Later this summer, we will release a new edition of the Texas OnCourse College and Career Curriculum. In this webinar, we provide a preview of the curriculum changes. We also discuss ideas from school districts on the best ways to engage students on college and career planning in middle school.
The College and Career Readiness Curriculum meets the requirements of HB 18 for Texas middle schools. We designed the latest edition with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and have spent the past year piloting it in 18 districts across the state. If you are interested in receiving an email alert when the new edition is released, you may enter your email on this form to do so .
Special thanks to our guests from Keller ISD, Marsha Cummins, District College and Career Readiness Counselor, and Paul Higgins, College, Career, and Military Readiness (CCMR) Coach at Fossil Ridge High School. Special thanks as well to Melissa Veach, who provided a webinar bonus video with her best practices as a college and career readiness teacher at Travis Middle School in Calhoun County ISD.
Changes to the College and Career Readiness Curriculum
We developed the new edition of the College and Career Readiness Curriculum in close partnership with TEA. As it always has, the new edition of the College and Career Readiness Curriculum will meet required legislative guidelines. It will be aligned with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, for investigating careers and college and career readiness. It will also include positive character traits, as required by 2019’s HB 1026, which mandates that districts adopt character education programs.
Samantha Gonzalez, our assistant director for content and resources, shared the following updates to the new edition of the curriculum, to be released in August 2021:
- Where appropriate, it will include Texas Model student competencies.
- It will promote active student engagement through lesson plans that incorporate work-based and project-based learning.
- It will emphasize growth mindset.
- It will help students prepare early to meet high school CCMR accountability items.
The new curriculum will be more comprehensive while also being more efficient. Here are the current and future units of the College and Career Readiness Curriculum:
For an inside look at each unit, download the webinar slides.
College and Career Readiness Curriculum Pilot Findings
We spent the 2020-21 school year piloting the new curriculum in 18 districts across the state. We conducted the pilot in partnership with TEA and TNTP, our evaluation partner. It was a strange and challenging year to test out a new curriculum, but we learned a lot. We’re confident we’re delivering the best possible curriculum for your middle school students and educators.
Lisa Shaw, our program implementation coordinator, shared findings from the pilot. Here are some things to know about how your fellow districts in Texas are delivering college and career instruction in middle school:
- Most provide stand-alone classes. Of the pilot districts, 72% provide college and career readiness (CCR) instruction in a stand-alone class – usually an advisory class – and 17% provide this instruction within another core or elective class. Several districts said they’d love to provide stand-alone instruction if they have the capacity in the future.
- There’s a lot of variation in timing and grade level. Most districts deliver CCR instruction in 8th grade only or in 7th and 8th, but they vary in whether they provide a semester-long or year-long course – 53% provide a semester-long course, and 34% provide a year-long course. Timing, of course, depends on a lot of campus factors, including the bell schedule, master schedule, and teacher availability. One big benefit of the curriculum is that it’s very flexible and fits into most school schedules.
- In many schools, CCMR or advisory instructors teach these classes. Districts vary widely in who is selected to teach CCR courses, but in nearly half of pilot districts (47%), CCR classes are taught by CCMR or advisory teachers. For the most part, these are CTE teachers teaching other career-related classes. In 23% of districts, CCR classes are delivered by core subject teachers. In 23%, counselors deliver this instruction.
- CCR teachers benefit from the Texas OnCourse Academy. Of educators in pilot districts, 79% said that modules in the Texas OnCourse Academy were valuable in supporting the College and Career Readiness Curriculum. The curriculum provides information on suggested modules to review before each unit. This just-in-time learning is great for educators who want to refresh themselves on content or catch up on anything that may have changed in the past year.
We will continue to pilot the curriculum through next year, in our effort to improve the curriculum and understand how we can best support implementation. We hope to expand the pilot program from 18 to 25 districts. In particular, we are seeking districts from ESC regions 4 (Houston); 20 (San Antonio); 13, 16, and 17 (Panhandle); and 5, 7, and 8 (East Texas). If you are interested in having your district join our pilot program, please contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keller ISD is one of our fellowship districts. We were joined on the webinar by Marsha Cummins, Keller’s District College and Career Readiness Counselor, and Paul Higgins, the CCMR Coach for Fossil Ridge High School.
Keller delivers CCR instruction to 8th graders, though next year they plan to include 7th graders as well. They deliver CCR instruction through advisory periods, with two 45-minute lessons each week for seven to eight weeks. They do offer “Investigating Careers” and “College and Career Readiness” courses as well, but these are electives. In their CCR instruction, they emphasize the endorsements and career pathways available in the district, as well as the Distinguished Level of Achievement.
Keller revisits and revises their curriculum each summer, leveraging the Texas OnCourse College and Career Readiness Curriculum lesson plans. They strive to make the content engaging for students by incorporating district-produced videos and additional resources and extension activities.
One campus in Keller has specific advisory teachers, but for the most part, teachers delivering CCR instruction in advisory periods are those who have availability in their schedule. Knowing that these teachers do not have time on their own to make lesson plans, Marsha Cummins creates the lessons, develops PowerPoint slides, and trains all teachers on campus so the curriculum is plug-in-and-go.
Keller incorporates CTE expos and student field trips to high school campuses as well as the Keller Center for Advanced Learning. They invite parents to high school showcases.
Keller also uses the Texas OnCourse College and Career Knowledge Assessment to gauge their students’ understanding and growth when it comes to college and career readiness knowledge. If you’re interested in the same, you can participate in the postassessment now. Schools that have more than 30 of the same students take both the preassessment and postassessment can receive growth reports. All schools who participate in either assessment can also request a general snapshot report, delivered in the summer.
Here are some of the results Keller ISD has seen over the past few years of delivering CCR instruction with the support of Texas OnCourse curriculum and professional development resources:
- Their 4-year plan completion has drastically improved.
- Parent involvement is up.
- Staff has improved college and career readiness knowledge due to the Texas OnCourse Academy.
- They have buy-in and accountability from campus administrators.
- The use of a specific CCR class was a big help to the district, even if it’s just part of an advisory period.
Calhoun County ISD
Melissa Veach, a college and career readiness teacher at Travis Middle School in Calhoun County ISD, also shared a video documenting her best practices. This video was not included in the webinar. It’s bonus content. We summarize some of Melissa’s information below.
Calhoun County ISD has two middle schools with 220-300 8th graders who receive CCR instruction in a one-semester required elective. Whereas Keller ISD has a plug-and-play approach to using the Texas OnCourse College and Career Readiness Curriculum, Calhoun ISD integrates the curriculum in its entirety, following the lessons in order by unit.
Melissa highlighted some of her and her students’ favorite lessons from the curriculum. They are:
- Unit 1, lesson 1.9: Self-Efficacy: Students focus on understanding that accomplishing a goal requires belief in one’s ability to overcome obstacles.
- Unit 3, lesson 3.4: Foundation High School Program and High School Personal Graduation Plan and Unit 3, lesson 3.6: What is the Distinguished Level of Achievement?: These lessons are excellent for supporting students' schedules and personal graduation plans. Melissa also shares the slideshows with parents and guardians, who have found them extremely helpful.
- MiddleGalaxy: Students love getting to play a video game during class, and Melissa loves that they in turn understand how skills and abilities connect with choosing a career.
Calhoun County ISD also participates in the College and Career Knowledge Assessment. Melissa delivered the assessments to her students at the beginning and end of the semester. This enables her and her students to uncover areas where they’ve grown and areas where they are struggling to understand. Melissa also meets with administration to discuss results, spot trends, see if they need to adjust instruction, or explore additional programs they can offer.
As always, we invited webinar attendees to share their ideas. We asked that people on the webinar share where they turn to for help on middle school for college and career planning. Here are some of the resources they shared:
- Xello (formerly Career Cruise)
- Choices 360
- My Next Move
- Big Future
- School Links
- Career One Stop
We recognize that some of the resources shared by educators are vendor products that require payment. Don’t forget that the Texas OnCourse Academy and College and Career Readiness Curriculum are both free resources for you as a Texas educator!
If you’d like to participate in a future opportunity to hear from experts and districts and share ideas with your colleagues around the state, be sure to sign up for a future webinar. We’ll be releasing next year’s webinar series soon and recommend you bookmark our webinar series page!