Books to Business: Connecting Education to Industry

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November 25, 2014
On Oct. 9, the Signature Committee and the Education & Workforce Committee collaborated on a luncheon titled “Books to Business: Connecting Education to Industry” with panelists Dr. Kay Waggoner, RISD superintendent and Richard Matkin, PISD superintendent. Chris Coxon, chief program officer at Education Texas, was the moderator. The superintendents answered questions and provided ISD statistics to the 146 attendees. “I think everyone really enjoyed the luncheon,” said Ginger Tonne, tri-chair of the Education & Workforce Committee. “Having the RISD and PISD superintendents together provided a great forum for talking about public education and its important connection to business.”

What follows are questions posed by luncheon attendees that could not be answered in the luncheon's allotted time frame.

PISD questions and answers:


1. Both PISD and RISD have charters in their districts. Do you see partnership with them in your future?
No, they are a separate entity.
 
2. With starting career planning at a young age, like 6th grade, how involved are the parents in this?
Career education begins in Plano ISD with college and career guidance lessons at the elementary level. Parents are involved in Career Day planning and activities. At the middle school level, parents are again involved with Career Days. The guidance program and academic planning include career information.  Academic conferences are conducted for parents and students as families make decisions for high school preparation and college and career planning. In the high schools and senior highs, parents participate in additional academic conferences that include career information as well as post-secondary planning including college selection and admission based on career desires and other factors important to students and parents. These conferences also include information about four-year colleges, two-year colleges, certificate programs, technical trade schools, military and the world of work.
 
3. How are your districts handling the problem of bullying?
Plano ISD has a comprehensive anti-bullying program that includes education, prevention and intervention. School board policy and the student code of conduct prohibit bullying. Campus counselors are trained as the primary resources and receive annual training on anti-bullying best practices and researched based strategies/programs. Administrators receive ongoing bullying prevention and response. Other staff are provided education annually on identification and response to bullying type behaviors. Elementary schools implement the R-time program, which is designed to prevent conflict through communication skills and acceptance. At the middle school level, the program expands to Negotiate – students learn to discuss differences without anger, to employ tolerance, and to show respect. The underlying goal of these programs is to reduce bullying through communication and tolerance. In addition, schools implement programs for character education and anti-bullying at their campus involving students, staff and parents.
 
4. What percent of students in your district have special needs?
According to the 2014 Texas Education Agency PBMAS Report, there are 5,363 students receiving special education services, which represent 9.8% of the district enrollment.
 
5. What accommodations are in place for college and/or industry readiness?
In preparation for college and /or industry readiness, transition services are begun at age 13 for all special education students, which include:
  • A wide array of assessments which are given to students – catered to identify preferences and interests, as well as strengths. The assessments are administered to meet individual student needs.
  • Strategies (services which include participation by the District) are put into place annually by the ARD committee to enable the student to move toward their career choices.
  • For students who need additional support in order to maintain employment, the District introduces the family/student to adult agencies, such as DARS during the 11th-12th grade years.
The Plano ISD offers a full array of general education courses that prepare its students, both general and special education students, for college and/or industry readiness. Within the courses offered, the District includes a wide variety of elective courses that includes career and technology education courses. Categories of elective courses include, but are not limited to:
  • Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Arts, Audio/Visual Technology and Communications
  • Business, Management and Administration
  • Education and Training
  • Finance
  • Health Science
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security
  • Marketing, Sales and Services
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
  • Transportation, Distribution and Logistics
Special education students may also require accommodations in the general education classroom. As a result, the District provides reasonable accommodations to those students in order to provide a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in the least restrictive environment (“LRE”). Some special education students require modifications beyond the accommodations that are available in the general education classroom. In those situations, a student’s admission review and dismissal (“ARD”) committee may specify modifications for the student in his/her individual education plan (“IEP). 
 
The accommodations and/or modifications for special education students may include Special Education Courses:
  • Work Experience (VAC) – The VAC teacher helps students obtain a job, supports students and employers with on-the-job training, continues monitoring of on-the-job activities and conducts weekly meetings with students and employers for support in areas of need.
  • Career Exploration (CBVE) – A program that provides job coaching in the community or on the campus.
  • Adult Transition Services (ATS) – A program for students who are not job ready after four years of high school, usually students aged 18-22, to further their job training, as well as community experiences and life skills training.  
Goal for all students:
  • Gain independence – become a contributing member of the community.
  • Further their education – college, vocational schools, on-the-job training.
  • Obtain authentic, sustainable employment – may be volunteer or paid employment.
  • Fade artificial supports to be replaced by natural supports on the job site and in their community.
6. What is the college and employment rate post high school for this population?
The Texas Education Agency administers a statewide survey each year to follow-up with persons previously enrolled in high schools with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) at the time of graduation within the state of Texas. The purpose of this survey is to collect data on their post-high school activities. Based on the October 2013 report of youth enrolled in higher education or in some other postsecondary education or training program, or competitively employed or in some other employment within one year of leaving high school the survey, reported a Plano ISD rate of 85% and a State rate of 69% (The 2014 report should arrive this semester.).
 
7. How could businesses and other community organizations best support and partner with PISD and RISD?
Partnerships and volunteerism come to our district in a variety of ways. Many businesses wish to offer organized volunteer efforts with schools within an easy geographical reach to their location. Others may choose to seek a particular grade level or program with which to be associated. Such relationships with campuses are welcomed and appreciated. Additionally, the Plano ISD Council of PTAs has a membership structure specifically for businesses. This opportunity is sometimes overlooked, but this organization has evolved to engage both families and businesses who wish to be involved. Lastly, I am certainly proud of the Plano ISD Education Foundation which is dedicated to raising private funds and leadership opportunities for businesses and individuals wishing to support academic initiatives. Their offices are located within the Plano ISD Administrative Center and are on standby to assist those who are interested. For general information about these opportunities, you may contact the district’s communication department at 469.752.8150.
 
8. The College Board recently reported that Texas SAT math scores hit a 22 year low. With that in mind, should the legislature have eliminated Algebra II from the graduation requirements?
Demographics in the state continue to change, and more students than ever in Texas are taking the SAT.  These are the main reasons SAT math scores have declined recently.  Plano average scores have actually increased slightly. Even though students have a slight bit more flexibility in their math choices than the past, most of our students will continue to take Algebra II and beyond. We agree with the State Board of Education that some amount of choice in specific math courses benefits students.
 
9. TEA has set the passing rate for some end-of-course exams as low as 37%. Isn't that too low and doesn't that set the bar too low for college and career readiness?
We suggest not to focus too much on the raw score (i.e %) needed to demonstrate proficiency on the EOC exams. All these EOCs have a large number of very difficult items that address things far beyond proficiency in these courses. They are designed so most students don’t get high scores. We believe that passing standards are currently set at an appropriate level to keep students on track for college and career readiness.
 

RISDs answers

Richardson ISD
The answers below were submitted by Richardson ISD in response to attendee questions asked at the October
Education-Signature Luncheon that the panel was not able to answer on that day due to time limitations.
1. Both PISD and RISD have charters in their districts. Do you see partnership with them
in your future?
RISD does not currently partner with any charter schools. We have had informal discussions
about the possibility of applying for a charter school that would operate as part of the district,
potentially providing additional operational and instructional flexibility. No decision has been
made, but it’s a possibility for the future.
2. With starting career planning at young age, like 6th grade, how involved are the parents
in this?
RISD introduces students to initial elements of college and career planning as early as
Kindergarten. Throughout elementary, students are provided opportunities to explore different
areas of interest and learn about the occupations and opportunities that exist within different
industries. Elementary parents receive information about their child’s areas of interest.
Beginning in sixth grade, students, parents and counselors begin to develop a six year plan. At
6th grade, students and parents are introduced to Naviance, an online platform that helps
students begin exploring the National 16 Career Clusters and research careers of interest within
those clusters.
3. How are your districts handling the problem of bullying?
ï?· RISD has been very proactive in its fight against bullying. Since 2003, before antibullying
legislation went into effect, RISD required all campuses to annually complete
bullying action plans. These plans were designed so that the campus leadership teams
document steps they were taking to combat bullying. These plans included ways for the
students and staff to report bullying, as well as education pieces for the students.
ï?· Since that time, the RISD has enhanced its policies and procedures to the following:
ï?· A thorough anti-bullying policy was created.
ï?· All principals and counselors are trained on the policy.
ï?· All campuses must include their anti-bullying strategies/activities in their annual
campus improvement plans.
ï?· All principals, counselors and staff members are trained on how to recognize bullying
and how to report bullying.
ï?· All students are made aware of what bullying is and how to recognize and report it.
ï?· Student classroom guidance lessons and advisory lessons about bullying are
conducted annually.
ï?· Parent education presentations related to bullying are conducted upon request at the
campus level.
ï?· The R time anti-bullying program has been implemented on 25 elementary campuses,
with 3 – 4 schools added each year until all RISD campuses have implemented the
program.
ï?· A bullying reporting form is available for parents and students, along with the policy
on the RISD website.
4. What percent of students in your district have special needs? What accommodations are
in place for college and/or industry readiness? What is the college and employment rate
post high school for this population?
Students with special needs comprise 10.7% of RISD’s enrollment. Numerous accommodations
for students with special needs are put in place by Admission, Review, Dismissal (ARD)
committees based on individual student needs. The graduation rate for students with special
needs is 82.1%. Districts have no way of formally tracking the college and employment rate post
high school for the special needs population. RISD operates a Transition Services program that
teaches special needs students job and life skills, connects them with the community, and
matches them with potential employers with the goal of equipping students to live independently.
5. How could businesses and other community organizations best support and partner with
PISD and RISD?
RISD has a Partners Program, in which area businesses and community organizations can help
schools and the district in a variety of ways, including donations of materials, services and
volunteering. As part of our College and Career Readiness efforts, we want to help students
explore a variety of career paths and professions, so speaking engagements, internships and job
shadowing opportunities are beneficial. Tutoring and mentoring can also have a major impact
in the guidance of our students. Businesses and community groups can also “adopt” a school
and help address its unique needs.
We appreciate feedback from area employers about what skills and training is needed to meet
future workforce opportunities, and collaborate with businesses to prepare and equip our
students.
6. The College Board recently reported that Texas SAT math scores hit a 22 year low. With
that in mind, should the legislature have eliminated Algebra II from the graduation
requirements?
Districts are provided with discretion to go beyond state graduation requirements and RISD’s
default and advanced graduation plans include students taking Algebra II.
7. TEA has set the passing rate for some end-of-course exams as low as 37%. Isn't that too
low and doesn't that set the bar too low for college and career readiness?
Some STAAR passing rates are quite low as the state continues to phase in its new STAAR
assessment and accountability system. The minimum state passage rates don’t reflect RISD’s
expectations for student success. Over time, the state requirements will rise. It is important to
note that while the state is phasing in a new test and system, it is also increasing the level of the
state curriculum in content areas like mathematics. Students are learning more advanced
concepts at earlier ages than in previous decades