Ready to work

Bill to encourage tech careers advances in House

The House Education Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would tweak the state’s school and district rating system to give credit for high school graduates who move into career training programs, as well as those who attend college.

The measure, House Bill 15-1170, is one of several bills related to “workforce development,” a hot topic for both parties in the 2015 legislative session.

The bill also reflects a growing interest among some lawmakers and policymakers to broaden the definition of student success to more than just attending and finishing college.

“This bill redefines the meaning of success after high school and fills Colorado top jobs with skilled workers,” said sponsor Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada. “We’ve incentivized our schools to send kids to four-year colleges.” Under HB 15-1170, “Schools get credit if kids are going into any of these viable careers.”

Since passage of the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids in 2008, the focus of state education policy has been assuring that students are “postsecondary and workforce ready” by the time they leave high school. But many advocates feel workforce readiness has taken a back seat to preparing students for college.

The current state accountability system rates high schools’ postsecondary and workforce readiness performance using student ACT scores, dropout rates and graduation rates.

HB 15-1170 would add these indicators: The percentages of graduates who enroll in career and technical education programs, community college or four-year colleges in the school year immediately following graduation. Each enrollment option would be given equal weight in calculating school performance.

Witnesses representing community colleges, vocational schools and business groups supported the bill during testimony.

Luke Ragland, lobbyist for Colorado Succeeds, a business-oriented advocacy group, said, “The current system doesn’t adequately prepare students for the modern workforce. … Aligning our accountability system is an important change.”

The bill also would strengthen business representation on district and school accountability committees.

The measure passed 10-1, with only Rep. Justin Everett, R-Jefferson County, voting no. It goes next to the House Appropriations Committee because of its $232,848 price tag. That would cover the staffing costs of a new office in the Department of Labor and Employment to coordinate efforts to expand career and technical education.

Among other workforce bills involving education are House Bill 15-1190, which would provide state assistance to districts in focusing on workforce needs, and Senate Bill 15-082, which is designed to increase scholarship funding for career and technical students.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to detailed information about every 2015 bill related to education.

awarding leaders

Meet the nine finalists for Tennessee Principal of the Year

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: Docia Generette-Walker receives Tennessee's 2016 principal of the year honor from Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. Generette-Walker leads Middle College High School in Memphis. This year's winner will be announced in October.

Nine school leaders are up for an annual statewide award, including one principal from Memphis.

Tracie Thomas, a principal at White Station Elementary School, represents schools in Shelby County on the state’s list of finalists. Last year, Principal Docia Generette-Walker of Middle College High School in Memphis received the honor.

Building better principals has been a recent focus for Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen as roles of the school leaders change under school improvement efforts.

“Successful schools begin with great leaders, and these nine finalists represent some of the best in our state,” McQueen said. “The Principal of the Year finalists have each proven what is possible when school leaders hold students and educators to high expectations.”

The winner will be announced at the state department’s annual banquet in October, where the winner of Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year will also be announced.

The finalists are:

West Tennessee

  • Tracie Thomas, White Station Elementary, Shelby County Schools
  • Stephanie Coffman, South Haven Elementary, Henderson County School District
  • Linda DeBerry, Dyersburg City Primary School, Dyersburg City Schools

Middle Tennessee

  • Kenneth “Cam” MacLean, Portland West Middle School, Sumner County Schools
  • John Bush, Marshall County High School, Marshall County Schools
  • Donnie Holman, Rickman Elementary School, Overton County Schools

East Tennessee

  • Robin Copp, Ooltewah High School, Hamilton County Schools
  • Jeff Harshbarger, Norris Middle School, Anderson County Schools
  • Carol McGill, Fairmont Elementary School, Johnson City Schools

you better work

Hickenlooper, on national TV, calls for bipartisanship on job training for high school graduates

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke to reporters on the eve of the 2017 General Assembly.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Sunday said Republicans and Democrats should work together to rethink how states are preparing high school graduates for the 21st century economy.

“It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue to say we want better jobs for our kids, or we want to make sure they’re trained for the new generation of jobs that are coming or beginning to appear,” he said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, appeared on the Sunday public affairs program alongside Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to discuss their work on healthcare.

The Colorado governor brought up workforce training after moderator John Dickerson asked what issues besides healthcare both parties should be addressing.

“Two-thirds of our kids are never going to have a four-year college degree, and we really haven’t been able to prepare them to involve them in the economy where the new generations of jobs require some technical capability,” Hickenlooper said. “We need to look at apprenticeships. We need to look at all kinds of internships.”

Hickenlooper has long supported a variety of education reform policies including charter schools and linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. Last fall he backed a new program that is expected to this year connect 250 Colorado high school students with paid job training.

Watch Hickenlooper and Kasich here. Hickenlooper’s remarks on job training begin right before the 11- minute mark.