First Lady Michelle Obama Launches CTE App Challenge

In effort to inspire students to pursue an education beyond high school, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) launched the Reach Higher Career App Challenge to promote the development of mobile apps that will help students navigate education and career pathways, including career and technical education (CTE).

You can read the full press release here.

“If students want to learn cutting-edge skills and prepare for successful careers, a four-year university isn’t their only choice. CTE is also an excellent option because students can get all the professional skills they need for a good job in a high-demand field, and they can do it at a fraction of the time and cost of a four-year school,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.

The First Lady released a video message announcing the launch and call to action.

OCTAE is eager to see the innovative solutions that our nation of solvers will bring to the challenge. The submissions period was opened on October 7, 2015 and closes on December 7. The challenge enables developers, educators and data mavens to compete for a share of the $225,000 cash prize pool.

You can find all the information about the Reach Higher Career App Challenge on and enter the challenge at

You can also view the complete Federal Register Notice here.

Reach Higher Career App Challenge Launches Today

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education is excited to launch the App Challenge in collaboration with the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative.

We are eager to see the innovative solutions that developers, educators, and anyone interested in helping students map their futures, submit to the challenge and compete for a share of the $225,000 prize pool.
You can find all the information about the Reach Higher Career App Challenge on and enter the challenge at

You can also view the complete Federal Register Notice here.

Connecting Highest Degree Earned to Cognitive Skills

The following is the introduction to a post that appears on the National Center for Education Statistics Blog

Categories of educational attainment – or highest degree earned – are often used in social science research as an indicator of a person’s knowledge and skills. This measure is objective and readily available, easily understood by survey respondents as well as by consumers of research and survey data, strongly tied to policies (such as those promoting high school graduation and college completion rates), and widely used in the labor market by employers. Moreover, strong connections between educational attainment and positive life outcomes, such as employment, earnings, health, and civic engagement, are well established.

The article compares the direct measures of cognitive skills with the highest level of educational attainment as reported in the 2012 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey. You can read the full story on the National Center for Education Statistics Blog.

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

Manufacturing Day Gains Momentum

Manufacturers across the country are opening their doors on October 2nd, to welcome students, teachers, parents, and neighbors to provide a better understanding of the manufacturing that is thriving in their local communities. Visit the MFG Day website to find events in your area and post your own event.

Read More

White House Launches the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign

This article is cross-posted from ED’s Homeroom Blog, in recognition of all the immigrants and refugees and their teachers in our programs celebrating Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. Read the full post here.

On Thursday, Sept. 17, President Obama launched the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign, which invites local communities to commit, collaborate, and act on a set of principles to aid new American integration. These principles focus on building inclusive, welcoming communities that advance efforts in the core areas of civil, economic, and linguistic integration. The campaign recognizes the significance of local efforts given that each community has unique circumstances and opportunities. We ask that communities heed the call to create welcoming environments for new Americans in their own schools, neighborhoods, homes, agencies, and institutions. Encouraging broader participation in civic life, providing hubs where skills and job training can be developed, and supporting English language acquisition are clear steps that communities can take to ensure that new Americans feel accepted and supported in the places they call home. Enabling each other to succeed is the cornerstone of all successful communities.

To support these efforts, we will continue to provide critical resources and information to help schools, communities, state and local education agencies, institutions of higher education, and educators better serve this population and their families. One such resource, a Department-sponsored webinar series, focuses on key areas of the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign.

Learn more about how you can welcome, engage, and enhance the lives of new Americans (pdf).

Read the full blog here.


Throwing Down the Gauntlet for Professional Development

Co-authored post by Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary of Education, OCTAE, researcher and teacher; and Gail Spangenberg, President, National Council for Adult Learning

Moving PD Closer to the Top was the theme of an August 25th blog hosted by the National Council for Adult Learning. A group of prominent Adult Education leaders contributed essays to that blog. They were Mary Ann Corley, John Fleischman, Daphne Greenberg, David Rosen, Cristine Smith, Jackie Taylor, Randy Whitfield, and the co-authors of this essay. They gave their perspectives on the high importance of professional development in our field and suggested many excellent priority actions in PD to meet current and future demands for outreach and effective service.

It is time to throw down the gauntlet for PD.  A serious conversation and commitment to Adult Education professional development is long overdue.  We should be talking more extensively and with higher-level commitment about the conditions we need to create for work and learning in our field, for the good of adult learners and our nation.  All the more so as we work together to prepare for a full and robust implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  NCAL’s blog was a start.  We hope the following discussion will add usefully to that beginning and encourage others to weigh in with their own ideas.


A recent report from The New Teacher Project concludes that school districts spend an average of $18,000 per teacher annually on professional development.  The report summarizes the results of a survey of over 10,000 teachers and 500 school leaders in three large public school systems, as well as the results of interviews and analyses of teacher ratings. This huge investment produced underwhelming outcomes. Only 30% of teachers saw improvements in their practice over a 2-3 year period. The report also notes that no particular approach helped teachers get better, and among teachers who did improve success was not linked to any systemic efforts by the districts.

Read More

LINCS Learner Center Launched for Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

LINCS Learner Center Topic Icons

LINCS Learner Center Homepage


OCTAE has launched an online center to direct adult learners to free, high-quality resources related to education, job and life skills. The LINCS Learner Center complements OCTAE’s priority goal to make on-demand learning available for teachers and students.

A call to action in OCTAE’s February 2015 report, Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States, identified the need and potential to reach more low-skilled adults through online, on-demand tools.

The Learner Center, opening during the 2015 National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, #AEFLWeek, is a gateway to resources from many federal agencies and organizations. Resources accessed through the site can help adult learners improve their reading, writing, math, science, and English skills; build job skills; acquire an understanding of American government and history to obtain citizenship; and find a nearby adult education, computer training, or postsecondary education or training program.

Developed to be mobile-friendly, the site brings resources to learners in class, on the go, and at home. This feature can extend users’ learning time and accelerate their skill development.

Share the site with your teachers and learners and re-tweet alerts from @LINCS_ED. Help amplify OCTAE’s reach by posting the following message to your own social media network:

Help #adultedu learners improve their English, get job skills & more. Point new users to free resources at the Learner Center!

The initial site is a beta version, designed to join the national conversation about digital tools for adult learners. Future phases will incorporate more tools, features, and partners. OCTAE applauds ongoing work to stimulate the marketplace and ed-tech development. Stay tuned and get involved!


From Teacher to Advocate: A Guest Blog Celebrating Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2015

Photo of Heather Ritchie

Guest Blogger Heather Ritchie, MAACCE President and Professional Development Specialist, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School

I am a teacher. I am a trainer. I am an educator. I am an administrator. These are the words I use to describe myself when someone asks what I do for a living. Then there is “I am an advocate for adult education.” This is a phrase I never used to use but find myself utilizing more often these days. It is the most powerful of the phrases and I wish all of my colleagues would add it to their titles too.

As many people have done, I did not plan a career in adult education, I evolved into it. I worked in communications and nonprofits. I loved travel and celebrated the unique nature of different cultures locally and abroad. Reading has always been one of my pleasurable pastimes; it is a gateway to information and ideas I never knew existed. Then, I learned about opportunities in my local area to teach adults. (As you’ve probably noticed, my impetus was all about me up until this point.) Then, I started teaching and year by year, my focus has been less about me and more about the students.

The students – amazing individuals who balance family with work at multiple jobs, some of whom have come from other countries and left so much behind, who have dreams of brighter futures for their children and sometimes themselves. The students changed the way I thought about our work. Instead of looking only inside the classroom to see what I could do to best support them, I began looking outside to the broader community and realized how much was hidden from the broader public – our neighbors, our politicians, and businesses.

Whenever advocacy is mentioned and volunteers are called for, the truth is, people usually turn the other way or look at their phones. Why is this? Probably, because it is an unknown experience or it is misunderstood. Most people are afraid this means talking with politicians or public speaking. Advocacy can be those things, but it is so much more! It is getting the message out to anyone and everyone, so that adult students, who are also our neighbors, can have more access to quality opportunities for education.

When I call myself an advocate these days, here is what I think of and hope that you will too:

Read More

Strengthening Transportation Career Pathways

The article is cross-posted on the Department of Transportation Fast Lane Blog

The U.S. Departments of Transportation, Education, and Labor kicked off the week with some good news today, releasing a joint report, “Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways across the Transportation Industry.”

The new report details future employment hot spots in transportation by industry subsectors, occupations, career areas, and geographic areas. It also identifies good-paying, high-demand transportation jobs and analyzes patterns in the education and work experience required for entry –as well as on-the-job training requirements to help new entrants gain greater competency.

The report concludes that there will be more job opportunities in the near future due to expected growth, retirements, and turnover in the transportation industry. Each year, the U.S. Department of Transportation provides over $51 billion in surface transportation construction funding to build and maintain our Nation’s highways, bridges, and public transportation systems. For every $1 billion in transportation infrastructure investments, 13,000 jobs are projected to be created over the next decade.

But those opportunities won’t fill themselves. Employers will need to hire and train a total of 4.6 million new workers; that’s 1.2 times the current transportation workforce. As U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said, “Industry and government must increase recruitment and help young people get the skills, training, and apprenticeships they need to gain entry into these careers.”

Recruiting and training new and current workers responsible for the operation, maintenance, and construction of America’s transportation infrastructure will be critical to maintaining a system that meets the economic and security needs of a growing American population.

“Ensuring that America continues to lead the way in the global economy means not only investing in the physical infrastructure that allows us to move goods and keep up with global demand, but also the skills infrastructure to support this growing workforce,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Through smart investments in apprenticeships and other work-based training programs, transportation jobs are helping millions of Americans punch their tickets to the middle class.”

While demand for transportation workers will vary by region, subsector, and occupation, these workforce changes will result in increased job opportunities for skilled and semi-skilled workers across the transportation sector.

“In today’s society, it is important that all of our students are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills to compete in a global economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “There are incredible opportunities for Americans in the transportation industry and the Department is fully committed to working with leaders in the industry to promote partnerships between education and workforce institutions in order to support training programs that will help our country succeed.”

OCTAE presents at the Automotive Instructor Training Conference

As an automotive technology instructor, how did you spend your time outside of the classroom this summer? Over 275 instructors received intensive professional development during the 2nd annual Instructor Training Conference provided by The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Industry Education Alliance.

Chuck Roberts, Justin Morgan, and Trish Serratore standing with an ASE backdrop

Chuck Roberts, VP NATEF/AYES, Justin Morgan, Instructor at Sinclair Community College and Trish Serratore, NATEF/AYES President

The ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference offered not only numerous technical training sessions from manufacturers involved in all aspects of the automotive industry, but also education development sessions focusing on the teaching and learning process.

These instructors understand the importance of high academic standards and strong technical skills needed by students enrolled in their NATEF-accredited programs. They also understand, first hand, the shortage of qualified teachers entering the education profession, specifically, in career and technical education areas.

In conversations with the attendees, I observed one of the most valued aspects conferences can provide. That is, the value of informal mentoring that occurs between experienced teachers and beginning teachers.

Photo of man examining an engine belt in the audience of a learning session

Joe Gravino, Teacher at Passaic County Technical Institute, examines an engine belt during the annual conference. Kris Killam, left and Jennifer Andronas, right are seated behind Gravino

With business partners of ASE, ATech, Bosch, Bridgestone, Carquest, CDX, Cengage, Garage Gurus, Gates, Lexus, Navistar, Nissan, Snap On, Subaru, and Toyota, these automotive technology teachers and administrators are committed that their programs maintain accreditation in this fast-changing technological industry.

Plans are being made for the 2016 ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference in Concord, North Carolina, and I hope to see you there.

The ASE Industry Education Alliance is a group of organizations under the ASE umbrella providing a career resource from entry-level to retirement for automotive industry personnel and serves as a model for other industries. The ASE Industry Education Alliance consists of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES), and the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC).

Posted by
Robin Utz serves as the chief for the College and Career Transitions branch in the Division of Academic and Technical Education (DATE) for Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the US Department of Education.