A New Year’s Musing

A New Year’s Musing

While listening to a story on public radio the other day about the plight of unemployed workforce members over 50 without more than a high school education, I was brought up short by the reality expressed by the commentator’s guest. Asked about the opportunity for these workers to upgrade their education or retrain for a different occupation, the expert replied, “As I think about members of the workforce 50 and older, whose last experience with math was probably in high school, I find it hard to imagine them going back to school now.  There is too much catching up to do.” As disappointing as it was, the expert’s response was also enlightening about the reality these workers face — and how our educational system, in hindsight, may have failed them. When they were in school, the goal for many of these workers was to get enough education to fill the manufacturing jobs available at the time, while a select group pursued higher education. We didn’t foresee the need to provide them with the additional skills necessary to adapt to a world that would change right beneath their feet. A recent feature on Bloomberg.com illustrates the dramatic shift in skills required in the new world of manufacturing, with a focus on people skills and problem solving rather than repetitive tasks — or even computer programming. Today, thousands of dedicated professionals are deeply committed to helping adult workers set new directions for their working lives. We hope this includes providing their clients with tools to help them adapt to, and embrace, change in the future. We tip our hat to them...
Can we afford to leave this glass half full?

Can we afford to leave this glass half full?

A lot has been written about the challenges of helping first-year, post secondary students persist to graduation.  Low persistence rates mean fewer students graduate and enter the workforce as skilled workers. In this sense, our ability to increase persistence has a direct impact on the quality of our workforce and our ability to compete in the future global economy. We’ve written a white paper on this subject, The Need for First Year Experience Programs, that summarizes research on the effectiveness of First Year Experience programs for those institutions still on the fence about offering a robust, accredited program to all entering freshmen. In short, here’s what we learned: According to the Lumina Foundation, there will be a consistent, and widening, gap between the millions of jobs in the future requiring at least a 2-year degree, and the supply of college graduates to fill those jobs. The economic opportunity glass, if you will, will be left unfilled if we do nothing. Filling this gap will require that we prepare more high school students to be “college ready” and increase their persistence on to post secondary graduation. A review of literature on robust, first year programs designed to support students and increase their persistence suggests that these programs are effective. A non-empirical review of the programs currently available to students reveals that many institutions offer a freshman orientation course, usually taking a single day of information on healthy living habits and reviewing the institution’s student conduct code.  Other institutions offer remedial courses in math or English and consider this enough. In our opinion, neither approach is completely adequate. The first year programs that...
Social emotional learning is at the center of improving student achievement

Social emotional learning is at the center of improving student achievement

We’ve all heard about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs. Usually they are considered augmentations to curriculum intended to improve standardized test scores.   However, there is growing empirical evidence that SEL programs can significantly impact student academic performance. In a recent article in the peer-reviewed journal Child Development, the authors from Loyola University and the University of Illinois at Chicago provide a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning programs involving 270,034 K-12 students. According to the analysis, “Compared to controls, SEL participants demonstrated significantly improved social emotional skills, attitudes, behavior and academic performance that reflected an 11 percentile-point gain in achievements.” Given the positive impact SEL has on student achievement, we believe more schools should be adopting robust, measurable SEL programs aimed at addressing the student’s social and emotional learning as a core to curriculum. TransformingEd, a nonprofit that supports districts and states in implementing programs to equip students with the mindsets, skills and habits they need to succeed,  identifies four factors in building strong emotional and social skills with students: Developing a Growth Mindset – students with a growth mindset believe that ability can change as a result of effort, perseverance and practice Self Management – the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors effectively in different situations Self Efficacy – the belief in one’s ability to succeed in achieving an outcome or reaching a goal Social Awareness – the ability to take the perspective of, and empathize with, others from diverse backgrounds and cultures The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has developed its own SEL standards in its ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors for Student Success, aimed at building student...
Student success isn’t just about college attainment

Student success isn’t just about college attainment

Much has been written about the need for us to increase attendance and graduation rates at today’s two- and four-year institutions in the national quest to have 60% of Americans holding a degree, certificate or other high quality credential by 2025. According to Lumina Foundation, an independent foundation focused on expanding student success and access to postsecondary education, we’re making progress. The proportion of the U.S. population between the ages of 25 and 64 who hold a two- or four-year college degree reached 40.4% in 2014, a 2.1% increase since this measure was first reported in 2008. Degree attainment has increased even faster among adults aged 25 to 34 during the same period, equal to 42.3% in 2014, a 4.5% increase over the same measure in 2008. As encouraging as these trends are, most experts agree they are not enough to reach our 2025 goal. Lumina projects 35.7 million Americans will earn postsecondary credentials that will count toward Goal 2025. However, they also project an additional 10.9 million Americans between the ages of 15 and 54 would need to be added to reach the 60% goal by 2025. It’s no wonder college attainment is on every educator’s mind these days. But there are those who see the educational challenge as going beyond college attainment to include encouraging development of specific skills that will be necessary for students to thrive and persist in college and in the coming century. Organizations like the Partnership for 21st Century Learning are hard at work partnering with states to make sure K-12 students develop the deeper, critical skills they will need to be productive and...
It’s time to look outside our classrooms to improve student outcomes

It’s time to look outside our classrooms to improve student outcomes

We’ve all heard Albert Einstein’s definition of madness: doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results.  It seems to me that we are stuck in this kind of endless loop when it comes to improving the educational outcomes of our students. The stakes are high.  One read through a local newspaper or educational journal gives a bleak picture of student performance, achievement gaps and graduation rates. The current round of debate is entrenched around standardized tests, disagreements over what they measure, and how test results reflect on the quality of the education we’re providing students.  It’s a system based on applying more discipline, more testing, more competition, stress and more accountability. This same debate has raged in educational circles for over 25 years, yet student outcomes have not measurably improved during that time.  And in some cases they have diminished. One might be tempted to conclude we’re focused on the wrong thing when it comes to student outcomes.  By extension, you might ask yourself what is working? A recent article in The Hechinger Report points to Finland, and a very different educational system that was built by “breaking all the rules” as we know them in the U.S.  Some interesting differences include: Teachers are encouraged to experiment in their classrooms and aren’t bound by a rigid bureaucracy. They are expected to be the creative engine behind curriculum, not implementers of top-down policy decisions or standardized tests. Teachers are highly trained. No teacher is allowed to teach in a classroom without a master’s degree in education, with specialization in research and classroom practice. Teachers are respected professionals....
In the push to measure student success, some schools are getting it right

In the push to measure student success, some schools are getting it right

You can’t run a Google search for “student testing” without turning up over half a billion references, almost all about the swirling waters around standardized tests and their pros and cons.  And yet, a recent article in The New York Times describes another growing movement to help students succeed: understanding, teaching and measuring K-12 students’ emotional and social skills. It’s about time.  Educators have long known that measuring the 3Rs only evaluates a part of what makes students successful.  Not only do we know that having engaged parents makes a huge difference, but a growing body of evidence also shows how building strong social skills as early as kindergarten can have a dramatic impact on success and satisfaction later in life. Organizations like  CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) and ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) are hard at work integrating this important focus on emotional and social intelligence in their programs. It makes sense.  We all have learned through experience how important social and emotional behavior skills are in getting along in life.  Now there is empirical evidence that focusing on these skills in the classroom serves our students well. At Human eSources, we’ve long believed that increasing self-awareness of their personality, preferences, skills and talents brings students tremendous confidence in their ability to navigate the everyday challenges they face.  Our products have helped millions of K-12 students understand how to leverage their strengths, gain clarity over their school and career goals and find greater satisfaction in the classroom and in life. If you are a parent of a K-12 student and are interested in...
A tip of our hat to school counselors

A tip of our hat to school counselors

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) celebrated National School Counselor Week from February 1-5, 2016. It’s about time we all tip our hats to these professionals and the dedication they bring to their calling. Given the budget pressure faced by school districts, and its impact on the ranks of school counselors, it’s important to recognize the challenges counselors face in making sure the individual students they serve reach their goals. For those not close to this challenge, consider that the average counselor is responsible for keeping over 400 high school students on track for graduation and the student’s next steps — whether they are college or career bound. ASCA recommends a student caseload of 250 students per counselor. In many schools, reaching this recommended level could mean adding just one more counselor. Furthermore, there are many technical solutions available to help these professionals serve their student clients. A small investment here could make a huge impact. Is it worth the investment? Just look at what these professionals do for their students: Today’s school counselor is responsible for ensuring each student is meeting graduation requirements; helping students change classes; helping struggling students get the additional support they need; helping college-bound students maintain grades, explore colleges, take SAT or ACT tests and apply to colleges on time; guiding career-bound students as they explore careers, pursue required training and get themselves in front of prospective employers. Now multiply this by 400 students to better understand the challenge facing a school counselor. Seems to me it is time to address this choke-point so critical to student success. But what can the average person do to help alleviate...
A New Year’s resolution for your job or career

A New Year’s resolution for your job or career

The first of the year is always a great time to take a moment and explore where you are in your job or career and entertain taking steps to change your direction. And yet, for every one person who takes a moment to consider their next steps, there are ten others who never actually take the plunge. So why is this? Perhaps its because the road to a new career is pock-marked with any number of hazards and missteps. Or maybe friends and family question your thinking, or fail to understand your yearning for more satisfaction in your job. Or maybe, you haven’t taken some time to really understand yourself, your strengths and how to leverage them into a career or job where you’ll find more satisfaction. This might sound like a tall order, especially if you don’t know, or can’t afford a good, qualified career coach. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five steps you can take now to jump the gap between yearning for a new career and actually having one. Make sure you now why you are looking for a new direction. Often we mistake feeling the need for more money for much deeper dissatisfactions with our jobs and careers.   Research report after research report confirms that an increase in salary rarely results in greater job satisfaction. You need a clear-eyed, deep understanding of just what is really dissatisfying to you before you can honestly search for a new direction. Understand your unique personal strengths. This involves looking at your personality type, work style preferences and skills and talents. This needs to...
School’s out for summer… it’s a great time to reflect on “what’s next”

School’s out for summer… it’s a great time to reflect on “what’s next”

Down-time this summer is important. Just look at how stressed high school students and their parents  are. I don’t know about you, but some of my greatest moments of clarity have come as I’ve laid on a beach, sat on a rock, climbed a steep trail or just took the time to be quiet despite the havoc and confusion of life around me. For me, down-time is important. So, with some summer down time coming, why not spend a little of your downtime exploring “What’s Next” for you? Books are a natural place to start. Amazon is filled with self-help and improvement books that help you answer the “What’s Next?” question. I have tons of these books on my bookshelf and nightstand, and I’ll bet you’ll see beaches and airports filled with people reading them this summer. But when I think of answering “What’s Next?”, I’m also thinking about something much more fundamental…satisfaction with where I am, and where I want to go. Clinical psychology has taught us that the path to satisfaction… answering the “What’s Next” question on a much deeper level… first involves having a deep understanding of yourself…your personality, your strengths, challenges and your unique talents and skills. Most of us, whether adults or students, haven’t had the luxury of time to really explore this deeper aspect of our self nor connect it to ideas about what might be next for each of us. We’ve had to divide our attention between school, work, family and other outside commitments. This summer, you’re likely to have a bit more time for focus on you and your answer to “What’s...
When it comes to a new career path… it’s never too late

When it comes to a new career path… it’s never too late

Popular opinion has it that if you haven’t written your great novel, painted your masterpiece or launched your successful start-up by your mid-40s, you’re never going to do it. An interesting story in The New York Times debunks this myth, citing several examples of people finding success later in life and research to support the findings. This is great news for just about anyone who’s thinking about their career path and their future. For high school students, it suggests that they might have several successful career paths in front of them. For people mid-career, there are several career paths ahead that could lead to more satisfaction, success and fulfillment. And for those in late career or retirement, being open to new ideas and directions can lead to new levels of satisfaction and unexpected success. Here are five suggestions that can help make your new career path happen, no matter what stage of life you are at: Be open to learning new things about yourself. We are all constantly changing and being changed by our environment. Through our experiences (good and bad), we can sharpen our strengths and recognize our weaknesses. When we stop listening, we stop growing. Reach outside yourself for input. Don’t be afraid to ask others for their thoughts, be open to tools and assessments that can help you identify your strengths and potential, and learn how to translate your innate talents into a new career path. Oftentimes, the biggest barrier to change is our fear of reaching out to others. Go with your strengths. For many of us, the only real feedback we’ve ever received has been through an employee/employer review process focusing on areas...