FFA Members Exhibit Biotech and Agriscience at White House Science Fair

Talie Cloud, from Sanger, California and Mikayla Ockels from Sussex, Delaware, exhibited their projects at the sixth annual White House Science Fair held on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. The science fair celebrated the accomplishments of students from throughout the country in a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Talie Cloud – Momordica Charantia as an Insecticide

Photo of Talie Cloud standing on the White House lawn with her exhibit

Talie Cloud exhibited her award winning agriscience project at the 2016 White House Science Fair

Talie, 15, is a member of the Sanger FFA Chapter and won first place in her category and division at the 2015 National FFA Agriscience Fair, an annual competition sponsored by Cargill, John Deere and Syngenta during the National FFA Convention & Expo. The FFA Agriscience Fair features the research and results of FFA members who plan on pursuing careers in the science and technology of agriculture.

Her project explored the effects of Momordica charantia, or bitter melon seed, on the reproductive rate of Drosophila melanogaster after four generations of exposure. The purpose of the project was to determine whether the bitter melon seed could be used as a potential organic insecticide.

Her findings determined that with more investigation on the chemical makeup, ideal concentration mixture, environmental impact and application method, Momordica charantia would be a cost-efficient and effective agricultural insecticide that acts upon the reproduction of the pest, rather than the mortality rate.

Talie is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) student in agriculture, food and natural resources and was invited to exhibit at the White House Science Fair which was the last science fair to be held during President Barack Obama’s administration.

Mikayla Ockels – Feed to Egg Conversion Rate

Photo of Mikayla Ockels standing on the White House lawn in front of her exhibit while holding a hen.

Mikayla Ockels exhibited her award winning biotech science project at the 2016 White House Science Fair

Mikayla, from Sussex Central High School in Delaware, presented her project, “The Feed to Egg Conversion Rate of Heritage Hens.” This project studied which breed of heritage hen had the optimal feed-to-egg conversion rate in a pasture raised environment. Feed to egg conversion rate is the amount of feed it takes for a hen to lay a single egg. Mikayla studied heritage breeds, as these are the breeds that are the hardiest and can thrive in an outdoor environment. Her pasture raised egg business requires heritage breeds, as pasture raised means that the birds are let outside every day to roam freely. This project won awards at the state and regional levels, including the state BioGENEius competition. Mikayla also participated in the National FFA Agriscience fair in 2013 and 2014.

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

All 50 States & Washington D.C. Joined the CTE Makeover Challenge!

CTE Makeover Challenge receives submissions from all 50 states and DC!

CTE Makeover Challenge receives submissions from all 50 states and DC!

We are excited to share that over 600 schools entered the CTE Makeover Challenge. High schools from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. submitted preliminary plans for makerspaces to help strengthen next-generation career and technical skills.

The 6-week CTE Makeover Bootcamp phase kicked off this week to help schools to turn their vision for a makerspace into a reality. Whether schools have been making for years or are just getting started, they can participate in webinars and office hours with leaders in the maker world to finalize their design plans, budgets, and implementation strategies.

Following the Bootcamp, second-round blueprint packages will be judged, and up to 10 schools will receive awards from the $200,000 cash prize pool, as well as additional in-kind prizes.

We are thrilled with the tremendous response to the Challenge and want to thank all schools that entered. Once we confirm eligibility of the schools submitting first-round entries, we will provide an updated count of the schools eligible to submit second-round blueprints. Good luck to all during this next phase!

You can follow along during the Bootcamp at CTEMakeoverChallenge.com, and join the conversation using #CTEMakeover.

One Week Remains to Join the CTE Makeover Challenge!

Composite image that reads CTE Makeover Challenge, calling on Schools to Design Makerspaces, $200000 in cash awards plus additional prizes. CTE Makeoverchallenge.comThere is one week left for schools to enter the CTE Makeover Challenge and compete for a share of the $200,000 cash prize pool and additional in-kind prizes! The Challenge was launched on March 9, 2016 and calls on high schools to design makerspaces that strengthen next-generation career and technical skills.

Schools can join the Challenge by visiting CTEMakeoverChallenge.com and completing a short submission form. The Challenge website also contains more information about the Challenge as well as complete rules, terms, and conditions.

Read More

Let’s Commit to Giving CTE Students the Opportunity They Demand and Deserve

Career and technical education (CTE) has changed a lot from the “old vocational education” that many of us know from our school days. For the better part of this century, States and local communities have worked steadily to build high-quality CTE programs that are academically rigorous and aligned with labor market demands. The whole idea of the artificial separation between academic and technical pathways is passé. Most professions and careers in the 2016 and future economies require strong academic foundation skills, considerable technical knowledge and skills, and well-developed employability skills and attributes. There is nothing about CTE today that is not rigorous, relevant, and worth it.

Read More

Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Deputy Assistant Secretary, OCTAE
Posted by
Director of Policy, OCTAE
SLMiller2
Posted by
Director, Division of Academic and Technical Education, OCTAE

21, 23, or 26? Rethinking Eligibility for Youth Who Have Aged Out of Foster Care

Good health is really important. That is why we all need access to health care we can afford. Regardless of our age. Up until January 2014, foster youth over the age of 18 did not have that access. It was at that time that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required states to provide Medicaid coverage for foster youth until they turned 26, as long as they were in foster care and receiving Medicaid at age 18. This was a huge step forward.

Photo of Isabel Soto

As a biological sister to siblings who aged out of foster care, I know all too well that eighteen is too young an age for many youth and young adults to be without financial, social, and emotional support. Having been adopted, I, like many youth, was not suddenly expected to be fully independent and entirely self-reliant the day I turned eighteen.
– Isabel Soto

Still, foster youth need more. The needs of foster youth are no different than the needs of other youth or young adults. We should make sure youth who age out of foster care can access the same services and supports our own young adult children can until they are stable and on their feet. In fact, data show that a growing number of young adults are living with their parents well into their thirties. And, recent U.S. Census data show that 18- to 34-year olds are less likely to be living on their own today than they were during the Great Recession.

Parents of young adults make sure their kids have continued care and support as they mature, pursue a higher education, or test the job market in search of their first or that next better paying job. So why aren’t we ensuring the same for foster youth or youth who have aged out of the foster care system? This makes no sense.

The good news is that several states are thinking about this and are taking steps to extend benefits and services, other than health care, beyond age 18. Today, almost every state has extended benefits to foster youth past the age of 18 and up to age 21 with federal Title IV-E funding. However, not all states are alike in the way they treat this issue. Two states have extended foster care services for youth up to age 19, two states to age 20, forty-two states to age 21, one state to age 21 ½, two states to age 22, and one state to age 23. These differences are causing some new challenges. Medicaid coverage, for example, is not transportable for many young people who move out of state and we know very little about the number of states that offer coverage to out-of-state youths today. Again, these differences in access make no sense.

Over the last couple of years, our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services and our team have had quite a few opportunities to talk with and listen to both current and former foster youth. We heard their stories. We learned about their dreams. We learned about the many obstacles standing in the way of them achieving those dreams. From these conversations, we have concluded that these are reasonable next steps to ensure improved career and life trajectories for foster youth:

  • Youth in transition from foster care are often left to navigate their instantaneous life as independents alone. Policies and programs designed to assist this population accomplish little to nothing if foster youth do not know such services are available. For this reason, it is critical to first ensure that current and former foster youth are made aware of and able to access the resources available to them.
  • It is essential to have child welfare and education related staff and relevant community partners trained to help youth gain access to available supports that will help them transition to independent living.” Further, it is important that they know how to help youth access and maintain safe and stable housing, transportation, financial resources, and access to postsecondary education and career opportunities.

States are the entities deciding whether to extend benefits to foster care services for youth to 21, 23, and beyond. States are the entities that will decide to offer coverage to out-of-state youths. We realize it may take states some time to get there. The important thing is that we continue to work together at the national, state, local, and tribal levels to extend services for these youth well into their twenties and to ensure all services are transportable from state to state.

There are approximately 20,000-25,000 youth who emancipate every year. These young adults face more obstacles as they transition to adulthood such as homelessness, unemployment, difficulty accessing postsecondary education, and financial instability. This does not have to and should not be the case.

Johan E. Uvin is the Deputy Assistant Secretary (delegated the duties of Assistant Secretary) for Career, Technical and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education

Isabel Soto is a former foster youth and Confidential Assistant in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education

Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Deputy Assistant Secretary, OCTAE
Photo of Isabel Soto
Posted by
Confidential Assistant, OCTAE

Upcoming Webinar on Teaching Transportation

Innovative Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Partnerships, a webinar on effective teaching strategies, is scheduled for February 24, 2016. The 90-minute webinar is being hosted by the Southwest Transportation Workforce Center (SWTWC), which is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The webinar is being held from 3:30pm to 5:00pm Eastern Time (12:30pm to 2:00pm Pacific Time) and will feature teachers, administrators, and industry partners who will discuss innovative education programs and teaching models for grades 6 through 12. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) is co-hosting the event.

For more information and to register for the webinar visit http://www.swtwc.org/itdlp-webinar.

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

After Finals, Foster Youth Students Continue to Face a Difficult Test

Last year on December 30th, Annie Blackledge and I co-authored a blog post called “After Finals, Foster Youth Face a Much More Difficult Test.” We wrote the blog to draw attention to the issue that many homeless and foster care students find themselves scrambling for somewhere to live during winter break until classes resume in January. While several institutions have put in place solutions to avoid this spell of unnecessary homelessness, not all institutions have. I am reposting the blog from last year as an additional call to action to do the right thing on behalf of homeless and foster youth and young adult emancipated students.


After Finals, Foster Youth Face a Much More Difficult Test

As winter break unwinds and college students are at home for the holidays, many homeless and foster care students find themselves scrambling for somewhere to live until classes resume in January. College campuses traditionally close down for winter break. For these vulnerable students their college campus is their home, their community and a primary source of security. While their peers are headed home to see family and catch up with old friends, many of these young people are faced with bleak prospects for the holiday season.

These vulnerable youth face the same struggles as other young people trying to maintain good grades, navigating social peer groups, and planning their futures, but they face the additional burdens associated with little to no adult guidance or support. Fortunately, higher education professionals across our nation have begun to tackle the unique issues faced by homeless and foster care students. They are developing comprehensive strategies to address the most persistent barriers these students face; not just during the holiday season, but all year long.

“Higher education can be the silver bullet to achieving long-term health, housing, and economic security. And for young people who have already overcome so much adversity just to earn a seat in a college classroom, they should have every opportunity—inside and outside of the classroom—to succeed” says Jasmine Hayes, Policy Director for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Ensuring these youth have a safe, stable place to call home in-between semesters is critical. Keeping student housing open and available for youth experiencing homelessness during semester breaks is an effective approach.”

Programs in states like Colorado and North Carolina have implemented Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) in their postsecondary institutions which provide these students access to designated college administrators who are committed to helping them to successfully navigate the college-going process. States and higher education institutions across the country are also working to address the issues these students face, including

  • access to higher education opportunities and financial support;
  • navigation of the college-going process, including financial aid and service referral processes; and
  • basic needs like employment, housing and food.

These efforts are ensuring these most vulnerable students reach their highest potential.

Colleges can play a pivotal role in supporting the academic success of these students. Just ask for foster youth, Alain Datcher. “Entering college as a first time student was a daunting experience. It was a mixture of culture shock, academic rigor and rapid growth. I don’t believe I would have succeeded without the support network I had in one woman – Tamara Malone. She was a mentor, academic advisor, dean and more in one caring, compassionate woman.” When asked how he thought his experience could translate for other students who are homeless or in foster care he replied, “Proximity will define opportunity for these young people. Having a close, approachable, and tangible support network will make the difference. It did in my college education at Biola University. I’ll be earning a Master’s of Public Policy degree in April. Having one caring, single point of contact in Tamra is a big reason why I will.”

When educators act, they change lives. If you know of a foster youth student in your institution, be proactive and reach out. It can make all the difference. Find out more at http://findyouthinfo.gov/.

Minority Serving Community Colleges: Meeting the Future Now

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) hosted the first Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) convening for two-year colleges on November 16th and 17th. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all the representatives of MSIs, the experts from academia and the philanthropic sector, and the staffs of the White House, Congressional legislative staff and the many federal agencies, including the Department of Education, who collaborated to make this convening such a success.

Photo of Mark Mitsui addressing the audience of MSI leaders

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Mark Mitsui welcomes Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) leaders from across the country.

As our nation becomes more diverse, a growing number of community colleges are designated as, or are eligible to be designated as Minority Serving Institutions. These colleges play a key role in the higher education completion agenda and have a lot of hard-earned wisdom, experience, and knowledge about student success that needs to be shared. Our work on November 16th and 17th was a major step in the right direction. OCTAE hosted over 120 institutions. More than 250 participants in the convening exchanged practices with peers, networked with representatives from 13 federal agencies, and discovered how philanthropy, research, and national student success initiatives intersect with their work. Attendees also had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with several different divisions within the Department of Education and with Congressional staff. A panel of excellent students provided their perspectives.

This conference built on the foundation of work these institutions have already established to help their students to be successful. The energy and enthusiasm at the conference was inspiring and I am looking forward to the work ahead.

Participants agreed to join one of the MSI communities of practice, some of which had been established prior to the convening by volunteer leaders at various community colleges across the country. These communities will continue to exchange promising practices, share invaluable experiences, and connect with federal agencies in an online format.

If you are interested in joining one of the communities of practice or want to discuss other matters with us, please email me at Mark.Mitsui@ed.gov.

With this said, let me once again take the opportunity to thank the attendees for their participation in the convening, for the ideas and aspirations you shared with us, and for your continuing commitment to the well-being and success of your students.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Posted by
Mark Mitsui OCTAE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges 202-245-7812 Mark.Mitsui@ed.gov

Your Feedback Wanted on Next Generation CTE Simulations

We want to hear your thoughts, and hope you will participate in this open call!

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will launch the EdSim Challenge, which will call upon the gaming, developer, and edtech communities to design simulated environments that prepare America’s students for a more competitive world through high-quality career and technical education.

On November 5th, OCTAE launched a call for public feedback to help inform the Challenge design. Public feedback will be accepted through December 6, 2015 regarding topics such as simulated learning subject areas, skill sets, and technical considerations.

Following the call for public feedback, ED will finalize the EdSim Challenge design. In Spring 2016, the EdSim Challenge will open for submissions, seeking engaging educational simulations that will help define the next generation of applied learning and pair immersive technologies with rigorous educational content and integrated assessment.

Simulated learning experiences, such as immersive gaming environments, virtual reality, and training simulations, represent an emerging class of instructional content delivery in education. Research indicates that simulation-based learning holds advantages for students in terms of information retention, engagement, skills training, and learning outcomes. We are excited to help move these technologies forward for the benefit of our nation’s students.

You can learn more about the Challenge and submit feedback at EdSimChallenge.com.

New Project Explores Connections with Apprenticeships

OCTAE announces a new project to explore options for improving connections between secondary Career and Technical Education and Apprenticeships in conjunction with first National Apprenticeship Week. OCTAE is pleased to report the launch of our new initiative to promote youth engagement in this promising workforce development strategy. Given the benefits that apprenticeship confers to both trainees and employers, states are exploring ways to attract more people, including youth, to apprenticeship programs.

The OCTAE-sponsored initiative explores options for expanding the pipeline of apprentices. The project focuses on identifying promising strategies to improve programmatic alignment between secondary career and technical education (CTE) programs and the registered apprenticeship system. The project will support state and local leaders in replicating and scaling existing pre-apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship programs, and will promote apprenticeships as a viable career path for students participating in CTE programs. The project is entitled “Potential Role of Secondary Career and Technical Education Programs in Preparing Students for Apprenticeship Programs.”

“Students participating in secondary CTE are among the most qualified for entry into apprenticeship programs, and OCTAE is pleased to do its share in helping to meet the President’s ambitious goal of doubling the number of apprentices within five years.”
— Dr. Johan Uvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

Apprenticeship programs offer unique, mutually beneficial opportunities to apprentices and employers. Apprentices learn advanced, industry-vetted academic and technical skills that are offered as part of a paid, on-the-job work experience. Upon program completion, apprentices earn industry-recognized credentials that enable them to find immediate employment, with average starting wages above $50,000 annually. By being directly involved in training apprentices, employers ensure that they have access to the talent to meet their workforce needs, and be economically competitive.

OCTAE plans to release technical assistance materials and tools on our PCRN website that highlight promising practices and actionable strategies, and will likely include a resource guide, instructional videos, and webinars showcasing local program design strategies and tools.