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

SEED: Coalitions for Community Growth

The following paragraph is excerpted from the Clinton Global Foundation’s announcement:

Girls from the Tampa Public Housing Authority get involved with a project at the Museum of Science and Industry.

The SEED Coalition is inspiring young minds with STEM activities in energy efficiency. Here, girls from the Tampa Public Housing Authority get involved with a project at the Museum of Science and Industry. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Education and Energy, committed to launch SEED (STEM, Energy and Economic Development): Coalitions for Community Growth, a place-based initiative that will connect public housing residents across the United States to STEM education and jobs. Leveraging federal investments and national partnerships, SEED will create local coalitions of public-private partners to launch or expand programs that provide access to energy literacy, STEM learning and workforce development opportunities for public housing residents. These opportunities will prepare them for living wage jobs in the energy and STEM fields, including those created by federal investments in infrastructure upgrades and energy retrofits at Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). In partnership with local PHAs, SEED will be piloted in five communities: Cleveland (Cuyahoga County), Denver, District of Columbia, San Antonio, and Tampa, with the goal of expanding to 20 cities by 2018. Through this initiative, 8,000 youth in public housing will get access to STEM education; 1,000 residents will receive STEM workforce training, and 1,000 will obtain employment. See more at:

What does this look like in a community?

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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.

Nominations Sought for Excellence in CTE Programs

Excellent Career and Technical Education Programs of Study deserve recognition. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) has announced its third annual Excellence in Action award, which recognizes and honors superior Career Technical Education (CTE) programs of study from around the nation. Applications are due December 9, 2015. The awards 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 be recognized at an awards ceremony in Spring of 2016 in Washington, D.C. The awards provide an opportunity to highlight exemplary CTE programs of study.

Winning programs will be selected by a panel of State CTE Directors and past award recipients. Previous award winners were recognized at the Celebrating Innovations in Career and Technical Education event that was held at the White House.

NASDCTEc will be showcasing past winners in a webinar entitled, ‘Insights into the Excellence in Action Award’ on November 10, 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET. You can register for the webinar here.

You can find more information about the application process for the Excellence in Action award by visiting the NASDCTEc website,

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

Improved Reentry Education Grantees

OCTAE is proud to be involved in one of the President’s signature efforts: criminal justice reform. A Presidential weekly radio address on October 31, 2015 signaled new attention to this issue and an event in Newark, NJ on November 2, 2015 laid out the many reform efforts being undertaken by federal, state, and local governments and private enterprise. See the fact sheet released with that event.

OCTAE’s Improved Reentry Education (IRE) program, announced in the White House fact sheet, builds upon the success and lessons learned from OCTAE’s previous investment, Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities (PRSCEO) program. PRESCO aimed to address the chronic issue of underemployment for ex-offenders; provide a more constructive use of time for those under community supervision; and, create an education continuum for bridging the gap between prison and community-based education and training programs. The purpose of the IRE program is to support demonstration projects in prisoner reentry education that develop evidence of reentry education’s effectiveness. IRE seeks to demonstrate that high-quality, appropriately designed, integrated, and well-implemented educational and related services—provided in institutional and community settings—are critical in supporting educational attainment and reentry success for previously incarcerated individuals. IRE applicants were instructed to develop their own models or incorporate the revised Reentry Education Model into their project plans.

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DACA Youth Resource Guide

In an effort to ensure that all students have access to a world-class education that prepares them for college and careers, the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has released a resource guide to help educators, school leaders, and community organizations better support undocumented youths in secondary and postsecondary schools. Those for whom the guide is intended also include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

The guide includes resources aimed at high school and college students and includes:

  • an overview of the rights of undocumented students;
  • tips for educators on how to support undocumented youths in high school and college;
  • key information on non-citizen access to federal financial aid;
  • a list of private scholarships for which undocumented youths might be eligible;
  • information on federally funded adult education programs at the local level; and
  • guidance for migrant students in accessing their education records for DACA.

The aim of the guide is to help educators and school staff to support the academic success of undocumented youths and debunk misconceptions by clarifying the legal rights of undocumented students. The guide also shares information about financial aid options open to undocumented students, and supports youths applying for DACA consideration or renewal.

More information about resources for immigrants, refugees, asylees, and other new Americans can be found here.

High School – What it Can and Should Be for America’s Students

Cross-posted from the White House blog

This November, the administration will host the Next Gen High School Summit, a national conversation on transforming high schools to better serve all students. Read the full story here, and get involved by submitting your commitment to redesign high school.


Challenge to Redesign High Schools

To emphasize ways in which we can rethink how we provide a high school education to America’s students, we plan to highlight strong collaborations that have committed to engage in comprehensive high school redesign work through new or existing models. At the fall summit, we hope to announce your commitments to produce more next generation high schools in your communities, with a particular focus on those that will benefit low-income and under-represented students, along with commitments to action to ensure more students graduate with college-level coursework or college credit, as well as with career-related experiences or competencies.

This web form will provide us with a brief overview of your goals and commitments and a description of your action plan. This information may form the basis of public materials developed for this event. We encourage interested collaborations to also download the worksheet that will allow each collaboration to share more detail with us about your specific indicators, data, and strategies you are using as you develop these plans. Only 1 submission per collaboration needs to be submitted and campuses may submit additional materials (if desired) through the use of appendices, which should be submitted to

Please submit this form no later than COB Friday, October 30, 2015.

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