Preparing Students for College and Career with District-Wide CTE Model
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the third-largest school district in the United States, serving over 360,000 students–77% of whom are economically disadvantaged.
“Our purpose,” says Sarah Rudofsky, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Work-Based Learning for Career and Technical Education (CTE), “is to provide a high-quality public education for every child in every neighborhood that prepares them for success in college, career, and civic life.” Sarah helps manage CPS’ innovative CTE programs, which give high school students across sixteen schools a running start in preparing for both college and career.
An overarching goal of CTE within CPS is to provide students with hands-on training and real-world learning through job shadows and internships. As early as sophomores, students can apply to one of over forty immersive career preparatory programs–from auto repair to architectural design, broadcasting to culinary. “By integrating a wide variety of career-focused learning opportunities with academic curriculum, CTE is able to offer students career exploration, technical and employability skills attainment, industry certification, and more,” says Rudofsky.
Over 16,000 students take part in CTE programs each year. In addition to working with a large and diverse student group, CPS collaborates with a wide network of workplace partners, parents, teachers (who are practiced in their specific fields of instruction and certified instructors), and administrators. Due to the vast scale of the CTE programs, CPS faces unique challenges in tracking and communicating with all constituents.
Implementing a Flexible Platform
CPS initially managed its CTE programs using manual processes–a combination of paper forms and spreadsheets. “This quickly became too time-consuming and unsustainable because of the sheer volume of people we work with,” explains Alexander George, Work-Based Learning Specialist. “We work with thousands of students and hundreds of partners every year. We needed to be able to give them up-to-date information and provide them with everything they needed to be successful.”
This led CPS to implement Salesforce as the CRM for managing CTE. “Salesforce was the best system to manage our programs because it’s easily customizable and flexible, and we could build it out to fit our needs,” George explains.
Achieving New Process Efficiencies
With Salesforce, CPS was able to streamline processes to effectively manage CTE district-wide. “Our entire work-based learning process, from registering partners and signing up students to sending out the right information and collecting time sheets, is all done with Salesforce,” says George. “Not only are we able to collect and manage large amounts of data, but we’re also able to implement high-level, sophisticated processes for both our partners and our students.”
Using Salesforce as the integration layer to track student success through CTE offerings has also improved central administration oversight and program management. District staff now have instant access to data on each school–and aggregated dashboards–that were virtually impossible to assemble previously. With Salesforce, administrators can easily track each student’s engagement in CTE and easily view success metrics over time at the individual, school, and district levels.
“Because of Salesforce and the data we’re able to capture, I can tell you immediately how many students have engaged in work-based learning this year and in previous years, where they worked, and what they did,” explains George. “This enables us to provide more on-demand, strategic support for all of our students.”
Scaling Support Across CTE
In addition to improving support for students and partners across CTE, the CPS team has been able to effectively roll out Salesforce to multiple staff members. “One of the great things about Salesforce is the ecosystem is so large and there are systems in place to help you get on-demand support,” George says. Utilizing Trailhead, an interactive professional development platform for Salesforce onboarding and upskilling, CPS trains employees to manage CTE programs district-wide.
CTE is also able to give and receive support from other CPS departments that leverage Salesforce, such as Computer Science and Principal Quality. Collectively, the administrators from each department meet monthly to share knowledge and problem-solve together. “Having other administrators in the building has helped me grow my abilities and troubleshoot when challenges arise,” says Erica Wheeler, Salesforce Administrator in the Office of Computer Science. “Together, we create better systems to manage our work and impact our students and schools.”
Expanding CTE to Provide Students with Skills for a Better Future
CPS has seen great success with its innovative CTE model and looks to utilize Salesforce as it expands CTE offerings. Rudofsky and George share a sense of pride when they see CTE students and alumni achieve their college and career goals.
George describes a student who is pursuing his degree to become a teacher, “He told me how CTE opened up a pathway for him where he was able to realize his strengths.”
George adds, “He was able to gain real-world experience and discover the field he wants to go into. That’s really a testament to the power of CTE.”