Connecting the Dots Between Education, Interests, and Careers Grades 7–10: A Guide for School Practitioners

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Sarah M. Klerk

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    Introduction

    Connecting the Dots Between Education, Interests, and Careers, Grades 7–10: A Guide for School Practitioners expands student knowledge about college and careers, excites students about college and careers, and informs student and family decision making.

    Connecting the Dots has been created at a point in our history when education and skills training beyond high school are increasingly necessary to meet the educational and skill requirements of many current and emerging careers. By 2018, 63 percent of job openings will require workers to have at least some college education.1 Despite the fact that the labor market demands more educational attainment than ever before, public high school graduation rates are consistently low—the national graduation rate stands at 69 percent.2 For African American and Hispanic public school students, about 45 percent fail to graduate on time.3Connecting the Dots has been designed to help students in grades 7–10 understand why education is necessary for their future success by connecting the dots among school, interests, abilities, training, college and careers—all through a fun fact-finding mission that challenges students with interesting questions linking education to future career success. It is a discussion tool that provides adults—teachers, educators, parents—with engaging questions to stimulate dialogue with students about staying in school and is delivered through an easy-to-use question/answer format and includes visual aids for visual learners.

    Every school day in America, public high schools lose more than 7,200 students or one student every 25 seconds.4 Many of those who drop out before high school graduation are caught up in an inescapable world of poverty. High school dropouts are more likely to be unemployed, earn lower wages, be involved in criminal activity, need public assistance, and be single parents.5 The employment outlook for a high school dropout is employment that pays less than a living wage, and employment prospects do not improve with time. In fact, over the course of his or her lifetime, a high school dropout earns, on average, about $260,000 less than a high school graduate.6Connecting the Dots addresses these facts and incorporates information on training and educational requirements that match interests, abilities, and career aspirations, recognizing that college isn't the only avenue that individuals can take to become highly employable. It highlights why education is necessary and emphasizes the positive impact education has on students' lives if grades K–12 are used to prepare for college or a career.

    Today's careers demand training beyond high school via technical schools, community or four-year colleges, or beyond. For many youth, the transition between school and work is difficult. The educational and workforce systems are not well aligned—making it hard for individuals to match career options with educational decisions. Connecting the Dots matches education, training, and careers to provide students with a tool kit that will help them navigate the world of work, which is a key to being successful in the labor market.

    Connecting the Dots is designed to be an easy-to-use tool for adults that is also engaging and interesting for students; it includes 45 main talking points in a question/answer format; extension activities and supplemental discussion questions to encourage interaction and learning; and illustrations (e.g., tables, charts, and graphics) for visual learners. Many of the extension activities, supplemental discussions, and graphics can be downloaded and printed at http://www.corwin.com/connectingthedots. The icon to the left will identify materials throughout Connecting the Dots that can be downloaded and printed for students.

    The more students hear and read facts about the advantage gained by attending college and preparing for a career, the more they will be prepared to pursue a career. The consistency of information will reinforce other positive peer/family/school information that students receive about going to college. With Connecting the Dots, we can help students realize that they are not simply scrambling to get their work in on time; together we are preparing students for their future.

    Connecting the Dots is adaptable and can be used in a classroom, after-school program, and club or camp setting. It is intended to be a discussion stimulator for teachers, mentors, and families to incorporate into their existing schedules. Its question/answer format requires minimal planning or preparation on their part. The different topics were developed in collaboration with teachers and experts in workforce development to focus learning on critical subjects. The questions highlight the importance of education and its relationship to careers, and they generate inquiry, discussion, and constructive conversation. Connecting the Dots includes nine topics that begin with “Education: The Key to Your Future,” progress through “Ready or Not: High School, Here We Come,” and end with “College Life: Much More Than Studying and Classes, It's Fun!”

    Suggested Use

    Connecting the Dots Between Education, Interests, and Careers, Grades 7–10 has been developed to fit into any classroom schedule, mentorship or after-school program. Each of the nine topics includes five main talking points (questions/answers) that will generate excitement and engage students in a fun way to help them focus on their future and embrace the connections among school, careers, and rewarding lives. The answers are provided in a summary format to help the facilitator quickly prepare for the conversation.

    In schools, Connecting the Dots can be used for one week in each of the nine months of the academic year. Another strategy for using Connecting the Dots in schools is to present segments at the same time every week so that it becomes a part of the weekly agenda over the course of the year. Connecting the Dots is designed to easily meet your classroom schedule.

    For mentors, Connecting the Dots can be used to start or end sessions with mentees. The questions are so easy to use that it will start or end your time together on a positive note and keep students thinking about their current and future success.

    For families, Connecting the Dots can be used during any free moments. It can be used in the kitchen and around the breakfast table to remind students why they are going to school. It can be used on the bus or in the car while traveling. It can provide stimulating discussions at any “check-in” points throughout the day such as at the dinner table or while on the phone.

    Connecting the Dots includes extension activities, supplemental discussion questions, career definitions, illustrations, and resources (published here and also downloadable at http://www.corwin.com/connectingthedots) to assist in deepening conversations and opportunities for learning. The order of topics (listed in the Table of Contents on page v) is suggested, but each school, mentorship, or after-school program has different needs, and in some cases, it may make sense to change the order depending on those needs.

    Directions

    Connecting the Dots Between Education, Interests, and Careers, Grades 7–10 facilitators can easily deliver the daily message with minimal planning. To familiarize themselves with the content of each new topic, facilitators of Connecting the Dots should first read the topic introduction. Prior to each discussion, facilitators should read the question and potential answers to become familiar with the material covered. Last, if there is a graphic that is associated with the discussion question, go to the website http://www.corwin.com/connectingthedots, find the graphic, download it, and print the graphic. That's all the preparation that is needed to prepare for a meaningful conversation with students. The facilitator should then read students the question and potential answers and have the students answer the question. The suggested answer to each question is highlighted, and a brief explanation of the suggested answer is provided. The facilitator then should read or paraphrase the summary and, time permitting, encourage brief discussion. Optional supplementary activities and discussion questions are offered and intended to encourage students to think more deeply and critically about the topic. Many of the questions are followed by talking points that have been incorporated to assist the conversation and for teachers/mentors/facilitators to prod the students and keep them on track.

    About the Data7

    Much of the data used in Connecting the Dots Between Education, Interests, and Careers, Grades 7–10 have been retrieved from public sources such as the United States Bureau of Statistics' Occupational Employment Survey and Occupational Outlook Handbook. The data provided throughout this document represent a snapshot of the educational and labor market conditions in the United States for the time period 2000 to 2018. The facts in this document (e.g., wage data, cost of living estimates, job growth projections) may reasonably change over time.

    Occupational Employment Survey: Wage data included in Connecting the Dots are from the Occupational Employment Survey. The wage estimates represent wages and salaries only and do not include nonproduction bonuses or employer costs of nonwage benefits such as health insurance or employer contributions to retirement plans. The information presented in Connecting the Dots includes median gross pay, exclusive of premium pay. The occupational median wage, or the 50th percentile, is the boundary between the highest paid 50 percent and the lowest paid 50 percent in the occupation. In other words, half the workers in the occupation earn more than the median wage, and half the workers earn less than the median wage.

    Occupational Outlook Handbook: Much of the information regarding the training and education needed to enter and advance in careers, what workers do on the job, and the expected job prospects of careers in Connecting the Dots has been obtained from the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

    The following are the definitions for each type of postsecondary and work-related training used in Connecting the Dots. The descriptions reflect the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics' definitions.

    Education

    Associate's degree: Degree completion typically requires at least 2 years of full-time academic study.

    Bachelor's degree: Degree completion typically requires at least 4 years, but not more than 5 years, of full-time academic study.

    Master's degree: Degree completion typically requires 1 or 2 years of full-time academic study beyond a bachelor's degree.

    First professional degree: Degree completion typically requires at least 3 years of full-time academic study beyond a bachelor's degree.

    Doctoral degree: Completion of a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree typically requires at least 3 years of full-time academic study beyond a bachelor's degree.

    Training

    Short-term on-the-job training: Training is typically 1 month or less of on-the-job experience or instruction. Skills can be acquired during a short demonstration of job duties.

    Moderate-term on-the-job training: Training includes 1 to 12 months of combined on-the-job experience and informal training.

    Long-term on-the-job training: Training typically requires more than 12 months of on-the-job training or combined work experience and formal classroom instruction. Some include formal and informal apprenticeships that may last up to 5 years.

    Acknowledgments

    Writing a book takes energy and determination, no doubt, but it also takes a lot of help—and truly, one of the biggest perks of writing a book for me is acknowledging and thanking all of those who were so integral in making this work come to be.

    First, I acknowledge a place—my hometown. Kalamazoo, Michigan. In the fall of 2005, Kalamazoo became the setting for an innovative economic development experiment. That experiment is The Kalamazoo Promise, which is a scholarship program that pays up to 100 percent of tuition at any public college or university in Michigan for potentially all graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS). Though a scholarship program, “The Promise” is considered a place-based economic development tool that has the potential to increase the human capital in the region and attract new businesses and families to Kalamazoo. Since the announcement of The Promise, educational, economic development, and civic community leaders have been collaborating to ensure that the greater Kalamazoo area leverages this scholarship program to increase economic vitality in the region.

    Kalamazoo, Michigan, is also the home of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, which conducts research regarding the causes and effects of unemployment and measures for the alleviation of unemployment. It was my work at the Upjohn Institute that brought to light the need for a tool that connects the dots between education, interests, careers, and a successful life for students. That connect-the-dots tool became Connecting the Dots Between Education, Interests, and Careers, Grades 7–10. Working at the Upjohn Institute presented me with the opportunity to work with educational and workforce development experts from Kalamazoo Public Schools, The Kalamazoo Promise, and of course the Upjohn Institute.

    I have received a great deal of support from my friends and colleagues in Kalamazoo who reviewed many drafts of the manuscript. In particular, my good friend Bridget Timmeney invested many hours working with me on Connecting the Dots. Bridget assisted with concept development, provided technical input, and offered editorial support. I am incredibly grateful for her assistance in this endeavor as well as for her friendship.

    I also gratefully acknowledge Bob Jorth (Executive Administrator of the Kalamazoo Promise); Kevin Hollenbeck (Vice President and Senior Economist of the Upjohn Institute); Kate Cohler (Chicago Middle School Teacher); Michelle Miller-Adams (Visiting Scholar of the Upjohn Institute); Larry Trent; Ryan Carpenter, and Anne Kroemer for their editorial and technical support. Additionally, I am thankful to Randall Eberts (President of the Upjohn Institute) for encouraging me to continue working on Connecting the Dots after moving to Chicago to work at the Chicago Jobs Council, and Michael Rice, Ph.D. (Superintendent, Kalamazoo Public Schools), for supporting Connecting the Dots.

    Many, many warm thanks also to the Tengelsen Family Foundation (TFF) for believing in me and in Pass It On, the earlier version of Connecting the Dots. TFF underwrote the publication of Connecting the Dots.

  • Connecting the Dots

    Every school day in America, public high schools lose 7,200 students. These 1.2 million dropouts will contribute less to society, are more likely to be unemployed, be involved in criminal activity, and be single parents. Those with employment will earn 37 cents for each dollar earned by an individual with more education, according to Columbia University's Teachers College.

    It is the responsibility of adults (e.g. parent, teachers, community members) to reduce the dropout rate and increase the graduate rate; otherwise the income gap will continue to widen as jobs and employers require more and more education and skills. Current students not only need to graduate from high school but also need some postsecondary education or training in order to obtain jobs that pay a living wage.

    Experts insist that making education relevant to students' potential career choices is important for student engagement, and dropouts agree. In a recent survey of about 500 high school dropouts, the leading reason given for dropping out is that students “don't see the connection between education and learning and their own lives and career dreams.”43

    Students begin to disengage from school in the middle grades, so it is there that we as a community of adults need to focus our efforts in helping students understand the “why” in “Why do I need to know this?” With this information, students are empowered to make good decisions regarding staying in school.

    Students—and parents—are often unclear about the benefits of a technical certification or college degree. In some cases, schools and parents prepare students and tell them that they should go to college. Other times, students, especially those whose parents did not invest in postsecondary education or career preparation, are not prepared for a future that develops their own workforce potential. To compensate, educators have introduced school-to-work programs for students to recognize the connection between school learning and career development. Career pathway programs and career and technical education programs include this connection in their delivery mechanisms and mission. Connecting the Dots Between Education, Interests, and Careers, Grades 7–10 complements this instruction and informs students about why and how to prepare for a career and/or to attend college.

    The topics covered in Connecting the Dots help provide adults with the answer to the tormenting student question, “Why do I need to know this?” Using Connecting the Dots, adults can provide concrete evidence regarding why education is necessary for future success; match educational requirements with students' interests, career goals, and earnings; and inform students about college and careers. Connecting the Dots is a toolkit for adults to help students understand why education is important for their future happiness and success.

    Connecting the Dots: Topics

    • Education: The Key to Your Future
    • More Education = Better-Paying Jobs
    • Studying, Learning, and Getting Good Grades
    • School Subjects and How They Relate to Careers
    • Ready or Not: High School, Here We Come
    • How Interests Now Spark Careers Later
    • Navigating to the Job of Your Dreams
    • There Are So Many Jobs. How Do I Decide?
    • College Life: Much More Than Studying and Classes, It's Fun!

    Using extensive research, Connecting the Dots addresses the impact that education and training have on life outcomes, including self-sufficiency, future earnings, and happiness. It focuses student learning on critical subject areas such as school, abilities, training, college, income, and careers.

    This school-to-work discussion tool helps teachers initiate and maintain a dialogue with students about career choices, filling a long-standing curricular void. Connecting the Dots helps students connect the dots among school, interests, abilities, training, college, and careers. It has been created at a point in our history when education and skills training beyond high school are increasingly necessary to meet the educational and skill requirements of many current and emerging careers.

    References

    1 Carnevale, A. P.; Smith, N., & Strohl, J. (2010). HELP WANTED: Projection of jobs and education requirements through 2018. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

    2 Editorial Projects in Education. (2010). Diplomas count 2010: Graduation by the numbers. Education Week, 29(34), 4–5.

    3 Editorial Projects in Education. (2010).

    4 Editorial Projects in Education. (2010).

    5 Alliance for Excellent Education. (2007). The high cost of high school dropouts: What the nation pays for inadequate high schools [Press release]. Accessed January 2011, http://www.all4ed.org/files/archive/publications/HighCost.pdf

    6 Rouse, C. E. (2005). The labor market consequences of an inadequate education. Prepared for the Equity Symposium The Social Costs of Inadequate Education at Teachers’ College, Columbia University. Accessed June 2010, http://www.literacycooperative.org/documents/TheLaborMarketConsequencesofanInadequateEd.pdf

    7 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2010). Occupational employment statistics. Accessed September 2010, http://www.bls.gov/oes/

    8 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2010). Education pays… Current Population Survey. Accessed July 15, 2010, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm

    9 Terpstra, A., & Clary, J. (2009). Getting by & getting ahead: The 2009 Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard. Chicago: Social IMPACT Research Center.

    10 Terpstra & Clary (2009).

    11 Terpstra & Clary. (2009).

    12 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2010). Education pays…

    13 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2010). Education pays…

    14 Terpstra & Clary. (2009).

    15 Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl. (2010).

    16 Editorial Projects in Education. (2010).

    17 Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl. (2010).

    18 Editorial Projects in Education. (2010).

    19 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Overview of the 2008-18 projections. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. Accessed August 2010, http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco2003.htm

    20 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics. (2008). Unpublished 2008 annual average data from the Current Population Survey. Accessed November 2010, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_381.asp

    21 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics. (2008).

    22 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics. (2008).

    23 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2010). Occupational employment statistics.

    24 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2010). Occupational employment statistics.

    25 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2010). Education pays…

    26 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Overview of the 2008-18 projections.

    27 Child Development Institute (website). (2010). Tips for helping kids and teens with homework and study habits. Accessed January 2011, http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/learning/studytips.shtml

    28 Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl. (2010).

    29 Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl. (2010).

    30 Rumberger, R., & Ah Lim, S. (2008, October). Why students drop out of school: A review of 25 years of research (Policy Brief 15). Santa Barbara: Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, California Dropout Research Project.

    31 Rouse, C. E. (2005).

    32 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2004). BLS release 2004-14 employment projections [Press release]. Accessed November 2007, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecopro.pdf

    33 Hansen, R. S., & Hansen, K. (2010). What do employers really want? Top skills and values employers seek from job-seekers. Quintessential Careers. Accessed November 2010, http://www.quintcareers.com/job_skills_values.html

    34 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Overview of the 2008-18 projections.

    35 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2010). Occupational employment statistics.

    36 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2010). Occupational employment statistics.

    37 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational and Employment Statistics. Accessed August 2010, http://data.bls.gov:8080/oep/servlet/oep.noeted.servlet.ActionServlet

    38 State Career Cluster Initiative, 2011. Accessed 2011, http://www.careercluster.org

    39 State Career Cluster Initiative, 2011. Accessed 2011, http://www.careercluster.org

    40 CNBC. (2009). College degrees most in demand: 2009 [National Association of Colleges and Employers]. Accessed August 2009, http://www.cnbc.com/id/29367964?slide=1

    41 Knapp, L. G., Kelly-Reid, J. E., Ginder, S. A., & Miller, E. (2007). Postsecondary institutions in the United States: Fall 2006 and degrees and other awards conferred: 2005-06 (NCES 2007-166). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

    42 Lee, F. R. (2004, November 1). Arts, briefly: “Idol” worship. The New York Times. Accessed November 2007, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9901E0DC1E3DF932A35752C1A9629C8B63

    43 Bridgeland, J. M., Dilulio, J. J., & Burke Morrison, K. (2006). The silent epidemic: Perspectives of high school dropouts. Civic Enterprises. Accessed 2013, http://www.ignitelearning.com/pdf/TheSilentEpidemic3-06FINAL.pdf

    About the Author

    Sarah M. Klerk is an expert of workforce development. In her work with Workforce Strategy Center, she helped communities develop career pathways. Prior to her work with WSC, Sarah worked at the Chicago Jobs Council to ensure access to employment and career advancement opportunities for people living in poverty. It was from Sarah‘s work at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, where she conducted research on workforce, economic, and educational development and worked with community stakeholders to improve the economy through educational and workforce development, that she gained a passion for helping students understand the value of education. This was when she decided to develop Connecting the Dots Between Education, Interests, and Careers, Grades 7–10, which provides adults–teachers, educators, counselors–with engaging questions to stimulate dialogue with students about the connection among education, interests, and careers. Sarah earned her Master‘s of Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

    CORWIN: A SAGE Company

    The Corwin logo–a raven striding across an open book–represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK–12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”

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