This week is heavy with emotions. After the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Black people across the country, we mourn with our Black students who are again reminded that institutional and systemic racism are real and of the barriers they face. We want to be clear that ACAC and ACT believe that Black Lives Matter. Black Students Matter. Equitable treatment – in education, as in all our systems – matters.
None of us were prepared for a pandemic these past three months, and the #BlackLivesMatter protests across the country remind us our work is not finished. The ACAC team is taking time to pause and reflect on the work we have done supporting students through a pandemic and how to ensure ACAC continues reaching your most vulnerable students. We encourage you to do the same. The class of 2020 will still need guidance in the decisions they have made, some of which may be very different from what they anticipated. And a new batch of seniors – the class of 2021 – are anxiously wondering what the next school year will bring. ACT’s Interim CEO Janet Godwin stated, “Never have our schools and education systems been more critical than they are at this moment. Ensuring that all students have equitable access to education is a bedrock for a healthy, just, and inclusive democracy.” Let it be a reminder of why we dedicate our careers to helping more students navigate the college-going journey.
Though the 2019 college application season seems a lifetime ago, we would like to take this moment to share our results. Because of your hard work, as reported by ACAC states on the 2019 annual survey, we reached nearly 7,300 host sites who assisted more than 763,000 students who submitted 1.2 million college applications! And we know these are conservative numbers as not all host sites submit data.
Last month, ACAC virtually hosted its annual national convening, bringing together the state campaign coordinators and a few of our national partners. Though we were not together in person, the energy and dedication for this work was still very present. Our state campaign coordinators are ready to do the work and adjust our application campaign efforts no matter what the 2020-21 school year looks like.
Lastly, the 2020 campaign resources were recently updated and are available on the ACAC website at https://equityinlearning.act.org/acac/resources/. We anticipate adding a few more resources this summer as we develop new materials to support the transition to virtual and distant application events where needed. If you have ideas or suggestions for new resources, email us at [email protected].
Please continue to monitor our social media and this newsletter for updates on new resources, webinars, and Twitter chats. We look forward to kicking off the college application season on Friday, September 18 for #WhyApply Day with you.
State Spotlight: Massachusetts
How One MA District Engaged Their Career-Bound Students During Application Events
Author: Krista Callinan, GEAR UP financial literacy coordinator, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education
Catherine Knowles, liaison for college and career readiness at Worcester Public Schools, has proudly organized college application events for a few years, but felt like something – or someone – was missing. In Massachusetts, college application campaign events are titled MA College Application Celebration, but this name got Worcester Public Schools thinking about equity and inclusion. What about the students who are career-bound? What about the students who are going into the military?
With a simple tweak to the campaign name – MA College & Career Application Celebration (MCCAC) – Worcester school district 2019 campaign events included traditional colleges and universities as well as workforce organizations from the community. The goal of the events was to ensure every student had the opportunity to apply to college and to speak with career representatives on what their future may hold if they got a job right after high school.
Knowles, the driving force behind this transition, noted it was two years in the making but it was definitely worth the extra effort to expand the campaign to include career. Worcester Public Schools is the second-largest school district in Massachusetts, with more than 7,800 students in grades 9-12 across eight high schools.
“In most instances on the scheduled MCCAC days in Worcester, workforce development people had tables alongside colleges where students could seamlessly explore both: college application prospects and workforce opportunities,” said Knowles.
The eight events – one at each high school in the district – sent a clear message that Worcester was celebrating all students and their transition to postsecondary success. Students were able to talk to different businesses and organizations in the community. These informational sessions helped students understand what a future career could look like. You might say it was like a pre-interview. Students left with the full knowledge of all options available to them. College and workforce development representatives left with lists of students that were interested in the college or career/jobs that were represented.
Host sites and school districts interested in engaging workforce development into their ACAC events should find a champion within their district or community to lead the effort. For Worcester Public Schools, Knowles had local workforce representatives at the table talking about what this event would look like from the inception of the idea. She engaged the business community as well as the college representatives who have attended their events in the past. One lesson learned for future in-person events is to have more high school counselors at the planning meetings from the beginning to mitigate any logistical issues that may come up along the way.
As the state campaign coordinator for Massachusetts College Application Celebration, we were thrilled to learn our second largest district wanted to engage workforce development. While the goal of Massachusetts College Application Celebration is to give every graduating senior the opportunity to complete at least one college application, it is important our campaign events support students in whatever decisions they ultimately make for planning life after high school. By being inclusive of all postsecondary pathways, we are placing value in all of them and showing students that all options are available to them.
If you have questions about how Worcester Public Schools expanded its events to include workforce development, please email Krista Callinan at [email protected].
Seniors at North High School in Worcester participate in their Massachusetts College & Career Application Celebration event.
Partner Spotlight: ACTE
Supporting High-quality Career and Technical Education
Author: LeAnn Wilson, executive director, Association for Career and Technical Education®
With a mission focused on providing educational leadership to develop a competitive workforce, the Association for Career and Technical Education® (ACTE) is the largest national education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for career success. ACTE provides professional and leadership development, national advocacy, dissemination of promising practices, and recognition of exemplary leaders to its 25,000 secondary and postsecondary members and the greater field of 200,000+ CTE educators, administrators, school counselors, and other career development professionals.
A national network of affiliated partners helps support this mission and form the backbone of CTE organizing and advocacy at the state and local level. These affiliates, many of which are volunteer-led, are ideal partners to connect with statewide college application campaigns to determine how best to coordinate and support college application events.
Today’s CTE courses have evolved to meet the demands of a complex, technology-driven economy. New courses include a broad range of offerings, from cybersecurity to geospatial systems, biotechnology and many others in the health science sphere. Even traditional offerings such as agriculture, automotive, construction, and manufacturing have become STEM-infused.
ACTE has developed resources to help the CTE field and other communities to better understand these changes and the program improvements that are needed to support today’s students, including those traditionally from underserved populations. Two examples of this work include a series of Sector Sheets describing CTE’s role in growing the qualified workforce for vital industry sectors, and development of an evidence-based High Quality CTE Program of Study Framework outlining criteria that CTE programs must be thinking about to meet today’s educational standards.
In 2018, Congress approved the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, known as Perkins V. This latest iteration of the federal law that governs and supports CTE will effect programs as they continue to grow to meet new demands. ACTE has been instrumental in providing both legislative advocacy and implementation support to states and locals who are using the new law to enhance CTE program quality and equity. Central to the new law is ensuring business and community input as programming is developed. Now is a great time to reach out to programs at the local level as needs are being discussed and plans are being developed.
Another important aspect of ACTE’s work is its connection with business and industry. ACTE’s Coalition for Workforce Development Through CTE works with 50+ trade associations, all collaborating with ACTE to address workforce skills challenges. A growing part of our role is to help communicate the many careers that exist across industries so that programs and counselors can share these opportunities for students to consider.
Almost all students today will require some form of postsecondary education. ACTE and its state affiliates are interested in providing students the broad range of options available to them so that they can make the best decisions about continuing their education and entry into the workforce. This includes four-year college pathways as well as other postsecondary options, industry-recognized credentials, apprenticeships, and the list goes on.
Today’s CTE is vibrant and relevant. We don’t know what changes the future brings but ACTE will be there serving the community to support students and the economy. ACAC state campaign coordinators – don’t be shy. Reach out to ACTE state associations and introduce yourself. Host site coordinators can similarly reach out to local CTE programs and ask they support your school or organization’s college application event.
Start Strong, Stay Strong: Persisting Through Summer Transitions
Author: Bryan Contreras, vice president, K12 & education partnerships, myOptions
Over the past few weeks, I have spent several beautiful evenings in Houston on the front yards of my close friends’ homes celebrating their kids’ high school graduations from a safe social distance. The yards and houses are decorated in honor of the “2020 grad”, and I must admit, there are some very clever, or dare I say, very proud parents. Yard signs bear everything about these rising college students…honor society, choir, football, soccer, cheer, music, band, cum laude, summa cum laude, and magna cum laude. With social distancing in mind, friends and families are forced to change how they share in this “life milestone” as they drive by to honk, wave, and smile. However, there is one thing that this pandemic has not stolen from our lives, and that is our ability to show all our love for these young adults that are so full of joy, passion, and a drive to jump into “the world” after high school.
So, as I sat with friends and their grads, and had some casual conversation with them about their plans for college and whether they were all set, I could see the panic and anxiety consume their faces around their big smiles despite our celebration. And, in some cases, a few tears welled up in their eyes. Our friends at Mawi Learning recently surveyed a group of college-bound students to ask how they were feeling in the midst of the pandemic and most shared they are anxious and worried about their futures. This is just one sample of students, but it is a harsh reminder to me about how much support and help students need in their transition into college or career after high school graduation. And, as any great college counselor would do, I lined up a handful of Zoom calls over the next few weeks to help the student and families “plan for the plan.” The inspiration for this month’s college counseling article comes by way of those students and families.
In the work to serve students and ensure that they are successful in college or career, it takes a ton of planning and dedication from passionate educators, and these educators I personally believe are servant leaders. If you step back and calculate all the hours of blood, sweat, and tears to help students walk across the high school graduation stage, it is eye opening. It can be argued that the same amount of time and resources should be dedicated to support those same students after graduation, and into college. This strategy, or what some would consider the true last leg of student support in their journey to and through college is affectionately called, “Persistence”.
Persistence falls under the larger umbrella of college counseling services; however, it is still relatively new to some teams, organizations, and schools. It can be a powerful piece in driving critical outcomes like college matriculation and college completion rates. The work of a school counselor has moved beyond just getting students admitted to college(s), they now must consider success outcomes that shed light on how well programs are serving students through the optics of college completion rates for individual students.
There are amazing models of Persistence efforts across the nation and many best practices that can serve as a springboard for programs that seek to add this to their services. Believe it or not, these models are not always built on large budgets. One Persistence program launches their efforts with a “Start Strong, Stay Strong” campaign message to students and families. There are four other areas that underpin the work of “staying strong” and they are:
- have a passion, purpose, and plan;
- know who you are;
- network and navigate; and
- be financially fit.
Mentors know that team always beats individual, and that students have been graced with key teachers, counselors, coaches, mentors, family, and others along the way to help them during their climb to college and career. It’s so important to continue to coach students to surround themselves with these same mentors in life after high school. Most important to that plan is for mentors to ask students “who has your back?” Most excellent Persistence program models will include end-of-year kick off events that introduce students to their Persistence coaches, host workshops to finalize all necessary documents prior to first day of classes, FERPA sign off drives (to include mentors), parent and family workshops to guide them through all the emails and university websites, and a simple communication plan to stay connected with students over the summer months. In the current environment, many of these may need to be done through creative measures: online meetings via your favorite meeting platform, curbside counseling at a safe distance, or through phone calls.
Persistence programs can include other key components that may require some budget dollars like: designing and maintaining an alumni database, new human resources (most likely grant funded), current team time, communication resources/ tools, and administrative reporting tools. All of these are important for bringing services to scale in your program. It’s important to remember that all alumni Persistence programs start small, and then they scale. This allows for programs to build culture and investment from all necessary stakeholders. Now is a great time of year to launch a Persistence team for students in your area.
If you’re interested in learning more about Persistence program models, or how best to introduce and support your colleagues that have an interest in these types of initiatives, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].
A family celebrates their Kingwood High School senior by decorating their front lawn outside of north Houston.
Western Hills High School in Fort Worth celebrates the Class of 2020 with a Senior Salute and Signing Day.