In School, Learning and Workforce Prep Go Hand in Hand
By Michele Israel
Preparing learners for academic success is essential. But students must be able to carry what they learn from school to the real world where they will ultimately live and work.
In a recent edLeader Panel, sponsored by Beable, educators and entrepreneurs—committed to developing students’ academic and lifelong skills—shared strategies and tools designed to propel student engagement, strengthen academic proficiency, and build young people’s capacity for gainful employment and financial well-being.
Not Just Academics Alone
Dr. David Miyashiro, Superintendent of the Cajon Valley Union School District, had notable success in raising students’ test scores in what he described as one of the worst-performing schools in California. Everyone was thrilled when the school’s API went from 521 to over 800.
Then he learned that a 9th-grade student—who excelled academically in 6th grade—was pregnant. The student’s 6th-grade teacher was angry, charging that the school, in the end, wasn’t doing much for the students. Despite their achievement, they were still joining gangs, dropping out of high school, and not going to college.
For Dr. Miyashiro, the disconnect between students’ academic growth and their everyday lives was eye-opening. The school had exceeded academic expectations, but overlooked factors that impeded students’ opportunity for higher education and employment.
Career Development Front and Center
The school’s dilemma led to the reshaping of Cajon Valley’s approach to education, which holistically prepares students to thrive in the future, and in which career development figures prominently, explained Ed Hidalgo, Chief Innovation and Engagement Officer for the Cajon Valley Union School District.
“We know there’s a strong link between poverty and jobs and so if we can help students and their parents see that their child has a future possible self, then we start to move the needle forward,” explained Hidalgo.
He added that career development requires a system that encourages teachers and children to speak the same language around who a child is and what he or she wants to become. This involves closing the gap between education and the workforce to fill many unfilled jobs, especially in the communities where students live.
The district developed the World of Work program—a K-12 career development and well-being initiative—set in a framework grounded in vocational psychology that heightens awareness of student’s curiosity about themselves and careers they might pursue.
The process begins with self-awareness, said Hidalgo, allowing students across grades to explore their unique interests, strengths, and workplace values to see what is possible for them.
Students have the opportunity to practice and simulate a career of interest. A meeting with a professional who represents the careers about which students are curious is part of this exploration. The most crucial piece of this interaction, emphasized Hidalgo, is that students get “a chance to meet people who look like them in careers they didn’t even know existed.”
An internship or job is next on the trajectory. The district’s goal is to have students experience 54 World of Work experiences during their school years. These experiences align with the six Holland Occupational Themes—RIASEC—a theory of personality that focuses on career and vocational choice. Through these experiences, students think about the careers that make sense to them.
Driving Learning: The Tech Boost
Bolstering the district’s career development strategy is Beable, a tech tool that addresses the multiple aspects of a student to advance his or her achievement in school and work by targeting the connection between literacy and life readiness.
Saki Dodelson, Beable Founder and CEO, explained that literacy, skills, and academic gaps must be closed if students are to pursue higher education and careers. This work, she urged, is not one dimensional. For teachers to support students, they must look at them from various perspectives—academic, socio-emotional, and beyond.
Beable, explained Susan Gertler, Ph.D., Beable Co-founder and Chief Academic Officer, is based on a four-pillar process that fosters student learning:
- The Beable system first gathers critical information about a student’s comprehension level with a fully computer adaptive Lexile assessment and a RIASEC-based interest measure. Additional inventories gather other details to help school stakeholders learn deeply about students.
- This information, which the system analyzes and synthesizes, provides teachers insight into the gaps students must overcome.
- Gaps identified, Beable then forecasts what students need for annual growth. For struggling students, it determines how much time-on-task they need to catch up and what scaffolds will help them do that.
- Finally, with all of these critical details, the system knows when and where to apply different methodologies to maximize growth, engagement, and self-awareness.
Those varied methodologies, described Dr. Gertler, are frequently personalized to address students’ unique needs. For example, Lexile information indicates which students need to focus on core graduation requirements. Students prepare for high stakes exams and benefit from individualized, scaffolded learning. For foundational skills, vocabulary acquisition, or reading comprehension, Beable creates companion lessons. Students participating in the World of Work benefit from differentiated readings that support Level 2 career simulations.
Data collection and reporting are critical Beable components. Teachers and parents benefit from data that paint a holistic profile of a student that guides instructional support. The information provides information that enables adults to better understand student career interests and academic needs that frame their life-readiness journeys, which Beable addresses through career, financial literacy, and health lessons integrated into core academics.
The combined efforts of World of Work and Beable help students build a pathway to the future. They allow, emphasized Hidalgo, every single student to be able to articulate their workplace values and align them with their future academic and career possible selves.
This edWeb broadcast was sponsored by Beable, The Life-Ready Literacy Company.
About the Presenters
Dr. David Miyashiro serves as Superintendent of the Cajon Valley Union School District. He was named 2016 Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators Region 18. With Dr. Miyashiro’s leadership, Cajon Valley has achieved success with blended and personalized learning where all teachers and students have 24/7 access to their own district-issued laptop, internet connectivity, and digital ecosystem of robust resources and creativity tools. The CA State Board of Education appointed him as co-chair for California’s committee tasked with bringing Computer Science to all K-12 students and was appointed to California School Boards Association President’s advisory council.
Saki Dodelson is Founder and CEO of Beable, the Life-Ready Literacy Company, and one of today’s true visionaries in education. Prior to launching Beable, Saki was the founder and CEO of Achieve3000® where she pioneered online differentiated learning and co-developed its patented method of differentiation. Over the past 18 years, Saki and her team helped more than 6 million preK-12 students significantly accelerate reading gains. Now, with Beable, Saki is building on this unprecedented foundation of success to more directly connect literacy to life-readiness and to the skills all students need to unlock economic opportunity and lifelong success. Saki was named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 50 Women Entrepreneurs and is a recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Recognized as one of the Top 100 Influencers in education in 2018 and 2019, Saki is a trusted thought leader and partner to districts nationwide.
Susan Gertler, Ph.D., is Co-Founder and Chief Academic Officer at Beable, The Life-Ready Literacy Company, roles she also held at Achieve3000®. Dr. Gertler has been developing differentiated curricula in the preK-12 and adult education markets for over 25 years, leveraging her expertise in education and psychology to provide for the unique needs of every learner. Dr. Gertler brings to Beable a proven track record of innovation, putting theory into effective practice by recognizing the value offered by every stakeholder – student, teacher, school and district administrator, parent, community member – and creating the content and methodologies to magnify their contributions. She collaborates with industry experts to build blended learning opportunities, focusing on how every student can demonstrate success through a combination of independent learning and targeted support. Dr. Gertler’s vision is instrumental to the success of Beable.
Ed Hidalgo is the Chief Innovation and Engagement Officer for the Cajon Valley Union School District. His role was created to support the district’s vision to develop happy kids, living in healthy relationships, on a path to gainful employment. He is the lead designer of the districts’ career development framework, the World of Work™ Initiative. Prior to this role, he spent more than two decades in the private sector, most recently at Qualcomm, where he worked in human resources, staffing, and government affairs.
About the Host
Tom Stein serves as Brand & Marketing Strategist at Beable. He has deep experience over three decades building brands and driving growth across many sectors. He has a particular depth of experience with education and ed-tech brands, including Blackboard, Schoolnet, Schoolwires, ETS, Pearson, IMS Global, and Achieve3000 among many others.
Tom is a founding partner of Stein IAS, one of the world’s leading B2B marketing agencies. He has been and a leader and innovator in B2B marketing for more than 30 years. In 2017, Tom was among the first inductees into the ANA B-to-B Hall of Fame.
Join the Community
Real World Literacy is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net where educators can collaborate on ways to help their students develop and refine essential digital and media literacy skills.
Beable is the Life-Ready Literacy Company. Its groundbreaking Life-Ready Literacy System intertwines social-emotional growth with literacy acceleration in core content areas, career exposure, and ACT/SAT prep. Powered by the BeableIQ automation engine, Beable provides the first multi-dimensional solution connecting literacy to life readiness and, ultimately, to lifelong success for K-12 students.
Michele Israel writes about the ideas and best practices that are shared in edWeb’s edWebinars so they can spread innovative and best practices to the education community. Michele owns Michele Israel Consulting, LLC, which serves large and small educational, nonprofit, media, corporate, eLearning, and blended-learning organizations to bolster products and programs. Her rich career spans over 25 years of successfully developing educational materials and resources, designing and facilitating training, generating communication materials and grant proposals, and assisting in organizational and program development. In addition to lesson plans and other teacher resources, Michele’s portfolio includes published articles covering a range of educational and business topics.