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Project Description of the 5-year Initiative

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Developed in collaboration with Carpinteria and Santa Barbara area schools, Santa
Barbara City College and Partnership organizations

The GFSF program is unlike other college and career preparation programs in several respects.

GFSF was designed for ALL students rather than a select few or a special population within a school, as with many other college preparation programs. In the GFSF program, all incoming freshmen take a freshman transition course in which students develop an online 10-year career and education plan. This semester or year-long comprehensive guidance course is as applicable for the highest functioning students as it is for at-risk students.

GFSF is a whole-school redesign project with a continuum covering the four years of high school.  After the freshman transition course, students continue in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades updating their 10-year Plans and expanding their career and educational options using the three GFSF Follow Up Modules.  The 10-year plans, easily accessible online, are used by instructors and counselors for advisories and academic coaching, thereby supporting the under-staffed, over-burdened counseling team.

GFSF is a curriculum-based effort, with comprehensive instructional materials for each of the above classroom efforts.  One of the key ways in which the GFSF program stands apart from other career or college exploration programs is that instructors are not left on their own to develop course content. Using the GFSF course materials, built with Common Core standards for English Language Arts, classroom teachers have the tools to deliver, from the first day of class, consistent, content-rich lessons in a meaningful scope-and-sequence fashion.

The GFSF program flips the paradigm of college and career planning.  Today most students first choose the college they want to attend, with little thought of a major, much less a career.  It is not surprising that far too many students wander through the educational maze and do not complete.  In reality, it is a career path that should indicate which major or program of study to take, which in turn should dictate which college to attend.  The GFSF program exposes students to this reality and, beginning in the freshman year, provides the foundation to help them tackle this more realistic, multi-stage strategy. 

Upon completion of high school, students graduate with two vital and unique documents:  their dynamic 10-year Career and Life Plan along with their Skills-based Education Plan. This is only possible because of the comprehensive guidance coursework (up to 138 hours of classroom time) designed in a carefully developed scope and sequence fashion that is not only developmentally appropriate but also reinforces the critical and creative thinking skills coveted in today’s workforce.  Through this in-depth planning process students build the intrinsic motivation necessary to succeed.

The keystone of the GFSF program is an online 10-year career, life and education plan that is broader than the four-year education plans commonly used by high schools and colleges. Students develop and then upgrade and enhance an online 10-year Plan of their own design.  This tool was designed to propel students from high school graduation into and through college or postsecondary training and into employment that leads to economic self-sufficiency and life satisfaction.  Why? When students know their career pathway, they enter postsecondary education ready to declare a major or program of study that matches their individual drives and life goals. In a study of 430,000 incoming California Community College students, students who entered a program of study in their first year were twice as likely to complete a certificate, degree or transfer as students who entered a program after their first year (Moore & Shulock, 2011).  Two national studies found similar results (Jenkins and Cho, 2012; Jenkins and Weiss, 2011). 

A new mobile app will provide portability and just-in-time access to the 10-year Plan. In their coursework, students learn that the 10-year Plan can be a lifelong process. A new app is being developed that will provide a mobile option so that students will have on-demand access to the information that populates their 10-year Plan Summary Page. Using the app, students not only can share their plans with advisors, mentors, family, and friends at a moment’s notice, but they can also update their plans with new information when inspiration strikes.

In the GFSF program students develop a Skills-based Education Plan that promotes successful entry into the workforce, rather than the traditional Student Education Plan that merely focuses on graduation from college.   A traditional Student Education Plan outlines the courses required to graduate in a student’s major or program of study.  Unique to the GFSF program, the Skills-based Education Plan helps students create a plan which includes not only skills and knowledge gained in traditional course work, but also strategies to acquire specialized skills required for their identified career path.  This helps students to become self-directed learners and seek out opportunities (internships, mentorships, on the job training, online courses and even the best book on the topic) to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be competitive in the labor market. 

The coursework for GFSF supports the development the higher-order thinking skills required in the 21st century workforce.  Some career exploration programs use online assessments that defer to algorithms rather than adult advocates when advising students. After answering a string of multiple-choice questions, the computer magically maps an education or career path for the student. In contrast, the GFSF program was designed to teach students a decision-making process in which they employ what they learn to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate life choices before developing their own strategic educational plan. The learner can use this in-depth model throughout their life as they navigate our fast-changing workplace and society.

The coursework for GFSF supports the development the non-cognitive skills required for success is the workplace

The non-cognitive skills of self-efficacy, purpose, and hope (all components of self-motivation) are the essence of GFSF course work. The freshman course curriculum takes the students through a semester- or year-long road of self-discovery by having them address three important questions:  Who Am I? What Do I Want? And “How Do I Get It?  During the course students not only research three careers of their choosing, but they also must research costs of living based on where they would like to live, how much they can expect to earn in their chosen career(s), and the importance of maintaining a good attitude, being able to face roadblocks, and becoming adaptable to change (coping and resilience).  Both the freshman course curriculum as well as the follow-up GFSF Modules for 10th, 11th, and 12th grades help students become organized and self-regulated (important intra-personal skills) in the way workbooks and the 10-year Plan are structured.
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Partners or collaborators
Foundation for California Community Colleges
George Washington University’s Freshman Transition Initiative
California Community College Chancellor's Task Force on Student Success
Academic Innovations LLC
UCSB Graduate School of Education California Dropout Research Project
UC Educational Evaluation Center, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education

Eastern Oregon University’s College of Education
California SB1070 Coordinators from select regions
Santa Barbara Foundation
Santa Barbara City College Dual Enrollment Department
Carpinteria and Santa Barbara Unified School Districts
Santa Barbara County Office of Education’s Partners in Education