Path Home News Director's Weekly Memo 2013 Monday Memo 2013-12-09
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Monday Memo 2013-12-09

Save the date; Oklahoma team visits digitally -based programs; ACTE a big success; making college and career ready actually mean it; Cooperative Alliance Program getting back on track; Pell Grants based on competence, not hours, getting closer; community tours continue in January; CareerTech visits college of architecture; National Technical Honor Society members meet; U.S. college graduates lag international comparisons; Harvard representative visits Oklahoma; economists predict rebound in Oklahoma job growth in 2014; reminder to follow on twitter; and my schedule for the week.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela

Save the date

Be sure to save March 26 for the governor’s America Works event in Oklahoma City. This will be a big event for the governor and for the state. Stay tuned for details. Space will be limited and probably by invitation only.

Oklahoma team visits digitally -based programs

Several state agency and tech center staff visited digitally-based programs last week to learn more about personalized, blended learning. The visits gave the participants a chance to see some of the most extreme use of technology to create student-centric educational experiences. The tours included conversations with students and teachers. The team came away with a renewed interest in creating even better personalized, CareerTech-based programs here. Kimberly Sadler is leading the effort to create more digital CareerTech content so more sophisticated personalized programs can be possible. Becki Foster will be leading efforts around the design of new programs.

ACTE a big success

The annual ACTE national conference was another success. Our very own Doug Major served as this year’s organization president. He did a great job on stage at the opening session. The Curriculum and Instructional Materials Center (CIMC) had a great booth at the trade show. Various members of the Oklahoma contingent were present, leading and winning. Pat McGregor was highly involved in the process and I had the pleasure to attend the Canadian Valley Tech Center presentation on their tornado experience. All in all, a great showing for Oklahoma!

Making college and career ready actually mean it

An effort is underway to align K-12 testing requirements to college entrance requirements and to workforce readiness academic expectations. If successful, the effort will assure those students who pass required K-12 assessments in high school will be able to attend college remediation free and will be able to meet industry academic expectations. This is groundbreaking work for Oklahoma and for the nation.

Cooperative Alliance Program getting back on track

Two meetings were held recently regarding the Cooperative Alliance program. The first meeting was between the Oklahoma State Regents and the Oklahoma Department of CareerTech. The regents’ representatives shared the work they have done to get resolution to the Higher Learning Commissions rulings that put the Cooperative Alliance program in jeopardy. They shared three negotiated options that will provide options moving forward. The agencies agreed to move forward with all choices as each had its advantages.

Next, partners from Oklahoma’s two- and four-year colleges and technology centers met and discussed the future of the Cooperative Alliance program in Oklahoma based on the new information. The initial meetings were with tech center representatives and higher education institutions independently. During the afternoon, the partners met at the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education office to hear an update on Complete College America, discuss Cooperative Alliance data and review policies and procedures.

The afternoon conversation revolved around upcoming changes in the program as a result of Higher Learning Commission rule changes. Five committees will look at different areas relevant to the transition from the existing agreements to a new agreement approach that is acceptable to the accrediting commission. The five committees are the Technical Crosswalk Committee, the National Standards and Certifications Committee, the Credit Hour Evaluation Committee, the Contract Template Committee and the EOI Standardization at Technology Centers Committee. If you are interested in serving on a committee, please contact Jeremy Zweiacker.

Pell Grants based on competence, not hours, getting closer

One of the greatest impediments to competency-based education programs for adults and the reduction in the number of career majors is the Pell Grant requirement of hours as the basis for program approval. In many cases, this requirement also artificially lengthened programs which increased costs and delayed adult engagement in the workforce.

We are in negotiations with federal officials to change the hour focus of the Pell Grants. The discussions are very positive and could lead to competency-based payments. Stay tuned.

Community tours continue in January

I visited two tech center regions last fall and these tours will continue in January. I will be going to Western Technology Center in Burns Flat on Jan. 13 and Great Plains Technology Center in Lawton on Jan. 27. The tours include meetings with tech center staff, business leaders, comprehensive school superintendents, and often an editorial board visit. Thanks to all who make these events a success.

CareerTech visits college of architecture

Staff members from Canadian Valley Tech Center and the agency toured the University of Oklahoma College of Architecture to view their new approaches to interactive learning spaces and how to enhance the teaching/learning experience. Of particular interest were student “touch-down” spots for informal learning, small group technology tables, overhead cameras/projectors, adjustable work spaces, etc. The new approaches were influenced heavily by instructor and student input and are of interest to Canadian Valley as they undertake the rebuilding of the El Reno campus. (contributed by Kimberly Sadler)

The new designs are very supportive of personalized, blended learning and could be helpful in our long-term planning for new approaches to high school education.

National Technical Honor Society members meet

Oklahoma National Technical Honor Society students and advisers heard from historical figures and the director of an Oklahoma Leadership Institute at the eighth annual Oklahoma NTHS State Leadership Conference. Approximately 230 students, advisers and guests attended the conference Nov. 21 at Moore Norman Technology Center’s South Penn Campus.

Warren Martin, director of General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum, spoke at the conference. Oklahoma Historical Society re-enactors playing a colonial soldier and Rosie the Riveter also shared stories about how they helped shape the United States.

Wendy Hamil, NTHS marketing director, was recognized as a special guest. Robert Sommers, state director of the Oklahoma CareerTech and Oklahoma secretary of education and workforce development, was inducted as NTHS’s newest member for his contributions to career and technology education.

The NTHS recognizes outstanding student achievement in career and technology education. Approximately 2,331 new members were inducted into Oklahoma’s 91 NTHS chapters during the 2012-13 school year. The state organization will meet next on Feb. 26 for its annual Day at the Capitol. (contributed by Jeremy Zweiacker)

U.S. college graduates lag international comparisons

We are well aware of the challenges we face in K-12 academic competitiveness, but now we are finding college grads and adults generally also lag international comparisons. While some will suggest this doesn’t matter, the increasing competitiveness of the global economy makes this an important issue. The country that figures out how to provide high end academic performance and how to retain creativity, technical skill development, etc. will prevail in this competitive environment. The United States has tremendous potential in this area if it chooses to engage.

The report “Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says” from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) indicates U.S. college graduates and adults lag perilously in literacy rates. The report recommends learning options designed to develop basic skills in practical contexts be explored. The only secondary-level research-based intervention cited in the report was from the National Research Center for CareerTech Education.

This report is just the latest in a series suggesting our current academic-only approach to high school reform is not working well. It speaks volumes to having a richer, more engaging high school curriculum if we are to improve academic performance. It also speaks volumes to the importance of adult basic literacy programs and a renewed focus on college-level rigor.

Harvard representative visits Oklahoma

On Friday, Nov. 15, Robert Schwartz, professor emeritus at Harvard Graduate School of Education, visited the Metro Technology Centers Downtown Business Campus to discuss the Pathways to Prosperity Project. He was especially interested in how Oklahoma technology centers work with industry in providing work-based learning opportunities for students. He was also interested in our relationships with higher education and how we award college credit. Representatives from Metro Technology Centers and Francis Tuttle were in attendance. (contributed by Elaine Stith)

Economists predict rebound in Oklahoma job growth in 2014

Economists at the 2014 Oklahoma Economic Outlook Conference Dec. 4 predict job growth for Oklahoma in the coming year is looking up. Dan Rickman, regents professor of economics, Spears School of Business, Oklahoma State University, predicts nearly 20,000 jobs will be added to the Oklahoma workforce in 2014. Most of those jobs, about 5,000 positions, will be in the administrative and support services sector, as well as another 3,000 positions in accommodations, food service, leisure and hospitality.

Rickman also believes more than 2,000 new jobs in state and local government will be created in the coming year, along with more than 1,800 retail jobs. About 1,800 professional, scientific and technical jobs will also be created in the state in 2014, he said.

Rickman, along with Deidre Myers, deputy director, Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Michael Teague, Oklahoma secretary of energy and environment; Chad Wilkerson, vice president, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Oklahoma City Branch; and Karen Maguire, professor of economics, Spears School of Business, OSU, spoke at the event sponsored by OSU, CareerTech and Metro Technology Centers. (contributed by Paula Bowles)

Reminder to follow on twitter

Just a reminder you can follow me on twitter at @rdsommers. Look forward to having you follow the daily information as well as the Monday Memo.

Schedule for the week

This schedule is subject to change without notice:


SREB commission on CareerTech


SREB commission on CareerTech


Meeting with digital learning advocates
Governor’s Cabinet Meeting
Tech Center Superintendents’ meeting


Achieve Conference


Achieve Conference


See you around!

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