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L2ED secures major grant to keep students on PACCE

Students at laptops test unmanned aerial flight.
Middle school students at Career Adventures Day consider an aviation career

The PACCE Program (Pathways for Accelerated College and Career Exploration) launches in Fall 2023, supported by a $500,000 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation investment, to provide local high school students with the opportunity to earn an associate degree, at no cost, with only one year of schooling beyond high school graduation.

HISTORY: The Ohio Team designed this program over the past year as part of Accelerate ED, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation initiative. Learn to Earn Dayton, with Montgomery County Educational Service Center, won a competitive award to be one of twelve communities across the nation to participate. The coalition, including local school districts, community partners, higher education institutions, workforce leaders, and the Ohio Department of Education, came together to imagine an easily accessible system to help students across Ohio gain marketable credentials for career success.

NOW: After a year of research and work to determine in-demand career fields, student aptitude, work study opportunities, and course alignment, Learn to Earn Dayton's PACCE program has been awarded an additional $500,000 from the Gates Foundation to test the model in local schools. The program will be piloted, beginning fall 2023, at Kettering City Schools and Dayton Public Schools. Both districts are hiring a Career Pathways Coordinator, funded through the grant and additional private funding, to provide students with the guidance and direction needed to ensure success.

HOW: Students begin as early as middle school, considering their interests and aptitudes for future careers. In high school, students select their dedicated pathway (e.g., IT/CS, Healthcare, Education, etc.), and by following a highly-structured track, they have the opportunity to earn dual credit that will count toward a degree. As part of the program, work study, internships, and externships will help the student confirm their chosen path and gain valuable workplace experiences. By high school graduation, the student will have enough stackable credits to earn an associate degree with only one additional year of (fully funded) college.

Learn to Earn Dayton CEO Stacy Schweikhart says, "Our mission is to ensure more students across Montgomery County have equitable access to the degrees and certifications they need to get high-paying jobs. This program removes the barriers of cost and time, while also providing high school students with the additional support needed to reach their career goals through education."

WHY: This program is unique from traditional dual credit practices because many students previously experienced what L2ED calls, "random acts of credit." A student may graduate high school with a dozen college credits that may not be relevant in advancing toward a chosen degree. PACCE's thoughtfully designed timeline includes interventions offered from middle school through high school, as well as wrap-around support and extra-curricular opportunities. With the Pathway thoughtfully planned, students are confident their classes count as required courses for an associate degree, already approved to transfer. Additionally, through the PACCE program, students are able to take advantage of scholarships and grant programs to attend a local college at no cost for the 13th year.

As of summer 2023, the program is in early stages of implementation. Districts are working to hire coordinators, help teachers receive dual credit certification, and determine outreach plans to educate students and families about the opportunity. L2ED, MCESC, and local education agencies are working to confirm pathways and course availability.

L2ED Founder and MCESC Policy Director Thomas Lasley says, “Building and creating our intellectual capital is absolutely essential. This will be one of the ways in which we’ll be able to build the intellectual capital that we need for our next generation jobs.”


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