"Celebrating Middle School" issue (March)
A newsletter (for adults) about career readiness (for kids).
This month is National Middle Level Education Month. I think it’s the perfect time to focus on why the middle grades are an opportune time for adults to help kids start thinking in a focused way about themselves, their passions, and future careers. What does this mean for teachers and parents? It means encouraging kids to explore careers early and often. This can include career-focused, project-based learning challenges in the classroom, as well as the use of digital tools beyond the classroom. There are now fabulous tools out there designed to meet kids where they are (on their devices) and give them the reins to their own self-discovery and career exploration journey. (Our ASA Futurescape® is a great example.)
Kids have a lot on their plates, at school, and in life. So, they need ample time and space to experiment with careers, to “try on” different jobs and to learn everything they need to know about postsecondary education and career pathways.
Middle school career exploration works in the classroom. We’ve seen promising new models and innovations, along with pockets of excellence in many districts and schools that are blazing a trail in this area. But it’s super tough to scale. And there really isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” model that will work in every state and for every kid.
Beyond in-school and out-of-school, student-led, digital career exploration experiences, kids – with the support of caring adults – can participate in age-appropriate experiences that help them learn about careers, like job shadowing, worksite visits, career fairs, and "meet a professional" experiences. These options allow a young person to begin to uncover the wide variety of career possibilities in front of them and begin to think about what might align with their interests.
Why is this a good use of adults’ time? Because kids who have the chance to learn about themselves and their potential early are more engaged, more confident, and less stressed about their futures. And because our middle schoolers deserve all the head-start they can get! Happy reading.
P.S. - Here’s my pick of the month!
After a Decade of Growth, Degree Earners Decline
Inside Higher Ed reports on data showing that the number of students who earned undergraduate degrees fell by 1.6 percent last year, reversing nearly a decade of steady growth. An “unprecedented” one-year loss in first-time degree earners drove the decline, the report said, with associate degree earners experienced the steepest drop. The number of first-time certificate earners, meanwhile, rose by 9 percent. This piece, for me, speaks to the timeliness of our work in the career exploration and readiness space, as this generation of kids prepares to leave high school into a world of changing norms and expectations.
Education Experts Talk Shifting Postsecondary Pathways During SXSW EDU
My colleague Julie Lammers joined a panel at this year’s SXSW EDU to discuss the reality that systems of higher education have changed significantly over the past two years. Employers are responding to market failure and the gap between the credentials companies want from students with a postsecondary education and what they are getting. Schools have been forced to change their models, as more employers demand specific skills for high-demand jobs.
The Bottom Line: A growing number of people, including employers, think a college degree isn’t a strong enough signal of someone’s readiness for work. And it clearly isn’t delivering the skills-base so many kids will ultimately need for work and life. So, let’s not leave K-12 out of the equation when we rethink what education-to-workforce pathways can look like. Readiness work shouldn’t start at the end of high school. When we broaden our thinking to include middle school, we can start to change the narrative for kids about achieving a kind of success that doesn’t have to involve a degree.
Your Middle School Child is the Most Amazing Person
The author of this advice piece — a former middle school teacher — writes that, “During these years, your kid’s brain is going through a major growth spurt, second only to the birth to age 3 range. Remember how much your child changed from infancy to preschool? How you celebrated every milestone and felt overwhelmed by their intense emotions? That’s happening again, and it can be awe-inspiring and taxing.”
The Bottom Line: Middle school has long been described as a time when kids feel misunderstood and when parents need extra support to nurture a lot of physical and emotional change and uncertainty. All the more reason why this is the perfect time to start some focused (and fun) discovery and exploration work with kids! As we explore this formative period during National Middle Level Education Month, let’s celebrate how amazing and awe-inspiring middle school-aged kids can be and just what they’re capable of!
California Students Have the Aptitudes, But Not the Interest in Key Industries Critical for Economic Develop (A new report from YouScience)
How Game-Based Learning Can Impact Child’s Development (A research-based piece in Health News)
Gender Wage Gap Persists for Teachers, Analysis Finds (NCES data covered by K-12 Dive)
1 in 4 Teachers Altering Lesson Plans Due to Anti-CRT Laws (Research from the Rand Corporation covered by The 74)
Fewer Students of Color From Underserved Backgrounds Want to Go to College. Here’s Why. (USA Today, March 10, 2023)
How to Ensure a Brighter Future: Prepare and Empower Our Youth Now (District Administration, March 13, 2023)
High School is Too Late to Start the Career Conversation (Medium.com, March 1, 2023)
Chamber of Commerce Lands Grant to Bolster Work-based Learning, Skill Credentialing (Higher Ed Dive, March 14, 2023)
Gen Z and Employers Agree It’s Time to Think Outside the College Degree. So What’s Holding Them Back? (Amazing Workplaces, March 9, 2023)
Raise the Bar: Policy Shaping Pathways for All (Getting Smart, February 23, 2023)
Discovering the ‘Why’ of Career Exploration (School News Network, March 15, 2023)
Skills-based Hiring Continues to Rise as Degree Requirements Fade (Computer World, February 24, 2023)
High Paying Jobs That Don’t Need a Degree? Thousands of Them Are Sitting Empty (NPR, February 14, 2023)
Black Hills State University to Host Dakota Dreams Career Exploration Summer Camps (News Center 1, March 1, 2023)
Paper Acquires MajorClarity to Create a Comprehensive Career and College Readiness Platform (Cision/PRNewswire, February 27, 2023)
YouScience Intros BrightPath Education-to-Career Solution (Campus Technology, February 23, 2023)
United Airlines Launches Apprenticeship Program for Mechanics and Technicians (Simple Flying, March 4, 2023)
ASU+GSV Summit - American Student Assistance® (ASA) is a proud sponsor of the 2023 ASU+GSV Summit, taking place at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, California, and virtually, from April 17-19, 2023.
During this event, ASA will host an opening reception on Sunday, April 16, at 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. PT on the Pool Deck, Level 4. ASA and ASU+GSV will also present joint thought leadership programming featuring experts from across the education and career readiness ecosystem, as part of the Career Readiness and Mobility track. Insightful panel discussions will focus on the student career readiness journey, including learner paths in middle school that allow a student to explore careers, test and try in high school through experiential learning or intentional pathways, and plan for the future workforce through postsecondary education and non-degree pathways. Learn more here.
Don’t miss two opportunities to chat with ASA on Partnering to Enable Career Exploration and Skill Building, and Impact Investing in Career Readiness. Please visit https://www.asa.org/events/asu-gsv-summit-2023/ for ASA’s Office Hours.