A diverse group of Los Angeles leaders from a cross-sector of schools, industry, and government shared perspectives, strategies, and takeaways to improve students’ college and career readiness applicable to any urban community in the U.S. at the closing session of our 10th Annual National Forum: Connecting e2e So All Students Thrive in College and Career. Watch the video here:

We asked our panelists how we can work together across sectors to support students’ college and career readiness and our future society.

  • Dr. Kevin Baxter, Superintendent of Elementary Schools, Archdiocese of Los Angeles (Faith-Based)
  • Carl A. Cohn, Director, Urban Leadership Program and Clinical – Professor, Claremont Graduate University School of Educational Studies; Former Superintendent, Long Beach and San Diego Unified School Districts (District)
  • Art Lofton, Vice President, Global Mission Excellence, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (Industry)
  • Ana Ponce, CEO, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (Charter)
  • Ilene Straus, Vice President, California State Board of Education (Government)
  • Moderator: Don Brann, State Trustee and Superintendent of Inglewood Unified School District

“These education leaders spoke to the importance of working together towards a common vision, which is exactly what STC aims to do, and they shared their experiences of the successes and challenges inherent in building those critical partnerships,” said Casey Lamb, Schools That Can’s National Director of Growth. “They framed possible next steps after an informative two days of workshops and e2e visits.”

1. Acknowledge the gap

“We’ve got the college access part sort of down, but there’s a gap in college and career readiness… that’s why Forums like this are so important.” – Ana Ponce

“We’ve all heard the stats about kindergartens today working in jobs that have not yet been created, 75% or along those lines.  Obviously these skills are vitally important and we need engineers and STEM subjects are those of great growth and opportunity.. ” – Kevin Baxter

2. Build partnerships between k-12, higher ed, and industry

“Leave your silo’s comfort zone to explore. Do not be wed to turf our boundaries…What’s wrong with having a high school on a university campus?”  – Carl Cohn

“If you only have folks thinking the same way, you won’t build optimal solutions.” – Art Lofton


pic-baxter-cohn-straus Kevin Baxter, Carl Cohn, and Ilene Straus unite to address e2e.

3. Create a learning community to pinpoint needs and resources and address common challenges

“Great things are happening in really small communities and small schools… we don’t have to all be recreating the same programs. We are facing similar challenges. How can we leverage that and make it sustainable? …we need the space to meet, gather, or discuss or to visit and learn.” – Ana Ponce

“There needs to be a much deeper partnership between the collective entities.” – Art Lofton

“We really do need to look at partnerships that collaborate, and take a look at what the needs are.” – Ilene Straus

4. Co-develop internships, career counseling, plus STEM and project-based learning curricula 

Colleges may only have one counselor on campus. Ana Ponce is looking into how to “partner with the schools that kids are going to so that there is some career counseling.”

“Let’s do what we can to help create a space where new STEM programs that takes youngsters from some of the hardcore, urban areas… and gets them better prepared in science.” – Cohn

“Take a look at what support systems higher-ed provides.” – Ilene Straus

5. Learn from successful models 

“We have to look at what programs are successful and try to build on some of those practices.” – Ilene Straus

“Da Vinci Schools is perhaps on the leading edge of this movement,” said Donn Brann. Da Vinci and California Academy of Mathematics and Science (CAMS) in LA can serve as models for collaborating with industry to build students’ STEM and 21st century skills. Watch a video about CAMS programs at USA Today.

6. Train and professionally develop teachers in all grade levels to implement new practices and improve instruction

“Obviously, it comes back to instruction and the quality of teachers in the classrooms even if we are thinking about long-term solutions for the engineers we’re going to need and the technical skills we’re going to need…” – Kevin Baxter

“If we don’t have math and science that are passionate about math and science, we start to [lose] curiosity in our kids. We have a lot of opportunities to nurture that in creative ways and inexpensive ways, but we have to be intentional.” – Ana Ponce

7. Sweat the soft skills

“One of the things I think about a lot in regards to the technical needs of society is worrying about education becoming focused on a utilitarian outcome…

As the religious schools’ representative up here, I think that sense of a whole child being educated can’t be lost in this justified focus on making sure we have those critical technical skills developed in children… Humanities talks about the idea of a well formed person. We can’t lose sight of a well rounded humanities based education. ” – Kevin Baxter

“We’re looking at not just closing the achievement gap which is focused on academics, we also have to look at closing the opportunity gap.. To me, the opportunity brings all of those other soft skills that kids need to develop that agency to make it to careers… They may have the skills, but [students] don’t know how to get the job.”- Ana Ponce

8. Make STEM and careers “sexier”

Carl Cohn called for bringing STEM learning to life and making it sexier. “Winnie Cooper [Danica McKellar] from The Wonder Years is a mathematician,” he said. “She may also be the only actress, now or ever, to prove a new mathematical theorem, one that bears her name.” – Change, K. (2005, July 19). Between Series, an Actress Became a Superstar (in Math), The New York Times.

From UCLA Alumni:
“McKellar and fellow student Brandy Winn proved a groundbreaking physics theorem, now called the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem. Their work was published in the prestigious Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General… She is a spokesperson for Figure This!, a government-sponsored site that features math challenges for kids. She also authored three math books, two of which were New York Times best sellers, Math Doesn’t Suck (2007) and Kiss My Math (2008).

“Expose the kids early on and take them out, getting them into industry. [Get them to see] there’s a world beyond their neighborhood. Industry is huge and endless and [students] can be excited about a number of things. The passion comes early.” –  Ana Ponce