As of this writing, the Connecticut General Assembly is mere weeks away from convening for its 2020 session. As an even-numbered year, this will be a short session which, by definition, limits the time lawmakers have to craft and enact law. A short session also places tighter rules on how bills can be proposed, and any laws that have fiscal notes cannot add to the previous year’s biennial budget.
It’s a tight rope to walk, particularly when considering the needs of Connecticut’s 520,000+ public school students. Still, there are policies lawmakers can consider that have minimal or no budget impact while broadening the opportunities we afford our students.
In Part I of this series, ReadyCT set forth its 2020 policy priorities and explored the first, effective early literacy instruction. Here, we take on career-themed learning.
Greater Access to High-Quality Career-Themed Learning Opportunities: #2 of 4 ReadyCT 2020 Policy Priorities
We start from this truth; a chief goal of education is to prepare the learner for the world of work.
Still, if you ask a student what she wants to be when she grows up, she will likely answer with some uncertainty. Why? Because she doesn’t know much about the workforce. Accordingly, ReadyCT continues to advocate for low-stakes career exposure for all students, with some emphasis on careers in high-demand industry areas. Not only does this help a student make informed academic choices, but alongside applied, work-based learning, research indicates her academic outcomes can markedly improve.
The real demand for high-quality career-themed learning is also worth mentioning. In Connecticut, there are three times the number of students interested in enrolling in our state’s dedicated technical high schools than there are spaces, despite the strong longitudinal results for students who enroll in the technical high school system. For example, a recent study demonstrated that a high-quality and specialized technical education in high school can make a significant difference, especially in the lives of male students who might otherwise be disengaged from school.
Given the above, ReadyCT will work to advance career-themed learning policies (that have minimal impact on the state budget), including: adding more expansive language in the Student Success Plan (SSP) statute about career exposure and experience; creating incentives for schools to offer students work-based learning experiences and educators paid externship experiences; adding a career readiness indicator to the Next Generation Accountability System; and a pilot to allow students to graduate with a professional pathway credential that also provides college credit (transferable to the college system or, at a minimum, creating a “Seal for Career Readiness” that mirrors the recently established “Seal of Biliteracy”).
There are other, more bold initiatives that could have large scale impact, including the expansion of career technical education “hubs” throughout the state by modifying existing comprehensive high schools that have decreasing student populations and/or offering a “second shift” of the school day at technical schools so more comprehensive high school students can access those resources. Yet with the short nature of the 2020 session and the fiscal reality that exists in our state, these efforts may be best advanced at a later date.
ReadyCT will maintain focus on what can be done more immediately, and it will pursue the ideas above alongside its three other policy priority areas for the 2020 legislative session. In Part III of this blog series we will focus on creating more opportunities for transferable dual-enrollment courses.
Your input on any policy we advance is most welcome, and your partnership is encouraged. To speak with us about these ideas, please contact us at info@readyCT.org.