If you have been reading the Special Education blog entries, we have talked about strategies for eliciting responses, checking for understanding, and explicit instruction. These strategies benefit all students, but are crucial for students with disabilities.
Today, we’ll take a slight turn. We will be focusing on these questions, “Will our students be good employees? Are we preparing our students for employment?” We all know that teaching is focused on academics and skill development, but are we teaching the skills that students need in order to be good employees? If not, how do we even begin to do that?
Let’s first start with some information. What do employers look for? According to the New York State Association of Employment and Training Professionals Survey, employers look for these qualities in their employees:
- Can be trusted, ethical
- Works cooperatively with others
- Personal appearance and hygiene
- Listening skills
- Demonstrated understanding & adaptability in group settings
- Displays efforts and perseverance
- Believes in own self-worth & maintains positive attitude
- Written skills – complete and accurate
- Communication skills
- Exhibits appropriate behavior in workplace
So, let’s think about what we teach. We focus on thinking skills and the Common Core Learning Standards. Do we cover these universal skills? How do they fit with what we are teaching in the classrooms?
The answer: Career Development and Occupational Studies Learning Standards. What is this? This is CDOS. The standards were created in the 1990’s to address the skills that students needed for their post-secondary goals and education. These standards are for ALL students, and should be implemented starting in elementary grades and continue all the way through to high school. There are only three standards. The first is Career Development – students will be knowledgeable about the world of work, explore career options, and relate personal skills, aptitudes, and abilities to future career decisions. The second is Integrated Learning – students will demonstrate how academic knowledge and skills are applied in the workplace and other settings. The third is Universal Foundational Skills and Career Majors – students will demonstrate mastery of the foundation skills and competencies essential for success in the work place and will choose a career major and acquire career-specific technical knowledge/skills.
How do we incorporate these standards into our daily lessons? Here are three examples.
Elementary: Students identify favorite school subjects and special talents and relate them to occupations. Students explain why people work, describe different occupations in their community, including those in public service and how these occupations benefit other (e.g., firefighter, police officer, pharmacist, teacher, lawyer).
Intermediate: Students identify characteristics of career options. Students explain the importance of punctuality, dependability, integrity, and getting along with others for success in a work environment, work cooperatively in group situations and analyze the importance of using collective abilities in achieving group goals and objectives.
Commencement: Students prepare a research paper that contains: details of three specific jobs within the career option, the education and/or training level and qualifications necessary for entry-level/career-sustaining employment, the number of job openings in the career option, list of three postsecondary programs offering advanced study/training in the career option. Students develop resumes and letters of application and demonstrate effective interviewing techniques that could be used to gain entry into a career option, design a personal school-to-work plan containing specific steps/activities toward attainment of a career goal.
We want the best for all of our students. We want each of our students to be successful, especially when it comes to their life after school. That’s what we are preparing them for. Therefore, we need to think about the skills that would prepare ALL students for that transition.
What are some of your ideas? What do you do in you classrooms already? Let’s start sharing strategies, lessons, and best practices that will ensure that all of our students are ready for their future.
If you want to learn how career development and the CDOS Learning Standards relates to the new exiting credential for students with disabilities, go to http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/CDOScredential-memo-613.htm.