New Guidance on ‘Ability to Benefit’

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 helped reopen the door to opportunity in postsecondary education by changing the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), to partially restore what is known as the “ability to benefit (ATB) alternatives”. The new law went into effect on Dec. 16, 2014, and changed the HEA to allow a student who did not receive a high school diploma (or its recognized equivalent), or who did not complete a secondary school education in a home-school setting, to be eligible for Title IV financial aid. This can now be done through a combination of ATB alternatives and enrollment in an eligible career pathway program (as determined by the Title IV eligible institutions’ staff).

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Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education

Family & Consumer Sciences delegates visit DC

Gayla Randel standing at podium

NASAFACS President, Gayla Randel addresses the audience

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education recently held a briefing to learn how Family and Consumer Sciences Education is contributing to the Administration’s education priorities.

State leaders of the National Association of State Administrators of Family and Consumer Sciences (NASAFACS) addressed the importance of career-ready foundation for all youth and adults, and explained how its programs, standards, and instructional strategies are preparing students to succeed in their careers and communities. In particular, the audience heard how Family and Consumer Sciences Education improves college and career readiness and workforce success by addressing foundational STEM literacy, 21st century employability skills development, and the technical skills in career clusters with high labor demand.

a group of NASAFACS members stand in front of the flags of the Department of Education and U.S. Flags

A NASAFACS delegation attended the briefing during its visit to Washington D.C. for its annual meeting.

Gayla Randel, the 2014-15 President of NASAFACS, explained how Family and Consumer Sciences provides foundational life skill development, employability skills education, and workforce education and training through more than 27,000 middle and secondary level teachers who reach approximately 3.5 million students annually. These students represent a range of diverse communities in large and small educational systems and from all geographic locations in the United States.

Materials from the briefing can be downloaded below:
Download PDF – 2 Pages STEM and FCS
Download PDF – 2 pages FCS and Workforce Connections Issue Brief
Download PDF – 45 pages NASAFACS Presentation

Exploring Games for Learning

How can games transform education? That question was at the core of the Games for Learning summit that was held in New York City in conjunction with the 12th Annual Games for Change Festival. The Office of Education Technology led the day-long event that convened educators, game developers, and technology companies to discuss the latest trends, products, and barriers to developing games that effectively deliver education content.

Photo a crowd viewing a series of video displays with demonstrations of games

Game developers try the latest educational games at the Games for Change Festival in New York City.

OCTAE had the opportunity to announce the EdSim Challenge that will be launching soon. The EdSim, or Educational Simulations, Challenge seeks to demonstrate the value of establishing a predictable framework for developers, schools, and businesses to develop and use high-quality immersive 3D simulations to deliver high-quality CTE. The framework will be developed through a crowdsourced comment phase through which the public can recommend technology and educational approaches to integrate into the challenge.

To stay updated on the EdSim Challenge and receive notification when the public comment period opens, register for email notifications on

Also on Twitter at #EdSimChallenge and #EdPrizes.

CTE Student celebrated at White House Science Fair

Photo of Eric Koehlmoos standing with his research exhibit

Eric Koehlmoos appears with his Grass to Gas research at the 2015 White House Science Fair

Eric Koehlmoos, a Career and Technical Education student and member of the National FFA Organization was recognized at the 2015 White House Science Fair that was held on March 26 for his “Grass to Gas” project. Eric, 18, is a member of the South O’Brien FFA Chapter in Paulina, Iowa. He was invited to participate in the Fair that celebrates the accomplishments of student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions throughout the United States.

More than 100 of the nation’s brightest young minds were welcomed to the fifth White House Science fair. In the past, innovative inventions, discoveries and science projects have been showcased.

Koehlmoos won first place in the Power, Structural and Technical Systems category at the 2014 National FFA Agriscience Fair, a special project of the National FFA Foundation that was sponsored by Cargill, Bayer CropScience, John Deere, PotashCorp and Syngenta. The fair was held during the National FFA Convention & Expo and featured the research and results of FFA members who plan on pursuing careers in the science and technology of agriculture. This accomplishment earned him the special White House invitation.

Koehlmoos’ project, “Grass to Gas,” consisted of three years of research with prairie cordgrass and switch grass and their potential impact in the cellulosic ethanol industry.
“Because I come from a farm background I was very interested in the biofuel industry and the new cellulosic ethanol plants being built near my house,” Koehlmoos said.

Photo of Eric Koehlmoos standing with the White House in the background

Eric Koehlmoos stands in front of the White House during his visit to Washington, D.C.

During his three years of research, Koehlmoos found that both grasses produce nearly 200 more gallons of ethanol per acre than corn and wheat straw, two mainstream methods for ethanol production. He also discovered that when both grasses are pretreated with calcium hydroxide, ethanol yields are increased by as much as 80 percent and produces a byproduct that has higher protein values than corn distiller grains.

Koehlmoos plans to continue his research in college and would ultimately like to use these grasses to commercially produce ethanol in the Southern Plains, which would provide a sustainable solution to importing foreign oil while also not competing with the food supply.

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

Students Showcase Career and Technical Education and STEM to Congress

Photo of two students in lab coats describe their biomedical program to Mark Mitsui from OCTAE while standing in front of their exhibit table.

Students from Washington County Technical High School, Maryland, explain their biomedical program to OCTAE Deputy Assistant Secretary, Mark Mitsui.

Students from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia demonstrated the role of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM in preparing students for college and careers. The event was co-hosted by the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and the Senate CTE Caucus. OCTAE attended the event which was held in a science fair-style format and provided an opportunity for students to explain their work and how it has prepared them for their future as professionals. Exhibits featured advanced technical skills in biosciences and robotics to engineering and computer programming, as well as employability skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking and creative problem solving that students are obtaining through their programs.

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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.

Webinar: Performance Partnership Pilots

A second webinar will be held Wednesday, December 17, 2014 to answer questions about evaluation for the Performance Partnership Pilots (P3) for Disconnected Youth. The P3 program offers a unique opportunity to test innovative, cost-effective, and outcome-focused strategies for improving results for disconnected youth.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 provides authority to the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, along with the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and related agencies to enter into up to ten Performance Partnership agreements with states, regions, localities, or tribal communities that give them additional flexibility in using discretionary funds across multiple Federal programs.

This webinar will address questions such as:

  • What are the requirements for all pilots related to evaluation?
  • What evaluation activities are optional but will make my proposal more competitive?
  • How do the competitive preferences relate to evaluation work?
  • If I want to propose an evaluation, what standards should my evaluation design meet?
  • What’s the difference between the national P3 evaluation and a site-specific P3 evaluation ?
  • What issues should I consider when planning evaluation activities?
  • What resources are available to help with the evaluation components of the application?

You can find more information and register for the webinar here.

Deadline Approaches to Nominate Excellent CTE Programs

If you know of a stellar Career and Technical Education Program of Study that deserves national recognition, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) is seeking applications for its annual “Excellence in Action” award. The nomination period ends Thursday, December 18, 2014. Award winners will be honored in Washington, DC on April 8, 2015. The awards are intended to highlight high quality Career Cluster-based programs of study that have a meaningful impact on student achievement and success. Winners will receive national exposure and travel to Washington, DC to receive the award. Visit the NASDCTEc website for more information about the award program.

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Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

Performance Partnership Pilot Opportunity Announced

Five Federal agencies are coming together to offer a new opportunity to help communities overcome the obstacles they face in achieving better outcomes for disconnected youth. For the next 100 days, State, tribes, and municipalities can apply to become a Performance Partnership Pilot (P3) and test innovative, outcome-focused strategies to achieve significant improvements for disconnected youth in educational, employment, and other key outcomes.

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Photo of Johan Uvin
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Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

DECA Hosts Idea Challenge

Can you think of an innovative use for a household item? That is the objective in the DECA Idea Challenge that launches at midnight tonight, November 12. The competition challenges students from elementary school to college to submit their idea for a new use for a common household item. DECA will announce the item at midnight and competitors have eight days to submit their entry via YouTube. Students do not have to be in Career and Technical Education (CTE) or be a DECA member to participate, and you can find a challenge toolkit and contest rules on the website.

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Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

Public Comments Received on Career Pathways

On April 23, 2014, the Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL) issued a Request for Information on Adoption of Career Pathways Approaches for the Delivery of Education, Training, Employment, and Human Services in the Federal Register. The request asked commenters to respond to 13 different questions regarding the design and implementation of career pathways systems. The comment period closed on June 9, 2014 and generated an impressive 142 public comments.

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Photo of Johan Uvin
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Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
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Policy Analyst, OCTAE
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Director, Policy, Research, and Evaluation Services Division, OCTAE