Career Technical Education and the College Completion Agenda

The most secure route to a strong economy is to provide the state with a rich and diverse pool of talented, well-educated citizens.   
California Community Colleges (CCCs) educate 70% of the state’s nurses and train 80% of our firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and emergency medical technicians.  Through their Career Technical Education (CTE) mission, they educate many students who go on to earn bachelors degrees in fields such as computer science and business.  CCCs are key to resolving the shortage of educated workers that is threatening the competitive position of the state’s economy, and tremendous potential for addressing this challenge resides in the system’s career technical education mission.
Join The Campaign for College Opportunity, Sacramento State, and California Competes  for a briefing highlighting the first three reports in a four-part series entitled Career Opportunities: Career Technical Education and the College Completion Agenda by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at Sacramento State University. Career Opportunities provides an overview of CTE and workforce development in California Community Colleges, analyzes its structure and funding, examines the vast number of certificate and associate degree program offerings within the 112 colleges, and discusses CTE policies in other states that may hold promise for California.  The final report (forthcoming next year) will provide recommendations for strengthening the state’s policies in support of the CTE mission.

 California’s community colleges are key to resolving the shortage of educated workers that is threatening the competitive position of the state’s economy. Tremendous potential for addressing this challenge resides in the system’s career technical education (CTE) mission which, with appropriate structures and support, could help many more students earn credentials with value in the workplace. In two previous installments of a four-part series of reports titled Career Opportunities the following issues have been covered:

Career Technical Education and the College Completion Agenda , concluded that the CTE mission in the California Community Colleges is not organized and supported optimally to produce the outcomes that the state needs. CTE is fragmented, lacks  sufficient stable funding, and is not well integrated into the core of the college system. The extensive program offerings are not well targeted to labor market needs, resulting in an inefficient use of resources. The lack of common standards across similar programs devalues the credentials awarded by the system because employers are uncertain of the knowledge and skills possessed by students who attain the credentials. Students are given too little encouragement and guidance to find their way into and through CTE programs.

Overcoming these obstacles will be key in preparing California for the coming challenges of labor shortages and lack of an educated workforce.

To learn more about the reports check out the Sacramento State publications page or plan to attend the briefing at the capitol in Sacramento, info can be found right here.


GEAR UP Student Ambassador: If You Believe, You Will Achieve


We are pleased to share the second featured GEAR UP Student Ambassador, Rosemarie Correa, an extremely forward thinking and intelligent tenth grade student at Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove, CA. We were lucky enough to meet Rosemarie at the National GEAR UP Week celebration in Elk Grove where she was a featured speaker. Rosemarie was a recipient of a California GEAR UP Education Trust Award while a student at Harris Middle School and has since been an advocate for early college readiness, steadfast academic pursuit, and believing in her dreams. Harris Middle School has been a California GEAR UP school since 2006 and receives school-wide services to create a college-going culture by focusing on the adults within the school. One aspect of the services are the Education Trust Awards each school receives to distribute to a select group of students.

How did receiving the Education Trust Award effect your educational path?

Receiving the Educational Trust Award in middle school made me even more motivated to strive for my goals and that I am that much closer to going to the college of my dreams. Receiving the award in middle school was important because it helped me and my family to start thinking about college early.


How did your friends and family respond to you receiving the Education Trust Award in middle school since most college awards are usually given out in high school?

My friends and family were so proud of me! It also reminded me that anything is possible as long as you keep yourself motivated and remain positive.


What were some of the challenges in middle school and how have you overcome them?

A challenge I faced in middle school was not being very sociable. I was able to overcome my bashfulness by participating in different activities like GEAR UP college events, and by doing so I started to feel more comfortable talking to others. My teachers and parents were very supportive of me which helped greatly.


What is some advice you can give current middle and high school students that will help them stay on the road to college?

I would advise current middle and high school students that grades are very important and to remain motivated by focusing on your long term goals. If you don’t think about your future and all that you need to get done before hand, then you will most likely not push yourself and will not strive for your goals. Planning ahead of time is important, especially with your family and supporters at your school.


What are your college dreams?

My college dream is to go to The University of the Pacific and to get my Bachelors in Business. It is important to go to college so you can become successful in life. College is where you discover who you are and who you want to truly be. If you go to college, there are more opportunities and it’s also the place where all of your hard work pays off because it is the begining of your entire future.


What can you tell younger students that will help them be more prepared for high school?

Do not procrastinate on any homework no matter how much it may be, because it weighs heavily. They must be ready to take a lot of notes especially Cornell notes. As long as they maintain high grades and work hard they will succeed.


Anything else you want to share with us?

If you believe you will achieve.


Rosemarie’s philosophy of studying hard, staying focused on her goals, and relying on her family and school supports to achieve her college dreams are the true embodiment of GEAR UP school culture. Her passion and drive are an inspiration to all students and families with college aspirations.

For more information on California GEAR UP whole school services, Education Trust Awards, and inspirational stories from students, schools, and families please visit our website. If you are a former recipient of an Education Trust Award you can call our ETA line 916-479-6742, or email

Keep checking for updates, we will keep you apprised of Rosemarie’s continued success. Look for more GEAR UP success stories here on the blog or nationally on the GEAR UP Works! blog hosted by NCCEP.

If you have an inspiring college dreams story, please contact us here:


GEAR UP West 2012: Rigor, Relationships, Readiness


GEAR UP professionals, partners, teachers and collaborators convened in Seattle, WA this week to attend the 2012 GEAR UP West Conference. Across the western region and the entire country, GEAR UP has provided thousands of students and families with desperately needed academic and financial support necessary to succeed.  Thousands of schools, administrators, and educators have been equipped with the tools needed to prepare students for college success as a result of GEAR UP services. The conference is an opportunity for practitioners to come together and collaborate on successful strategies and encourage discussion around college access.

William H . Gates Sr. (pictured above) of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation opened the conference on Sunday night with funny and meaningful discussion on the importance of an engaged and educated workforce. He stressed the importance of what he called ‘the bigotry of low expectations’ in schools and shared how his experiences working in public schools with the Gates Foundation has only solidified his stance that education is the ultimate expression of American ideals. His parting words were: “A democratic idea: all lives have equal value.”


Sunday night saw the screening of First Generation including a Q & A with the filmmakers. Narrated by Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood, FIRST GENERATION tells the story of four high school students – an inner city athlete, a small town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer, and the daughter of migrant field workers – who set out to break the cycle of poverty and bring hope to their families and communities by pursuing a college education. Shot over the course of three years and featuring some of our nation’s top educational experts this 95 minute documentary explores the problem of college access faced by first generation and low-income students and how their success has major implications for the future of our nation.

GEAR UP West is a collaborative regional conference for college access practitioners from the western states of the US.

This year’s conference featured:

This year the conference drew nearly 600 participants from eight western states: AZ, CA, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA, & WY, as well as attendees from Wisconsin, Vermont, and across the country.  Attendees include GEAR UP and other college access program staff, evaluators, higher education professionals, and middle and high school teachers, counselors, and administrators. All those working to help low-income and underrepresented students prepare for and succeed in college were in attendance and made for lively and informative breakout sessions as well as important collaborative relationships being built across the region.

Share with us your regional collaboration or GEAR UP partnerships: comment on the blog or email us!


California GEAR UP Schools Complete Statewide Institutes


It took six hard earned weeks, but we are excited to announce all 48 California GEAR UP Middle Schools completed two day institutes across the state. These facilitated strategic planning sessions are the core of California GEAR UP work, involving all School Leadership Team members, Whole School Services Coaches, GEAR UP staff, and our statewide partnership organizations.

“The GEAR UP institutes provide out team the opportunity to further solidify our college going culture here at Samuel Jackman Middle School.  We are able to accomplish this through the team based guided discussions and common planning time that is available to us during the institutes. GEAR UP and the resources the program provides has been a tremendous asset to our school community.”  

-Principal Paul Burke, Jackman Middle School  

The two-day Institute uses the SSAR (school self assessment rubric) to look at school-wide perceptions  and offers strategies and techniques for focusing on the school-determined needs. It provides opportunities to learn about successes and challenges from other school teams. The institutes also provide additional opportunity for the School Leadership Team to work on the SSAR conditions and plan for implementation of their PDAP (professional development action plan)goals. Trained facilitators provide direction through a guided discussion and reflection promotes the beginning of a shared vision, the identification and coordination of resources, and the use of student data to develop and implement a unified schoolwide plan.

Featured activities at the institutes included Leadership Team panels to kick the first day off. In Glendale, Gage Middle School from Huntington Park, CA shared their pathway to becoming a GEAR UP School, and implementing a college-going culture throughout their school while increasing their API and gaining community wide buy-in for their common goals. In Northern California, Harris Middle School (pictured above) shared an inspiring story of coalescing a high functioning leadership team, and even finished their panel with a rousing school song. In Irvine, Vista Heights Middle School in Moreno Valley, CA shared their journey of engaging parents and families effectively while convincing teachers to continue to strive for high expectations despite ‘good’ API results, and the resulting ‘good to great’ transformation.

“California GEAR UP work is about building relationships with the adults who want to change school culture for the better, so that ALL students are prepared to go college. It is systemic change. Despite lay-offs, budget cuts and the changes that come along with these:  teachers, counselors and administrators want what is best for kids and it has shown in the amazing work of the leadership teams at our events.  This is truly meaningful work.”  -Gina Rodriguez, Whole School Services Manager.

Statewide Partnership Services were featured over the two day institutes and include professional development from The College Board and AVID, as well as family engagement services from PIQE and CEP. Presentations from MDTP (math diagnostic testing project) and CaliforniaColleges.Edu shared services to be used directly in the classroom.

Schools teams will now return to their sites with a better understanding of creating a transformative community-wide college going culture while being better equipped to leverage GEAR UP resources. Being a California GEAR UP school is a 6 year process, of which schools are embarking upon their second year. California GEAR UP School Services Coaches will meeting with schools across the state to facilitate use of GEAR UP tools, work on implementing Professional Development Action Plans, and scheduling Partnership and Statewide Services.

The purpose of California GEAR UP is to develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare all students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders and families. As a result of this expanded capacity, a higher proportion of students, particularly from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, will enroll and succeed in higher education.

For more information on California GEAR UP, please visit our website.

To see pictures of California GEAR UP Schools in action, check out our Facebook page and let us know what you think.

Dept of Ed Opens School Turnaround Resources to Public


Washington, DC–Recently, the U.S. Department of Education opened the School Turnaround Learning Community (STLC)  to the public, offering a wealth of resources and networking opportunities to educators throughout the country. The STLC is a collaboration platform that enables educators to share success stories, learn from colleagues throughout the country, and inform the Department with their expertise. Currently, the STLC has 4300 subscribed members, provides approximately 500 turnaround school resources, facilitates eight discussion boards, and has hosted nearly 60 webinars on various topics including teacher and leader effectiveness,increased learning time, and community and parent engagement.

According to the STLC site, “The goal of the STLC is to provide states and districts with easy online access to resources and to facilitate networking that will enable them to support schools more effectively…. Both research-based practices and practical examples from states, districts, and schools inventing on-the-ground solutions are available. The purpose of the STLC is to provide one-stop access to these resources and to promote and facilitate sharing across states and districts to deepen learning over time.”

If you are working to support school turnaround, you may want to take a moment to join the School Turnaround Learning Community (STLC) and their two active groups, Increased Learning Time and Teacher Effectiveness.  Once you join, visit the My Account page and click on the Notifications tab to set your preferences for receiving updates on activity in the online STLC.



Torlakson Leads ‘Strong Schools for a Strong Economy’ Tour

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson launched a month-long statewide tour today highlighting innovative career technical programs that help prepare students for jobs in the 21st-century economy.

Partnering with California School Boards Association (CSBA) President Jill Wynns along with teachers, parents, administrators, and school employees, Torlakson said the “Strong Schools for a Strong Economy” effort would underscore the link between California’s education system and the future of its economy.

“Despite cuts of more than $20 billion over the last few years, schools across California are doing more than ever to connect students to careers and the modern world of work,” Torlakson said. “The Linked Learning approach and programs like it keep our students more engaged while they are in school, and brighten their prospects for college and a career once they graduate. Schools have made preserving these programs a priority, but I’m deeply concerned that further cuts could see them placed on the chopping block.”

“We believe that students should not only be college ready at graduation but also workforce ready,” said CSBA President Jill Wynns. “School boards, administrators, teachers, and parents have done a remarkable job of keeping the schoolhouse doors open. However, the progress made to date in academic performance and the attainment of workforce skills will be lost without the state, once again, prioritizing public schools,” Wynns added.

“California’s educators see every day why investing in programs that prepare our students for the 21st-century workforce is vital to the future of our state,” said Dean E. Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association. “Our classrooms are already feeling the impacts of unprecedented cuts at a time when the state already ranks 47th in per-pupil spending. Billions more in cuts are possible unless voters in November provide our students with the new state revenues they all deserve.”

Funding for career technical education programs in California has been cut by $140.3 million in recent years, and much of what remains has been placed in categorical flexibility—meaning schools can use those funds for other programs. This year’s state budget also eliminated more than $50 million in funding for Career Technical Student Organizations. And schools face the prospect of $5.4 billion in additional “trigger” cuts depending on the outcome of the fall initiatives.

Torlakson began the tour today with a visit to Colton High School in Colton, where he was joined by Wynns, Colton Joint Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Almendarez, and Colton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laura Morales, who also serves on the school district’s Board of Education. The group visited classes in computer literacy and in consumer and family sciences before meeting with parents, teachers, and community leaders at the school.

The effort will continue on October 18 at Andrew P. Hill High School in San Jose, where Torlakson and Wynns will visit classes taking part in the school’s programs emphasizing medicine, healthcare, and technology. Also on this day, the California Department of Education will host a Webinar for districts interested in participating in a new state Linked Learning pilot program. Districts are encouraged to apply by November 30.

On October 19, Torlakson will visit Peter Johansen High School in Modesto. The school’s career technology programs include an emphasis on home economics.

On October 30, Torlakson and Wynns will join Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy at Cleveland High School in Reseda, visiting the school’s Academy of Arts and Technology and meeting with teachers, parents, and school employees.

And on November 1, Torlakson and Wynns will visit San Diego’s Patrick Henry High School, touring the school’s Engineering Academy, Healthcare Pathway, and Teaching and Human Services Academy before meeting with parents and faculty at the school.

Throughout the month, Torlakson and Wynns also will be meeting with media representatives to discuss the tour and their perspectives on how initiatives on the November ballot can help California address the need to prevent further budget cuts to education.

Torlakson, who declared a financial emergency in California’s schools when he took office in 2011, said the effort is meant to emphasize the need to prevent further cuts to school budgets.

“Our schools have more than met the challenge of doing more with less. But in this rapidly changing world, we need to do even more—retooling how we teach and what we teach—so that all students graduate with the real-world skills they need for college and a career,” Torlakson said.

“California’s schools are already engaged in this work, remodeling our education system, keeping the best of what we have while replacing what’s out of date. But our schools cannot do this alone,” he said. “That’s why we want every Californian to see the incredible work that’s going on—and invite them to be partners in our success.”


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The California Department of Education (CDE) is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. For more information, please visit or by mobile device at You may also follow Superintendent Torlakson on Twitter at and Facebook at