how do we want the world to be. With this worldview in mind, we wanted the group think about what a community of people in a school could create together.file

Daniel Goleman said “Executives who can effectively focus on others emerge as natural leaders regardless of organizational or social rank.” These leaders are the ones who find common ground, whose opinions carry the most weight, and with whom other people want to work.They emerge as natural leaders regardless of organizational or social rank. As leaders we need focus on others, which is the foundation of empathy and of an ability to build social relationships.

As a leader I believe it is important for me to be available to stakeholders so that I have the opportunity to meet others, engage in conversation, and share thoughts, ideas and concerns, and to build community and a sense of belonging. It has been my experience that those I serve have lots of wisdom, the ability to make connections, and to help come up with solutions. screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-6-39-50-am

Peter Block said “We will never eliminate our need for great leaders and people on the stage; we just cannot afford to put all our experience and future in their hands.” To be a transformative leader we must create communities (a community can be our organization, school, or business too) that produce deeper relatedness across boundaries. Additionally we need to  create new conversations that focus on the gifts and capacities of others.

“Leaders are held to three tasks: to shift the context within which people gather, name the debate through powerful questions, and listen rather than advocate, defend, or provide answers.” ~ Peter Block

I have now begun to talk in terms of community instead of culture. We need to begin to think of all the contexts we operate within are communities. Community then grows out of the possibilities of those in our communities. It is those citizens that build our communities. I have learned that the culture is the set of shared values that emerges from the history of experience and the story that is produced out of that. It is the past that gives us our identity and corrals our behavior in order to preserve that identity. Context is the way we see the world. Peter Block taught us to see the world, not remember the world. screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-6-41-26-am

So, as we continue to improve the communities in which we live, work, and lead we need to continually ask the question “What can we create together?” This emerges from the social space we create when we are together.

I Count You Twice!

Today is Thanksgiving – a joyous and festive kickoff to the holiday season. Many of us have a lot to be thankful for, including family and friends, and I’m especially thankful that I’m able to serve as a leader making significant strides in education. I also very thankful for all those I work with, serve, or have associations with. I am particularly thankful for all teachers who put in on the line every day for our sons and daughters. Please know that when I count my blessings I count you twice!

During this holiday season, take time to reflect on what you are thankful for. While we have many improvements to make in our educational community, and always will, we have many things to be thankful for. 

Education options are more flexible than ever. Not too many years ago, proximity and zip code was a crucial part of education. If you didn’t live near a school, you were unlikely to have any access to it. The ability to have choices had made all the difference for huge numbers of our children and adults. 

Today, we are more connected to k-12 and postsecondary education than ever before. There are evening classes, online options for both secondary and traditional college programs, and certificate programs for people who want to learn a specific set of skills or continue their professional growth. 

As I reflect this morning on my education, both past and present, I am thankful that I was taught to think critically, solve problems creatively, analyze and be open to the world around us, and most importantly how to learn. I believe it is important for us to remember that it is during our education we learn our sense of community.  Within a school setting, a child quickly learns the importance of teamwork and cooperation. A school requires a joint effort to be safe and clean. That’s when our children learn first-hand that everyone can make a difference and everyone’s efforts are important. 

I am also thankful schools don’t just teach our children academic curriculum. Schools are also helping our children develop into respectful global citizens. It is at school that our children are presented with life lessons they may not have learned at home.providing our children with lessons in acceptance. Our children are learning that not everyone speaks the same language, wears the same types of clothes, or eats the same types of foods at lunches. And that’s all okay. Our children are learning to take time to truly understand others and embrace who they are. 

While our education system certainly has room for improvement across multiple factors, I believe we need to be thankful for all the great things happening in education. 

Your Life’s Journey Is Your Education

The Education of Henry AdamsThe Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book really caused me to do a great deal of reflection about education and my own education in particular. As a believer in lifelong learning, Adams assured me that investing in learning at any point in life is a sound investment. His teachings also made me reflect on the fact that living life is an education in and of itself. We need to make sure we are using the context in which we live and all the experiences to learn at the highest level. How do we do this? I believe we can learn from Adams that it is ok that we are ignorant at every new turn in life and that we need to begin learning from everyone and every experience we have. If I were to sum up the book in one statement it would be, “Your life’s journey is your education.”

In this book, Henry Adams is not talking about himself as much as he is of the education and the context in which he lived provided an education. Adams serves as the narrator in this book. At the writing he is in his late sixties and refers to himself in the third person. This is an interesting way to read an autobiography that I am not sure I like, but I got used to it. Sometimes his referring to himself in third person made it made it hard to follow, but in the context of making living life our education this was probably the right way to do it. In his “Preface,” he introduces the metaphor of a manikin, which represents Henry Adams. The various garments draped across the manikin represent his education. It was this metaphor and how all events proved learning that I formed the opinion that Adams believed in lifelong learning. He continually refers to his ignorance, which told me he was of a growth mindset long before the development of the “growth mindset” theory.

Adams tells his readers that any young man seeking education should expect no more from his teacher than the mastery of his tools. Leaning on the scientific approach that he develops in the education, he suggests that the student is merely a mass of energy. The education he seeks is a way to economize that energy. The training by the instructor is a manner of clearing obstacles from the path of the student. My take on Adams’ position is that a person’s life in its entirety is our education.

Adams wrote, “Probably no child, born in the year, held better cards than he.” Adams also told us that the world he lived was rapidly changing – as it does for all of us. It is a world of contrasts. It was this contrast that Adams used throughout the book to discuss his education. In the book Adams states that as yet he knows nothing. Even after graduating from Harvard, he did not believe his education had begun. My sense is he believed in learning by doing and being the person in the arena. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

– The Ego has … become a manikin on which the toilet of education is to be draped in order to show the fit or misfit of the clothes. The object of study is the garment, not the figure.

– Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.

– The object of education for that mind should be the teaching itself how to react with vigor and economy. No doubt the world at large will always lag so far behind the active mind as to make a soft cushion of inertia to drop upon, as it did for Henry Adams; but education should try to lessen the obstacles, diminish the friction, invigorate the energy, and should train minds to react, not at haphazard, but by choice, on the lines of force that attract their world.

And… my favorite of all the quotes: “Man does not concern himself with understanding how discoveries can be used. He will let the discovery show him how.” I really believe this reinforces my theory that Adams believed that our life’s journey is our education. How would you write the autobiography of your education? What do you need to be doing in your context to have it read how you would like it to? This book will cause you to reflect.

~ Dr. Byron L. Ernest

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The American Commonwealth

The American Commonwealth, part 1The American Commonwealth, part 1 by James Bryce

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is for anyone who wants to better understand the experiment in democracy that has become our great United States. Every aspect of our local, state, and federal government is covered in great detail from the Declaration of Independence to the turn of the 20th Century (I read the 1914 edition). It was interesting to learn Bryce’s views on Lincoln, the Civil War, and how our Constitution served as the navigational guide. I particularly valued the Part V Chapters on Public Opinion, Colleges & Universities, and voter suffrage.

This is a very academic read that causes reflection and further study. It took me almost a year to read (keep in mind I was reading other books at the same time), but it is well worth the investment. Every leader who wants to serve their community, state, and nation positively and significantly should read this book.

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I Get To Read!

I realize that, ideally, a fondness for books starts at home, but reading can become a habit through opportunities to read self-chosen books at school. Consumed by the urgency to raise students’ reading scores, some policy makers and school officials have forgotten that children learn to read by reading. I support “balanced literacy” instruction, which includes independent reading. All students should be given access to books they want to read throughout their schooling, and I dream of the day all pre-readers would have an adult who would read aloud to them everyday. Through independent reading children gain a wealth of background knowledge about many different things, come to understand story and non-fiction structures, absorb the essentials of English grammar, and continuously expand their vocabularies. Many also remember visually how to spell words.

Interestingly, it is the adult/child relationship to reading that prompted this post. This past week my son needed to pick a book to read for his sophomore English class. Yep, you heard me right, he got to choose. First of all, I was excited by that! In my view students should get to choose what they read. If you want to hear my story of how I got turned on to being the rabid reader I am today click here to read “Reading Big Red.” Short of the long story – I hated reading until I got to pick my first book (not till middle school mind you). Now I read 70-80 books a year. So, I’m sure you can see why I was excited for Heath to get to pick a book he wanted to read – just typing here I just can’t see why people don’t get this concept – picking your own book makes it about the reader (student centered). Research has shown that letting children choose their own books could in fact make them better readers. When you think back to your own classroom experience, being assigned one book to read as a class was often a dreadful experience. Teachers would assign students to read a some classic and, instead of being enamored with this classic tale, students were often less than thrilled. That was me and has also been my son Heath’s experience, too.

Back to the story – Heath came home all excited (think about this; he’s coming home from school excited!) about the book he had picked: Tough As They Come by Travis Mills. Heath proceeded to tell me all about the book and Travis Mills. Travis is a retired United States Army Staff Sergeant and what he calls a recalibrated warrior. He is now a motivational speaker, actor, author and an advocate for veterans and amputees. In his book, Tough as They Come, Travis shares his journey of serving our country. Despite losing portions of both arms and legs from an IED while on active duty in Afghanistan, Travis continues to overcome life’s challenges, breaking physical barriers and defying odds. Travis lives by his motto: “Never give up. Never quit.” 

Think about what just happened here:

  1. My son chose a book
  2. My son wanted to read a book (Not to sound like Donald Trump, but this is HUGE!)
  3. My son had researched about a book and the author
  4. My son was going to get a role model and mentor, Travis Mills, through the power of reading

I thought this was the coolest day ever. I read to Heath when he was younger every night and then rubbed his back till he went to sleep (He would not want me to tell that, but these were some of the greatest moments as a dad), but now he was explaining a book he wanted to read to me. And… as if it could not get any better… Heath proceeded to say, “Let’s both download this book and read it together Dad. I think you’ll really like it.” I ask you you, “How does it get any better than that?” My sophomore in high school son wants to read a book with his dad! Well it does get better – Heath has agreed to write a guest blog post about the book for me! Watch for it soon.

Here’s the deal: giving students a choice has been linked with scholastic achievement. Some researchers believe that when students (especially boys) are free to choose what they want to read, they will read for pleasure. Reading for pleasure has been linked with scholastic achievement in school. Furthermore, students will read for pleasure and enjoy reading. When children can freely choose what they want to read, they will be reading for pleasure, not because there is an assignment due. A choice allows children to be enthusiastic about what they are reading, and in turn they will be engaged.

I realize there are books and other literary pieces we need to have our children reading, but I believe we need to give students control of their own reading. Allow them to make their own choices and they will explore more genres. Expose your students to books they love and you will see that they will not only read for pleasure, but enjoy what they are reading. I have always said we need to change the mindset from, “I have to read.” to “I get to read!” We can do this and student choice is one piece of it.

Think about this as a conversation starter and relationship builder with your children and students: “So, what are you reading right now?”

Leading By Accident

Not too long ago I was sent a screen shot of a post on FaceBook (I don’t do FaceBook, so someone had to send it to me) – check out the picture with this post for the message. When I read the post I realized that while I live and lead according to what works for me, the core values of the organization I work for, and my personal core values, my efforts to become my best self have the capacity to positively affect people I didn’t even know were paying close attention. People I never would have thought were finding inspiration in anything I do, however, were telling me the opposite, and were indicating that my decisions about my own life, the way I led, and taking chances on them had inspired them to take chances in their own lives. I started to think about all the people who motivate and inspire me just by being themselves, and I surmised that they (we) are all leading by accident. We do our thing for our own reasons. But by being true to that thing, we may very well help people find their own thing, perhaps by creating a path that didn’t exist or illuminating one so others can see it. Hum… could it be this what empowerment really looks like?

Even if we don’t get to hear about how our lives affect others, they do. We are all leaders by accident in our own ways. Just as Dr. Alexander Fleming stumbled onto Penicillan in the 1920’s we stumble our way into others’ lives. Leadership lesson #14 from John Parker Stewart in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader, told the story of how Dr. Fleming discovered the bacteria killing mold, Penicillan, by accident. It ultimately took two other scientists to help make commercial production of Penicillan a reality. Had it not been for Dr. Fleming’s belief in what the accidental discover could do for humanity, who knows what would have happened, or where we would be today.

Even though in the formal sense we may not be leading that all the time – in our jobs, in our roles as parents, siblings, friends, et cetera; we really are being a leader (by accident) every moment of every day. The post from Reuben drove home for me the absolute truth of that statement. We may not be motivated by the desire to demonstrate leadership qualities when we become the arbiters of our own, most authentic lives, but we kind of can’t help it, it seems. So, go out there and lead by accident and intentionality. 

 

 

Social Complexity 

For each of the last two days I blogged about Dynamic Complexity and Generative Complexity respectively. My inspiration for these posts has been the book by Adam Kahane titled Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities. I feel compelled to write about the third complexity he offered in the book: Social Complexity. As Kahane (2004) taught us: “[S]ocial complexity requires us to talk not just with people who see things the same way we do, but especially with those who see things differently, even those we don’t like. We must stretch way beyond our comfort zone” (p. 75). Wow, how true this is. Think about this for a minute; how many times when trying to solve complex issues do we really listen to those who think differently, see the world differently, or just flat-out don’t like us? 

“Roughly, by a complex system I mean one made up of a large number of parts that interact in a nonsimple way. In such systems, the whole is more than the sum of the parts, not in an ultimate, metaphysical sense, but in the important pragmatic sense that, given the properties of the parts and the laws of their interaction, it is not a trivial matter to infer the properties of the whole. In the face of complexity, an in-principle reductionist may be at the same time a pragmatic holist.” ~  Herbert Simon in his 1962 article, “The Architecture of Complexity.”

I look at social complexity as being complicated by the very nature that we cannot provide a simple model of the system that adds up and makes sense of, or can predict the independent behaviors of the parts; rather, the parts are influenced in their behaviors by the behaviors of other people, groups, organization, governments, or even populations. This is in contrast with the simple system of an internal combustion engine. It might seem very complex, but really it is simple because every part, both moving and not, has a function and order in which to do that function.

In a spark ignition engine, the fuel is mixed with air and then inducted into the cylinder during the intake process. After the piston compresses the fuel-air mixture, the spark ignites it, causing combustion. The expansion of the combustion gases pushes the piston during the power stroke. In a diesel engine, only air is inducted into the engine and then compressed. Diesel engines then spray the fuel into the hot compressed air at a suitable, measured rate, causing it to ignite. This all very hierarchical in that everything happens in a specific order that never changes.

Let’s now contrast this with the social complexity and causal processes (sub-systems) that make up our education system. And consider some aggregate properties we may be interested in such as state law and policy, federal law and policy, political dynamics, local community social differences, socio-economic factors, race, mobility, or the social and emotional needs of our students to just name a few. Some of the processes that influence these properties are designed (Every Student Succeeds Act, school boards {both state and local}, school management systems), but many are not. Instead, they are the result of separate and non-teleological processes leading to the present. And there is often a high degree of causal interaction among these separate processes. As a result, it might be more reasonable to expect that social systems are likely to embody greater complexity and less decomposability than systems like an internal combustion engine.

“To create new realities, we have to listen reflectively. It is not enough to be able to hear clearly the chorus of other voices; we must also hear the contribution of our own voice. It is not enough to be able to see others in the picture of what is going on; we must also see what others are doing. It is not enough to be observers of the problem situation; we must recognize ourselves as actors who influence the outcome.” ~ Adam Kahane

This reminds me of a legislative panel I am on right now to look at and make recommendations to our state legislature on our high stakes summative state testing (required by the Every Student Succeeds Act – ESSA). This committee is made up of 23 different individuals and appointed by different entities. My appointment comes as being the representative of the Indiana State Board of Education. Needless to say, we have lots of social complexity. Needless to say it has been awkward and tenuous navigating on this panel. Here are some things I have learned from Kahane (2004) to help us as leaders:

  • To solve a complex problem, we have to immerse ourselves in and open up to its full complexity.
  • Our core tasks need to be to “widen the circle” and “deepen the bench.”
  • Tough problems can only be solved if people talk openly, and in many situations this takes real courage.
  • Listen openly. 

I close with Kahane’s (2004) definition of listening: [T]he process of taking in something new and being unsettled and changed by it” (p. 69). I ask you: Are you a leader who listens?

References

Kahane, A. (2004). Solving tough problems: An open way of talking, listening, and creating new realities. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Significance, Influence, & Leadership

IMG_3517It has been said that leadership is influence. This is so true, and I was reminded of this today. I had the honor of being part of a book launch and signing at one of our local Barnes and Noble stores today for author, Eugene M. Helveston MD. He wrote the book The Second Decade: Raising Kids to be Happy, Self-Sufficient Adults through Work (2016). I learned of the book through Indiana Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma. He sent me a copy of the book and asked that I read it and think about how this book could be used to influence others in helping to develop and educate our children. I was excited to get the book and, of course, immediately read it. Come on, the Speaker of the House sends you a book and asks you to read it, well, you read it! And…of course, I started tweeting about it. Next thing you know I’m tweeting back and forth with Speaker Bosma and, lo and behold I’m suddenly tweeting with Dr. Helveston. Then, I’m being invited to attend a book signing via twitter. I continue to be amazed by the power of twitter. Well, of course I am going to the book signing – one of my most valued collections is of my author signed books. So, now that I have set the stage let’s get to some content in this post.IMG_3516

It was such an honor to have Speaker Bosma introduce me to Dr. Helveston before the event started. Little did I know I was being introduced by a man, Speaker Bosma, who has had a great deal of influence on me (to read about that, click here) to another man, Dr. Helveston, who would influence me immensely in just the few minutes of visiting and listening to him speak at the event. One of the most powerful things he said to me was, “This research and book is a project I have started really late in my life and career.” With this statement he had me hooked as someone who absolutely knows how to be significant in life. As a believer that there is no such thing as retirement – only significance in the second half, I was certain I had met an icon of being significant, not just successful. This has been a topic of interest of mine for some time now. In fact I have blogged about it in “Significance: Impacting Outside Yourself.”

IMG_3521As we talked, it was evident that Dr. Helveston wants to continue to have an influence on the world and particularly on our youth. He wants to find influential ways to have the ideas and framework brought forth in his book to really make a difference. Make no mistake, Dr. Helveston is a successful doctor, but I was truly in the presence of an influential and significant person and leader. There were individuals in attendance who were mentioned in the book and I could quickly see the influence this great man had on their lives. This very humble man clearly has had an influence on everyone he has come in contact with and is significant. Leaders, like Dr. Helveston, that strive to be significant seek to create the greatest impact and influence.  These are the types of leaders that we value the most; inspired by their courage and resiliency, we seek to emulate them. Here I was in the presence of two such leaders – Dr. Helveston and Speaker Bosma. These are the leaders that can get the most out of very little, are grateful for the opportunity to lead, and always treat others like family. It was very evident from all the stories that every patient of Dr. Helveston became family. Speaker Bosma told the story of how they had met when he became the doctor of his son. Now, years later, there is still a very close relationship between Dr. Helveston and the Bosma family. IMG_3522

Great leaders are the most memorable, influential, and significant. They go about their day leveraging their distinction by leading in ways that come most naturally to them. This is so true, because I might not even had read the book had there not been a leader in my life that turned me on to reading. Had there not been a Mrs. Wilking in my life I might not have become the leader I have because I would not have had the learning from reading I have been afforded. You can learn of the birth of my love of reading by checking out “Reading Big Red.” Click here to read the post. Significant leaders are those who enjoy sharing their wisdom and secrets of success. Dr. Helveston has certainly done this in his book. Leadership is a process of influencing others. Dr. Helveston is without a doubt influencing others with the framework for developing our children suggested in this book.

The Second Decade: Raising Kids to be Happy, Self-Sufficient Adults through Work (2016) is an incredible book that really makes you think and want to take action. I wrote the following in both my Goodreads and Amazon five start review of the book:

“Everyone who is a parent, teacher, or in a position to influence children either directly or by policy should read this book! In this book, Dr. Helveston recognizes the need for what I will call internships – meaningful work. The five actions developed in this book of:
1. Plan ahead for a quality education pursued with an eye on the future;
2. Learn life lessons and useful skills from the work you perform and the people you meet;
3. Seek advice and inspiration from mentors throughout your life;
4. Recognized that nothing is accomplished without time and effort; and
5. Pursue honest and productive work
are well developed, researched, and referenced so the reading can use the book as a guide. This book can serve as a framework for anyone who believes as I do, that helping parents teach their children to gain academic skills through a quality education and acquire practical skills learned by working is an invaluable component to a lifetime of success. Again, this is the must read book of all who want success for all children.”

IMG_3523Dr. Helveston posited in the book that there is an important activity that seems to be getting lost amid meaningless structure—holding down a job outside the home, for money. He argued that more than any other activity, work adds meaning to the knowledge learned in books and gives depth to the values instilled at home. I really agree with this and the research would concur. In fact, this is why I believe internships are so important in young people’s lives. This workplace development orientation requires inculcating good character traits within the young person, which will help them to carry out their professional respon­sibilities throughout the rest of their lives.

The idea of the “inclusive middle class” is one that really jumped out at me in the book. This really drove home why it is important for us to make sure we are carrying out and teaching our children the five actions listed above. Dr. Helveston said:

“But the future offers a two-way street. A position attained is never guaranteed. A person can attain more or accomplish less. Success can be in the form of financial security or with the attainment of other worthwhile goals. In either case, it takes effort to keep and possibly improve one’s place in society.” ~ Dr. Eugene Helveston (2016, p. 25) 

Those who understand this will certainly have a leg up in society. We have an obligation to the children of the world to be providing them with the experiences to learn these facts. One way to formalize this would be to ramp up our internship programs both at the post-secondary level and in our high school programs. What better way to give our students the real life experiences necessary to help them be successful, happy, and functional citizens. Dr. Helveston’s book provides a guide and framework for educators, parents, and policymakers to help our children understand what opportunities are available to them and facilitate the journey to become their best selves.

Career Readiness for All?

indexI had the privilege of meeting and hearing from Dr. Nancy Hoffman of Jobs for the Future yesterday at our fourth Panel to Study Alternatives to the ISTEP+ Program Test. Our objective of having Dr. Hoffman was to discuss how we assess career readiness under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). I really saw a great deal of the value in the information she was presenting to us and wanted to share. Here are some facts she started with:

  • The unemployment rate among Hoosiers age 16 to 19 year old is about 15%.
  • Missing out on jobs during the late tees can have negative effects throughout a person’s working life.
  • A young person who doesn’t get work experience between 16 and 19 is missing a major developmental experience.
  • The economy suffers because of the above bullet points.

I was also struck by the idea of disconnected youth: those who are not in school or working – “have lower wages and marriage rates, higher incarceration and unemployment rates, worse health, less job satisfaction, and eve less happiness as adults than people who did not experience youth disconnection. Just as early successes breed optimism, early setbacks plant the seeds of hopelessness.”

“It’s not just about young people: The economy needs prepared young people.” ~ Dr. Nancy Hoffman

  • Far too many young people complete a postsecondary degree/credential.
  • STEM fields hold promise; employers struggle to find skilled employees.
  • High school is not working for far too many young people
  • Careers increasingly require postsecondary education and work readiness skills and experience.
  • Education workforce, and economic development are inextricably connected.

“In my utopia, all high school students would have a structured work experience – just as 70% of young people do in Switzerland.” ~ Dr. Nancy Hoffman

Indiana is ahead of most states in having a law requiring career readiness activities starting in elementary school. Indiana has a career readiness definition which includes all students. Additionally, Indiana has career exploration courses. We provide Career and Technical Education (CTE) dual enrollment and we have strong CTE results.

Here are some questions that states need to be asking and addressing:

  1. What is the state’s definition of career readiness?
  2. Does the state want to focus on all students or exclusively CTE students?
  3. Are college and career preparation the same or different?
  4. How should various options be valued and weighed?