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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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).

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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.

Educators Rising Elevates Teacher Recruitment

This week has been a big week in the world of Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs).  In addition to SkillsUSA sending a team of competitors to the World Skills Competition in São Paulo, Brazil, we also saw the launch of Educators Rising, a CTSO on a mission to expand and support high quality Education and Training career pathways.  As America seeks to meet the demand for qualified teachers, Career and Technical Education is ready to be part of the solution.

Educators Rising, a member of the National Coordinating Council of Career and Technical Student Organizations, is the evolution of the Future Educators Association (FEA).  Educators Rising will continue to provide a national student leadership program, an online library of resources for students and teacher leaders, networking opportunities, and pathways to careers in education. Over the next year, Educators Rising will be preparing for its national conference where students will demonstrate their skills through competitive events.

Educators Rising membership is free for all students with an interest in teaching and teacher leaders who wish to serve as mentors for the next generation of highly skilled educators. For a 3-minute tour of Educators Rising’s new virtual campus, please watch the video below. For more information about what’s new in Educators Rising, click here.

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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.

SkillsUSA Travels to Brazil for World Skills Competition

On August 11, 2015, eighteen SkillsUSA members will attend the opening ceremony of the 43rd biennial World Skills Competition in São Paulo, Brazil. The Ceremony will take place from 6:00-8:30 p.m. EDT and will feature a grand Parade of Nations (composed of more than 50 participating countries and regions), and entertainment which highlights typical Brazilian cultural dances and more.

SkillsUSA is a national organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in technical, skilled and service occupations, including health occupations and for further education.  SkillsUSA is a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) whose members are enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs representing multiple industry sectors. It is also a World Skills member organization, hence its participation in this week’s competition.

SkillsUSA World Team

SkillsUSA World Team

The competition will last five days, and features 62 different WorldSkills Member countries and regions from around the globe, 1,150 Competitors competing in 50 different skills, and opportunities for all participants to learn and experiment with new skills while they are in Brazil.

This is the first WorldSkills Competition ever held in Latin America, and 200,000 spectators are expected to attend the event.

The Closing Ceremony, one of the most exciting moments of the event, will be held on Sunday, August 16, 2015 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. EDT, and will present to the public the winners of the Competition.

For more information and livestream links at which you may watch the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, please visit the links below.

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Olivia Wood is a summer intern for the College and Career Transitions branch of the Division of Academic and Technical Education in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.
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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.

Intern Perspectives: Richard Miller

I am glad that I chose to intern at OCTAE this summer. It was a rewarding experience. OCTAE welcomed me into their office  with open arms, and I was privileged to work with great people fighting for an important cause. I believe in the work that OCTAE does to assist and  promote career, technical, and adult education programs, and I am inspired by all of the dedicated public servants at OCTAE who work to expand access to education in our nation.   I wish I never had to leave!

I also learned a lot in my work at OCTAE. I improved my knowledge of education policy, worked on interesting projects, and gained important employability skills. Coincidentally, my primary project at OCTAE focused on employability skills. The project was to conduct  an environmental scan of educational technology tools whose curricula focused on the employability skills defined in the Employability Skills Framework. I was particularly interested in tools targeted toward disconnected youth. I am glad that OCTAE worked with me to create this meaningful project, and I am happy that I was able to contribute to OCTAE’s efforts during my short time in DC.

My experience with OCTAE helped me to grow professionally and inspired me to make a difference. I would strongly recommend this internship to anybody who is both passionate about education and driven to fight for change. You would be in good company at OCTAE.

Richard Miller is an undergraduate student at Davidson College in North Carolina. This summer, he interned with Strategic Partnerships in OCTAE. Prospective interns apply during the semester preceding their internship term and are encouraged to select three offices within the Department in which they would prefer to work. The Department of Education accepts applications from all students 16 and older enrolled in classes at least half-time at an accredited educational institution. For more information about internships at the Department of Education, please click here.