Education Week: California School Network Readies Students for College and Career
In this article, students, teachers, and community members reflect on the transformative effect that Linked Learning is having on the Porterville Unified School District. Click here to read the article.
Unlocking Doors and Expanding Opportunity
In this article, The Education Trust—West explores data from various school districts throughout the state of California. The report identifies current high school challenges and strives to determine a more equitable approach to college and career readiness within California school systems. Read more here.
ConnectEd Studios recently launched its first-ever student contest, receiving over 250 high-quality student submissions. Equally impressive was the diversity of the entries, representing many different pathway themes and media types. The top prize of an iPad 2 went to Jonathan H. for his Crime Time website. Thanks to all of the students who sent in work, and make sure to keep an eye out for more contests during the school year. View the contest winners.
2011 Linked Learning Summer Institute
Taking place June 27–29, ConnectEd and the Stanford Center for Opportunity, Policy, and Equity (SCOPE) co-sponsored the successful 2011 Linked Learning Summer Institute in Palo Alto. Participants of the Institute included district leadership teams and representatives from school site leadership and community partners from all nine communities participating in the California Linked Learning District Initiative. The Institute launched the year-long Leadership Development Series. The theme of the series is "Supporting Student Progress toward College and Career Readiness Outcomes" and it will focus on the use of authentic, performance-based assessments that incorporate the Common Core Standards to drive a shift in the nature and quality of instruction in Linked Learning pathways across the Initiative. See photos from the Institute.
Dual Enrollment Guide
Earlier this month, the Career Academy Support Network (CASN) introduced a guide for dual enrollment written by two experts at Columbia University. CASN's Dual Enrollment Guide outlines how to establish academy course connections with nearby colleges: It "begin[s] with a rationale for why dual enrollment is a promising student success strategy, outline[s] the various steps and considerations for implementing dual enrollment, give[s] guidance on how to measure whether the intervention is successful, and conclude[s] with a list of resources to help along the way." To read this impressive guide, follow the links below.
Success in the Field
Pasadena Unified School District's Board of Education passed a resolution that protects pathway teachers from proposed staffing cuts (find the original story here: "Lay-Off Notices in March"). The resolution, which utilizes a provision of Education code Section 44955, prevents teachers in the District's six college and career readiness pathways from being released or transferred.
According to the resolution, teachers must "be currently assigned to a teaching position in the Pasadena Unified School District, have participated in college and career pathway training for a minimum of 25 hours over the past 3 years, and have knowledge of the strategies that integrate work-based lesson development implementation...Pathway teachers must [also] meet the District's obligations under NCLB criteria and further support the Pasadena High School Graduation Initiative." Click here to read the full Resolution No. 2140.
Mike Seaton, Pasadena Unified's Executive Director of High School, College and Career Pathways, says "Last year we saw how devastating the release and transfer of dedicated teachers was to creating high quality Linked Learning experiences for students in the district. Many teachers were dedicated to working as a team on integrated curricular projects when they were transferred, and we were forced to retrain new teachers and re-build capacity of some staff this year. This new resolution of skipping over trained pathway teachers was a strategic leadership decision and a shift in policy that supports pathways throughout the district."
If you are interested in learning more about efforts to retain pathway teachers, email info@ConnectEdCalifornia.org.
New Video: What is Linked Learning?
Seeing Linked Learning in action is powerful, but not everyone can visit a school in session to see its impact firsthand. ConnectEd's new video What is Linked Learning? shows students working in various industry-themed pathways and offers input and explanations from business, community, and education leaders on why the approach is so effective. Share this video with colleagues, friends, family, and your community to help others learn more about Linked Learning.
New Video and Discussion Guide on Integrated Curriculum
Know any teachers interested in using integrated curriculum to make lessons more exciting and engaging for students? Through this new video and the accompanying discussion guide, teacher teams will gain an understanding of the strengths of integrated curriculum, identify the challenges and opportunities of implementing such a curriculum, and decide on their first steps for bringing this exciting approach to their school. An integrated curriculum combines content from various subject areas and provides hands-on projects requiring students to solve real-world problems.
Tool to Help Districts Develop Systems of Pathways
ConnectEd's Framework for Developing a System of Linked Learning Pathways was created to help school districts and their community partners as they plan systems of quality pathways. Systems of pathways are important so students will have a choice among industry themes. The Framework document outlines Critical Elements that will help districts determine how best to build and strengthen an infrastructure that supports the design, implementation, and sustainability of a system of quality pathways. Critical Elements discussed include supportive district policies; pathway themes and delivery models; student recruitment and pathway selection; articulation agreements; professional development for pathway teachers, counselors, and administrators; bringing work-based learning to scale; master scheduling; recruitment and hiring practices; pathway evaluation; and more.
Videos to Expose Students to Specific Careers
Students are often unaware of the hundreds of jobs available in each industry sector. To help expose them to various careers in industry pathways such as Arts and Media, Biomedical and Health Sciences, and Law and Justice, ConnectEd has developed a Day in the Life video series. These short and engaging videos broaden traditional views of various industry sectors and give high school students a deeper understanding of the tasks entailed and skills required in various jobs. Many videos connect directly to Linked Learning curriculum available on ConnectEd Studios. Register for free at ConnectEd Studios to view the full collection, or watch some samples on ConnectEd's YouTube channel.
Upcoming Curriculum Trainings
Are you teaching in a Law and Justice pathway? Register for a free curriculum training in San Francisco on July 25-28! Participants will experience Foundations in Law and Foundations in Criminal Justice, a new two-year curriculum designed for high schools and career academies in the legal and public services pathways. Teachers will share their experiences and expertise with others from across the state and with practitioners from the legal community, criminal justice system, and advocacy field. They will learn strategies that engage and prepare students for college and careers in law and justice. Sessions will focus on project-based learning, teamwork, literacy, and more. Through collaboration, teachers will learn how to integrate the Law and Justice curriculum with English language arts, math, and science classes. Read more and register.
ABC Releases Report on How Youth and Parent Organizing Strengthens Pathways
On March 30, 2011, Alliance for a Better Community (ABC) will host a webinar to discuss its latest report, The Bottom-Up Approach to Quality Education: How Youth and Parent Organizing Strengthen Linked Learning Pathways to Both College and Career. The report presents the challenges, opportunities, and recommendations for parent and student engagement in the development, implementation, and sustainability of effective Linked Learning pathways. The report will be available to download on March 23, 2011 at www.afabc.org. Webinar registration will be available soon. For more information, contact Leslie Flores-Valmonte at (213) 250-0052 or visit the ABC website.
Hands-On Career-Themed Algebra Curriculum Training
Do you know teachers who are looking for more engaging ways to teach mathematics to middle and high school students? ConnectEd has developed project-based mathematics support curricula in which students might design a wind turbine or build a small scissor lift while they learn Pre-algebra and Algebra I content. Register now for ConnectEd's four-day Algebra I workshop from March 29–April 1, 2011 in Berkeley. The workshop will train teachers to implement drop-in, problem-based curriculum units for Algebra I courses. Teachers can use these units to supplement and reinforce Algebra I standards using a hands-on, inquiry-based approach. Teachers can access Pre-algebra and Algebra I unit descriptions on the ConnectEd website.
New Linked Learning Grants
The James Irvine Foundation recently announced new grants to support Linked Learning:
Update on Linked Learning Alliance Convening
On March 3, almost 200 members attended the Linked Learning Alliance convening in Sacramento. Capitol Impact, which now manages the Alliance, presented information on the Linked Learning Alliance strategic plan and governance structure. The Neimand Collaborative reported findings from focus groups with parents and students on their reactions to Linked Learning. One panel discussion examined issues in expanding outreach to parents and students and another panel focused on how practice can inform policy supporting Linked Learning.
Recent Articles on Linked Learning
In case you missed these when they were first released, you may find the following three articles on Linked Learning of interest. You can access them here:
ConnectEd's Edweek Commentary Responds to Ongoing Debate
A recently released Harvard University Pathways to Prosperity report sparked debate over the "college for all" versus tracking issue. Today EdWeek published a commentary by Gary Hoachlander saying that it is time to move beyond this simplistic debate and address the very difficult business of designing and delivering high schools that engage and motivate young people. Through Linked Learning, we can prepare all students for both college and career, not just one or the other. Read the full article and join the discussion.
Chevron Engineers to Help Students Using ConnectEd Studios
Engineering students in four to six pathways will soon be receiving feedback from Chevron engineers through ConnectEd Studios. Chevron engineers will identify a real-world engineering design problem and, with assistance from a team of teachers and ConnectEd curriculum staff, will create a design brief that outlines the design challenge and sets parameters for solving it. Students will then conduct their own research and develop designs to solve the problem. After uploading their designs to ConnectEd Studios, they will receive feedback from Chevron engineers through the Studios interactive platform. Engineering professionals or pathway teachers interested in participating in future offerings should contact Pier Sun Ho at psunho@ConnectEdCalifornia.org.
Next Convening of the Linked Learning Alliance Capitol Impact (which now manages the Linked Learning Alliance) and the James Irvine Foundation are pleased to announce the next convening of the Linked Learning Alliance in Sacramento on Wednesday, March 2nd from 9:30am – 4:00pm at the Elks Tower Ballroom. Members will discuss the work happening at the local, state, and federal levels to expand Linked Learning and the policy outlook in 2011. Register Now!
ConnectEd Sessions at Educating for Careers Conference
Heading to the Educating for Careers Conference in Sacramento March 3 -5? ConnectEd is presenting at eight sessions. Come to one and learn more about Linked Learning!
ConnectEd is Hiring!
Check out job descriptions for a senior associate for curriculum development and instructional design and a senior accountant, both located in our Berkeley office.
Linked Learning Dramatically Increases Rate of College Entrances
A new seven-year study found that attendance in Linked Learning more than doubled the rate of college entrance for minority students and increased college enrollment rates for all student populations compared to local and state student populations. The study, released by The Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART) and The James Irvine Foundation, compared outcomes for students in Linked Learning pathways with students of similar demographics from Clovis and Fresno unified school districts where the pathways are offered. The increased college entrance rates were seen in community colleges, California State Universities, and the University of California.
ACSA's Leadership Magazine and Linked Learning
The Association of California School Administrators featured Linked Learning in its January/February 2011 Leadership magazine in an article titled The Power of Real-world Application. Authored by ConnectEd's Brad Stam, the article describes how he became interested in Linked Learning when, as chief academic officer for Oakland Unified School District, he saw its results in high schools. The article provides specific suggestions on how administrators can bring Linked Learning to their districts.
Learn Curriculum Integration at UCCI Institute - Apply Online
The University of California Curriculum Integration (UCCI) Institute is seeking talented and motivated California high school teachers and administrators to apply for the Spring 2011 Institute, which will be held May 1-4, 2011 at the Lake Arrowhead Resort. The institute will focus on subject areas "c"- Mathematics and "d"- Laboratory Science in conjunction with the CTE industry sectors: Engineering and Design; Finance and Business; and Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation. Graduates of the UCCI Institute will be trained to independently develop integrated courses and serve as members of the UC Cadre of Experts. Costs associated with attendance, with the exception of transportation, will be covered by the University of California with support from the California Department of Education. All prospective participants must apply online by March 11, 2011. Please visit www.ucop.edu/ucci for more information.
Third Certified Linked Learning Pathway!
Congratulations to The Partnership Academy of Business at Porterville High School, which has become the third Linked Learning Certified Pathway in California. Momentum to become certified is building, with twenty-two pathways stating the intention to pursue certification in the coming year.
Bechtel Grant to Assist with Algebra in Middle Grades
ConnectEd received a five-year grant from the SD Bechtel Jr. Foundation in San Francisco to broaden the middle school mathematics support work that ConnectEd is doing in partnership with ARCHES under a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant. The Bechtel grant expands this middle school i3 work to include sites in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, which is the fourth California Linked Learning District Initiative partner to participate in the project. Both the i3 and Bechtel grants aim to:
New Resource for Teachers Coming Soon!
The Career Academy Support Network (CASN) in partnership with ConnectEd and others is developing a National Curriculum Database to serve career-focused pathways. The searchable database will provide a central location for teachers to access curricula that are specifically suited to the needs of academies and pathways—career-focused, rigorous, relevant, and frequently project-based and interdisciplinary. The portion of the database centered on “green” curricula is already available.
Linked Learning Teacher Preparation Programs Expand to Two New Campuses
The network of universities offering Linked Learning teacher preparation programs is growing. In January 2011, two new universities, CSU East Bay and Claremont Graduate University, will join the six sites currently offering this emphasis (CSUs in San Diego, Fresno, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Long Beach, and UCLA). Claremont is the first private university to offer such a program. These universities apply a Linked Learning lens to their state-approved single subject credential programs that provides additional focus on the unique skills and knowledge needed to teach in Linked Learning pathways. These include developing and delivering interdisciplinary curriculum, generating work-based learning opportunities, and learning how to communicate with business and industry partners.
New Ford Foundation Grant to Link Extended Learning Opportunities to Pathways
ConnectEd has received a planning grant from the Ford Foundation to explore ways in which extended learning opportunities may be aligned with and support Linked Learning pathway programs of study. For example, an afterschool robotics club could directly align its projects with an engineering pathway curriculum, reinforcing classroom learning with out-of-school activities. Similarly, an afterschool mentoring program could pair students in a business pathway with local entrepreneurs who facilitate exploration of careers in the business sector. ConnectEd will take an inventory of what California Linked Learning District Initiative pathways are currently doing and explore further possibilities for schools to make these connections.
Online Professional Development Will Help Teachers Deliver Project-Based Algebra Curriculum
The Boeing Foundation has awarded a grant to help ConnectEd reach more teachers and districts through online professional development. Online courses eliminate travel costs and offer increased flexibility, with teachers spending little or no time away from the classroom. The grant will fund the first in a series of online courses, Project-based Algebra I Through Technology Applications, which is based on a four-day workshop ConnectEd currently offers to middle and high school teachers. The course will include videos and internet-based resources, as well as collaborative opportunities for teachers to reflect on their teaching practice.
Survey to Improve Future Curriculum Offerings
Are you a teacher? Have you used ConnectEd's curriculum? ConnectEd is conducting a survey on the use of our curricula to help improve future development and dissemination efforts. Please share your thoughts with us by taking this short survey.
Parent and Student Focus Groups Will Inform Expansion Strategies
In both Northern and Southern California, coalitions of community-based organizations are organizing parent and student focus groups on Linked Learning. Information from these group discussions will help inform how to introduce others to Linked Learning locally and inform messaging for the statewide effort to expand Linked Learning. The United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Alliance for a Better Community, InnerCity Struggle, Community Coalition, Oakland Community Organizations, Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, and the Neimand Collaborative are participating in this work, with funding from the James Irvine Foundation.
New Industry-themed Curriculum Available
A new Digital and Media Arts curriculum with career connections and hands-on integrated projects is now available. This is a two-year curriculum designed for high school career academies or career-themed programs in media and digital design. The curriculum meets national academic and technical standards and integrates learning in visual arts, other academic subjects, and career and technical education.
District Launches Linked Learning Website
Oakland Unified has launched a Linked Learning website, which is just one example of how districts are educating their communities about the high school improvement approach. Designed to inform students and families, educators, and community partners, the site includes a segment for each audience; a way to search for a pathway by industry theme, school, or academy name; news articles focused on pathways in the district; benefits of Linked Learning; and more.
University of California Fosters Development of Integrated Curriculum
The University of California has taken various steps to support Linked Learning. It has set a goal to grant "a-g" approval for 10,000 Career and Technical Education courses by 2011. To help reach that goal, it has hosted a series of Curriculum Integration Institutes. Academic and career technical high school teachers, administrators, and education experts gather to develop model courses that can be used statewide. These courses integrate Career and Technical Education (CTE) and core academic curriculum. The November 2010 Institute focused on integrating History/Social Science and English with CTE courses in several industry sectors including Arts, Media, and Entertainment; Education, Child Development, and Family Services; Health Science and Medical Technology; Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation; Marketing, Sales, and Services; and Public Services.
STEM and Linked Learning—Submit Your Videos to STEMposium
Linked Learning pathways focused on engineering; biomedicine; media arts; and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) industry themes provide an engaging and ongoing way to interest high school students in STEM careers. Do you know of teachers, students, or others who have exciting stories about STEM teaching and learning? Submit a one-minute video to www.STEMposium.org and you could be one of five innovators to win $5,000, or one of twenty to present at the April 1, 2011 STEMposium event at the California Academy of Sciences.
Webinar on Linked Learning
Find out more about Linked Learning through an Edutopia webinar featuring ConnectEd President Gary Hoachlander and Bravo Medical Magnet High School. Edutopia has also added a new section to its website: Career Tech and College Prep in California that includes student success stories, school profiles, research, and tips.
Nashville Schools Serve as Model for California Linked Learning Districts
In November, many districts participating in the California Linked Learning District Initiative will send teams of district, civic, business, and community leaders to study the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. The district has transformed all 12 of its comprehensive high schools into "wall-to-wall" career academies—referred to as The Academies of Nashville. The tremendous commitment made by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, mayor's office, and several community foundations, dedicating substantial resources and support to the academies, will offer California useful lessons in how a community can come together to support high school improvement.
New Linked Learning Grants
In October, The James Irvine Foundation announced new Linked Learning grants including:
Millions in Federal Grants to Assist Three Linked Learning Districts
Three districts participating in the California Linked Learning District Initiative received federal Small Learning Community grants with first installments of $2.6 million going to Oakland Unified, $2 million to Long Beach Unified, and $664,000 to Antioch Unified school districts. These competitive grants, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, will allow large comprehensive high schools to provide smaller personalized learning communities that will help improve academic achievement and prepare students for postsecondary education. The grants will also help these schools improve teaching and learning by offering teachers more common planning time to address student needs. The grants should play a significant role in helping these districts to implement more high quality Linked Learning pathways.
The State's First Two Pathways Achieve Linked Learning Certification—Connecting Student Achievement to High Quality Teaching and Learning
The School of Digital Media and Design in San Diego and the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering Academy in Long Beach have become California's first and second Linked Learning Certified Pathways respectively. State and local leaders, including the state superintendent of public instruction, state assemblymembers, mayors, school district superintendents, and school board members, turned out to recognize these sites last week. They praised the sites for their noteworthy accomplishments of achieving certification and stressed that more Linked Learning pathways should be developed and certified to improve student engagement, graduation rates, and student achievement.
Linked Learning Certification offers a common standard to guide pathway implementation and assess quality. Hundreds of schools in California are implementing pathways to improve outcomes for students, but without such a standard, school sites may have difficulty determining whether the pathways they are implementing are likely to improve student achievement. ConnectEd and its partners, the Career Academy Support Network (CASN), the National Academy Foundation (NAF), and the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC), have developed certification criteria and a process to address this need.
Federal Linked Learning Legislation
Linked Learning is gaining exposure at the federal level through H.R. 6174 titled The Linked Learning Pathways to College, Career, and Citizenship Success Act.
Introduced by Representative Judy Chu (D-CA), and co-sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY), this bill is authorized to provide $100 million in fiscal year 2011, and additional funds in the following three years, to build and sustain Linked Learning pathways throughout the country. Schools with graduation rates below 60 percent that are serving high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students will receive priority for funding to support Linked Learning efforts. The bill encourages school districts to partner with a wide range of local stakeholders including businesses, teacher unions, and parent organizations.
Various Alliance members contributed to the language and framing of the bill. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce has prepared this letter of support and asked that we share it with you. If you are interested in voicing your support for the legislation via this letter, the Chamber asks that you notify Chelsey Rask at CRask@LAChamber.com who will add your organization's name to the list of those signing the letter.
HR6174 Bill Text
Summary of the Bill by the Alliance for Excellent Education
CAROCP's Response to AB2648 Report
The California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs, a Linked Learning Alliance member, has requested that we share with you The CAROCP Response to the Multiple Pathways to Student Success Report. CAROCP welcomes your feedback on this piece. Please send comments or questions to CAROCP Executive Director Randi Scott at RandiScott80@yahoo.com.
Bill Will Fund 90 New Academies if Signed by Governor
SB675 recently passed in the legislature and has been forwarded to the Governor for his signature. The bill would help fund approximately 90 new academies focused on clean technology and renewable energy by providing $8 million annually over five years from a special fund at the California Energy Commission. While it is not ConnectEd's policy to take a position on specific legislation, Senator Darrell Steinberg's Office asked us to share a Fact Sheet on SB675 that might assist you should you choose to voice your support.
Brad Stam Joins ConnectEd
We are pleased to introduce Brad Stam as ConnectEd's new Vice President. For the last four years, Brad served as Chief Academic Officer for Oakland Unified School District, leading dramatic academic improvement at the elementary and middle grades, and initiating a systemic Linked Learning approach to high school reform. During Brad's tenure, Oakland USD had the highest API growth of any large urban district in California, 118 points, including strong growth for Latino students, English Learners, and students with special needs. Prior to coming to Oakland, Brad served as Special Assistant to the Superintendent and Director of Teacher Affairs in San Francisco Unified, creating innovative and collaborative approaches to support teacher and principal effectiveness and organizational learning. Brad brings a passion for educational equity and excellence; his history as a principal, high school and middle school teacher, school coach, and reform coordinator all bring a wealth of on-the-ground urban education leadership experience to ConnectEd.
Working in close partnership with ConnectEd President Gary Hoachlander, Brad will coordinate the refinement and implementation of the organization's strategic plan, lead the development and dissemination of tools and services to districts and schools, manage strategic partnerships, and support ConnectEd's growth and expansion within and beyond California. Brad earned his BA at Harvard and his MA at Teachers College, Columbia University. You can reach Brad at ConnectEd (510) 849-4945 or bstam@ConnectEdCalifornia.org.
Briefing on Building Capacity of Teachers for Linked Learning Pathways
The Alliance for Excellent Education held a briefing on Linked Learning in Washington, DC titled: Building the Capacity of Teachers to Prepare Students for College and Careers. Panelists described the type of specialized instruction that prepares teachers to excel in collaborating to design and deliver integrated, project-based curriculum; establish industry and postsecondary partnerships; and synthesize the core components of the Linked Learning approach including academic, technical, and work-based learning experiences. A policy brief, summary of the event, and video and audio of the event are available on the Alliance for Excellent Education website.
$5 Million Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Supports Industry-themed Curriculum
The Alliance for Regional Collaboration to Heighten Educational Success (ARCHES), (a project of the California Education Round Table's Intersegmental Coordinating Committee), and ConnectEd will receive a $5 million federal i3 grant. The project will increase Algebra I passing rates in 8th grade by providing teacher professional development and project-based curriculum and will improve readiness for and encourage interest in STEM careers. WestEd will evaluate the project's success.
Providing under-represented high needs students with rigorous and relevant project-based curriculum will accelerate their learning of fundamental math concepts. Teaching students math through projects can make it more exciting and relevant. For example, students will learn math concepts by designing a wind turbine, building a small scissor lift, and developing air traffic control plans that safely land several planes in the shortest amount of time. Underserved students in the following districts will benefit from the grant:
Gary Hoachlander Talks to the Educated Guess Blog about Linked Learning
John Fensterwald, host of the Educated Guess Blog, recently interviewed ConnectEd President Gary Hoachlander about Linked Learning and its promise to transform high schools. View the video.
San Francisco Chronicle Piece Highlights Linked Learning
The San Francisco Chronicle published an opinion piece on Linked Learning by James Irvine Foundation President and CEO Jim Canales, which highlights the experience of an Oakland Unified student and the benefits of Linked Learning.
New Linked Learning Grants
The James Irvine Foundation announced $2.55 million in new Linked Learning grants including:
AB2648 Report Release Sets Legislators in Motion
On the heels of the AB2648 Linked Learning feasibility report release, various policymakers have committed to developing an action plan to address the report's recommendations as well as developing a package of proposed legislation for next year. To date, two informational hearings have been held, including one by Assemblymember Warren Furutani and Senator Loni Hancock on June 24 and another by Assemblymember Tom Torlakson on June 29. Several other legislators intend to hold hearings in the coming months.
Blog on High Schools Is Launched
The Alliance for Excellent Education has launched a new blog, High School Soup: Your Daily Serving of High Schools News and Policy, which covers topics related to high schools including the Race to the Top, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, teacher preparation, literacy, the nation's lowest performing high schools, and other issues.