Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Career literacy: what is it and what's happening in Melrose?

Last Thursday, the Mass. Institute for Career and College Readiness (MICCR) hosted a webinar entitled ”Starting a National Conversation on Career Literacy.” Career literacy is defined as “preparing students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences to thrive in a post-secondary setting” and the reason it’s relevant, according MICCR, is that “as the “skill gap” between students’ abilities and the expectations of colleges and employers continues to widen, the education system is being asked to respond. Career literacy offers a framework for supporting college and career readiness by ensuring that all youth establish and implement personal career and education plans.” Here are some notes from the webinar and comments on what Melrose is doing to address this issue:

The pathways challenge
·               Students need to pursue their goals to achieve the American Dream (i.e. a middle class job) and that pathway is not always college; college doesn’t work well for all, so there need to be multiple pathways to the American Dream.
·               40% of high school grads who start college don’t graduate and 50% who graduate will end up un- or under-employed.
·               The majority of US schoolchildren lives in poverty or low-income families and often cannot afford to attend college.
·               What we believe as a society: 4 year college is the only true pathway for success; high school is traditionally about prepping students for 4 year college so there is a narrowed view in that setting; community/technical colleges are a less prestigious option, and only appropriate for students who aren’t capable of 4 year college work.
·               We are failing many students because our high school approach is too narrow and reinforces elitism, and we can’t prepare students for the middle class if we steer them away from many middle class jobs.
·               One myth is that career literacy is just for special education students, but it is a pathway for all students.

Genesis of the idea of career literacy
·               Students and adults need to be equipped with the knowledge, tools, and support they need to make career decisions now and in the future; and K-12 school counselor departments are understaffed.
·               Disengagement: 76% of elementary students consider themselves disengaged, and 44% of high school students say the same thing.

How will career literacy be employed and what will the outcomes be?
·               Make career guidance a central focus of education by starting early in a K-12 system and make post-secondary completion purposeful.
·               Embed collaborative approaches, like work-based learning that is proven to promote engagement.
·               Students will develop key employable skills and it’s the gold standard of career experience. Employers say it’s the ideal method for identifying future employees.

Examples of student engagement and career literacy in Melrose
·               Differentiating instruction and continually grouping and re-grouping students based on their master of subject matter at the elementary level.
·               Development of new courses, pathways (Global Education, STEM, etc.), and sequences for content areas at the middle and high school to support and encourage student interests.
·               Online learning (including online courses), high school courses, project based learning, or outside activities approved for credit waiver engage students in alternative academic opportunities.
·               Senior internships in a wide variety of work arenas.
·               Clubs and activities that inspire students.
·               Some students attend the regional vocational technical high school, after family review of the student’s interests and in collaboration with the school counselor near the end of 8th grade.

Proposed immediate next steps for Melrose
·      Implementation of Personalized Learning Plans, “[a] student-directed, multi-year process that engages students in mapping their interests, academic plans, personal growth, and preparation for postsecondary goals.”
·      Competency-based learning: “when students work at their academic level, understanding what they are learning and what they need to do next.”
·      Recommended by Supt. Taymore at 9/15 School Committee meeting and for community discussion beginning at the 10/6 Committee meeting. For more on this initiative, read the introductory document at
and scroll down to 6.B.1.a.: MPS Education Opportunities.