Applied Learning: Innovative Pathways to Success

Our nation is confronting a growing challenge. Once the dominant economic force in the world, we currently face a flattened or "tilted" world in which companies and jobs continue to move to other countries as a consequence of the globalization of industries and employers' need for skilled workers. We face a further long-term challenge with respect to creating a pool of highly skilled and globally competitive workers who can fill today's jobs, as evidenced by the fact that the U.S. consistently scores lower than average on international mathematics literacy and about average on reading literacy assessments.

During the early years of vocational education (1917-1968), the emphasis was on expanding vocational programs to provide a trained semi-skilled workforce to meet the needs of industry (and even prior to the 20th century, the land grant colleges were established as what we now know as Career and Technical Education - CTE programs). Between 1968 and 1990, ensuring equal access to vocational education for disadvantaged and special need populations was the priority. Most recently, the emphasis is on improving the academic and technical quality of programs in the form of CTE along with strengthened performance standards to ensure program quality. The U.S. Department of Education recently released a Blueprint for CTE for a reauthorized Perkins Act shaped by four core principles of alignment, collaboration, accountability and innovation. This push, coupled with the new Every Student Succeeds Act's (ESSA) flexibility has the potential to push innovation at the local level. This is where States, school districts and schools can push the envelope and demonstrate what is possible and answer the call of industry and higher education.

Students of the creative economy will have an average of seven careers over their lifetime. As the pull of an ever-changing economy connects with a push from students striving to create their own pathways of advancement, school districts of all shapes and sizes are experiencing a cultural transformation which creates and connects multiple pathways of advancement. The one-size-fits all mindset that once permeated our education system is steadily being replaced with personalized learning programs, allowing for a more student-centric approach that supports success and encourages engagement. The design challenge that schools will need to grapple with is: How might we help all students access and navigate different academic programs, courses of study and career pathways so that they can make faster, more informed decisions about their future? This is not about assimilation or preparing students for what is, it is about preparing the next generation of leaders, innovators, and inventors of what will be. It is about developing programs that open new doors and introduce trajectories to students within a rigorous environment that ensures no door is closed to a student as he or she moves toward commencement. We must prepare students to evolve with and, at times, lead or be the architects of the evolution of our changing world.

Founded in the belief that education is rapidly changing in response to a number of outside catalyst: educators, policy makers, and generation "z" students; DLR Group has gathered a diverse group of influencers to solicit an open dialogue for change and advancement. DLR Group is the largest K-12 education design firm in the world, working with districts across the globe to elevate the learning experience for all students and staff.

The foundation for this conversation is a three-part virtual symposium to connect leaders in policy, education reform, behavioral psychology and the "bricks and mortar" that create learning environments of the future. The first two parts will be hosted at DLR Group offices throughout the country. The series will culminate with the Student Innovation Challenge at the National School Board Association (NSBA) annual conference March 25-27 in Denver.

Part One: Connecting the "dots" of CTE, STEM and Dual Enrollment:
October 27, 2016 from 1-3 PM EST
This virtual symposium will focus on education reform and policy that support a continuum of learning allowing students to understand the connections between purely theoretical learning and the opportunity to explore specific career pathways.

Part Two: Linkages between Environment and Engagement:
February 2, 2017 from 1-3 PM EST
This virtual symposium will focus on behavioral psychology, research related to student engagement and the linkages between the learning environment and the "bricks and mortar" of workplace.

Part Three: Student Innovation Challenge at NSBA/Denver:
March 25-27, 2017
This hands-on activity will feature student engagement through an applied learning exercise. Ninth grade students from three districts will compete in the Student Innovation Challenge alongside board members and educators at the NSBA Annual Conference in Denver.

For more information regarding the virtual symposium contact Penny Ramsey at DLR Group, pramsey@dlrgroup.com or 913-24-8783