Client Success Story Roundup: Establishing CCR Success in Elementary + K–8 Implementation Best Practices
Here’s how some districts are finding value with Xello in elementary grades and beyond.
In education, we know that early is always better than later. When students have access to programming, interventions, and knowledge at a young age, they are able to build on a strong foundation for lifelong learning.
This is especially true when it comes to college and career readiness (CCR). While it may seem peculiar to prepare kindergarteners for the workforce, educators have consistently found that younger students respond exceptionally well to the material in future readiness and CCR programs.
“I feel [elementary] is a golden opportunity to work with kids to help them learn more about themselves through reflection activities, helping them identify what type of learner they are, and exposing them to as much as possible,” Joelle Drader, a former elementary school counselor (K-4) in Harbor Springs, MI, in a past Xello remote roundtable.
“Self-awareness is the first step. I tell kids that they may not realize that what comes easily to them is actually what’s going to lead them to their interests, goals, and possible careers in life.”
Although districts don’t always have mandates for starting early, students with access to CCR programs in elementary school have better self-knowledge, are more engaged in school, and are better prepared to plan for a successful future, whatever that means for the individual.
In this article, we’re sharing some of the challenges and best practices that Xello users and career readiness educators have experienced by establishing a CCR program in K-8.
Districts are consistently challenged with finding a CCR solution that meets their needs. There are many factors that make the identification and selection process complex. Here are some of the most common:
Small vs. large district implementation
The Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Agency serves nine school districts in Kalamazoo County, MI. Career Awareness and Exploration Director Jason Luke says providing 35,000 K-12 students across nine school districts and 51 schools consistent career development programming is tough, but a priority.
“We felt like we needed a [CCR] program that could provide career interest inventories, create a strong connection to an education development plan, and serve as a one-stop-shop for career development as far as collecting information about students, who they are, and what they want to do,” said Luke.
“In comparison to the other solutions we were evaluating, Xello felt comprehensive and able to address the ‘whole child’, from K-12. The others just didn’t connect as much, heart-wise, to a young person.”
Most districts dread the change management aspect of introducing a new technology solution into their schools. Educators and staff can be resistant to change and require a rollout that demonstrates value while making it easy to integrate.
Sandi Smith, CTE Student Services/School Counselor in Huron Area Technical Center, MI says there are always challenges with getting school staff on board with changes. “[It’s tough to] set aside time in staff meetings to practice new resources and connect with teachers on the ‘WHY’ because they aren’t familiar with this CCR and the mechanics and are hesitant to lead students.”
“Eighth grade is extremely critical for our college & career readiness (CCR) program” says Anna Espinoza, Counseling and CCR Coordinator at Goose Creek CISD in Texas. “That’s why we chose Xello for our district. We wanted students to really learn the language and increase their career intelligence so that they have a more in-depth understanding and a better reasoning behind their chosen endorsement moving into ninth grade.”
“One of the beautiful things about the Xello program is that it allows the counselor to see and follow students as they grow. Not only is it an easy flow for students, but makes the advising piece for counselors easier to support successful transitions from primary to middle to high school.”
Finding a solution that can accommodate a district’s unique goals is a process that requires identifying individual needs and ensuring that students and educators are considered in equal measure.
Student Engagement – Xello for Elementary, Assessments, Lessons, Reports
Forest Hills School District in Cincinnati chose Xello to help them fulfill their commitment to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) model of focus on academic, career and social/emotional development.
“Our students absolutely love it. I’m not joking that when the teachers say we’re going to do ‘Career Town’ [a Xello feature for early elementary grades], they cheer. Even the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders like showcasing who they are and the 6th graders enjoy taking the learning style and personality quizzes and doing Matchmaker,” said Kate McKenzie, former school counselor, Forest Hills School District.
Briana Evans, a Prairie Hills USD 113 school counselor in Kansas, says Xello’s assessments, lessons, and tools have allowed students to identify careers of interest, explore clusters, and create postsecondary plans for success. She notes that Xello has sparked invaluable conversations among students and teachers throughout the high schools and middle schools that use it. The real breakthroughs come after students have completed some lessons.
“They tend to be very thought-provoking. I was with some 6th graders when they did a time management lesson and the part that prompted the most conversation was the task of laying out their day. It was a challenge for them. They realized that they have all these things they want to do but had to make some choices and give up some things in order to have time for others,” she said.
Often, once teachers see the possibilities inherent in Xello, reluctance melts away. A key part of that is seeing students’ reactions.
“Our students get so excited when they know it’s a Xello day, just because it’s fun to them. So, get your teachers familiar with the platform! Once they have access, they’ll find ways to use Xello for differentiating instruction. I mean, it’s a fun platform for younger learners, getting to learn more about themselves, so when teachers are familiar with it, you can really just let students poke around and play, even in their free time, not just during structured lessons or classroom time,” advised Tessa Barbazon, Director of School Counseling and Social Emotional Learning, Clarke County, GA.
The before/after effect with Xello is like night and day for most districts. They experience value for students, educators, and staff almost immediately, in a number of important ways.
Reduce the “I wish I knew” comments from grad alumni
We hear it all the time: “I wish I had a tool like Xello when I was in school”. Superintendent of Minnesota’s Saint Paul Public Schools Joe Gothard recalls taking a career ability placement survey as a boy and suddenly being struck by the things that he was “good” at.
“I was 16 years old and more than two-thirds of my education was over… I didn’t have conversations with my family about who I was as a learner or as a person to have them help me match it with what I might see in my future. That was a missed opportunity. We have to be more intentional, more urgent and I think we can start with students at a much younger age,” he said.
With a high-quality CCR program established in early grades, this regret can be a relic of the past.
Increase program leader effectiveness by involving other educators and families who support student success
Becky Hickert, Interim Business Information Technology Academy Principal and Post-secondary Coordinator, Junction City High School, says they saw an almost immediate relief in her school when educators, parents, and community members could be involved in supporting students through Xello.
“We’ve seen more kids really thoughtfully plan through their course planners up through their senior years, because they now have their parents involved with the tool. It’s helped parents become more aware of all the things we offer, and it’s helped our students be more thoughtful about their planning and explore more options.”
Curiosity leads to student empowerment to learn on their own
Mounir Corban, a school counselor (Grades 3-8) at Milwaukee Public School, sees a correlation between kids who talk about careers at an early age and the quality of the decisions they make when they are older. “They take ownership of their education,” he said.
“When I see them going through academic career planning in 5th grade they tend to make better course selections in high school. They may join the STEM club or the newsletter club or choose AP classes that fits their goals because they know themselves better.”
Better informed students for college enrollment + increased future confidence
Anthony Cook, (formerly) coordinator of College and Career Counseling at the School District of Osceola County in Florida, appreciates that the Xello platform operates as a one-stop shop for meeting students’ college needs. Students can now consider questions like, “Where can I go for scholarships?”, “How can I register for SAT and ACT”, and “How can I search for colleges?” straight to the Xello platform.
“That’s important because there are so many options out there for students, and we want to be able to direct them as much as possible to one place,” said Cook.
When we make career connections early on, it has a waterfall effect on student engagement and graduation rates. Along the way, students, educators, and staff experience ongoing aha moments and benefits.
Learn how your district can establish CCR success in Elementary with Xello.