Guest Post: Vip Gupta’s Thoughts on the 2015 Educator Symposium

I’m sitting down to each my lunch after a morning full of presenting and educator-focused workshops at the recent NCCPA Educator Symposium in Petaluma, when the keynote speaker, Dr. Laurie Scolari asks us all about our eating utensils. It caught my attention right away, wondering what that has to do with Career Pathways and addressing the barriers facing our nation’s youth when it comes to succeeding in school and finding meaningful, well paying jobs. Dr. Scolari says that eating without utensils, without the proper tools, is akin to the challenges that first generation students face in continuing their studies past secondary school and into post-secondary institutions. The analogy continues; the students know about college and its value in society just I like I can see my food and how it will help nourish me, but they don’t have the material or capital to access that coveted prize. They are often left hungry, knowing that they should enroll in a postsecondary program but don’t know how. The analogy is fitting, and I get the point.

Dr. Scolari’s presentation and passion resonates deeply with me, as I have spent the past five years working to make strong academic bridges and programs to serve underrepresented students in STEM. And now as part of Marin County’s Pathway team I get to take that work further, building bridges all the way to industry and incorporating the revitalized value of work based learning. Dr. Scolari goes on to talk about the very important topic of Social Capital. Her breakdown of this complex topic and the role different types of social capital play in the post-secondary matriculation process is brilliant. I think most of us have heard of social capital but what I hadn’t heard before is how first generation do have types of social capital, but not the kinds that privileged students do and more importantly not the kinds that help get into college. Dr. Scolari explains that first generation students are those whose parents/guardians at home have not gone to college themselves and thus don’t provide the knowledge and skills necessary to help these students transition out of secondary school. Because of this lack of the right kind of capital, these students need to more heavily rely on the resources and support that are provided in school.  But there is stiff competition to get a counselor’s attention; there are far too few counselors for the number of students we have in our schools, around a 3000 to 1 ratio of students to counselors nationally. When she says this, I say “What?!” out loud. Oops. That ratio is staggering and I had no idea the problem was that big.

I leave lunch and Dr. Scolari’s presentation shocked but full. That afternoon, during the symposium, we gather in industry teams based on identified CTE sectors. Teams are comprised of teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors and work-based learning specialists. It strikes me just how important this kind of collaboration is. If counselors are overworked, as are teachers and everyone else in education, yet we have major gaps where the students with the most need are not getting the attention they deserve, the only way to increase our capacity is to collaborate. Collaborate more and communicate to make our individual roles and responsibilities work together to increase our Capital. By our Capital, I mean our collective capacity to help students get into postsecondary programs and find success. Of course we could do with more money, resources, etc., but those issues don’t necessarily focus on optimizing our current efforts. That is one of my major takeaways from the symposium and this work: it’s about working together to make sure we are addressing these real and troubling issues facing students in our schools and districts.  

I’m grateful that I was able to contribute in part to this event and hope those that attended my workshop on the Next Generation Science Standards got as much out of it as I did from Dr. Scolari’s presentation and collaborating with others across the Northern California region in what was truly an educator symposium.

Vip Gupta

Project Specialist

Marin County Office of Ed.

The Big Audacious Dream

I have a post it note on the left hand side of my computer keyboard that reads “being approachable and engaged are the onramps to so much good.”  I keep this to remind me that I need to be both approachable and engaged at home with my family, and at work with my colleagues.  It’s become a little mantra of mine and is serving me well, especially when it comes to the NCCPA and directing such a large body of work.

What I am discovering is the more approachable I am, the more I learn from others.  The more engaged I am, the more I am willing to pursue an audacious dream.

A few weeks ago I attended the ieSonoma event and heard Dan Pallota, the author of Uncharitable, tell us that it is time for us to dream a “big audacious dream”.  I have spent much time ruminating on this idea: What would a big audacious dream look like in education?

As I thought about it more, I realized that it could be quite simple.  It’s being approachable and engaged so there are opportunities to onramp the good.  Let me share my thoughts.

We read constantly how our students are not meeting the standards to be college and career ready.  Only 30% of our students (in the NCCPA region) are eligible to apply to UC or CSU schools.  We have a large number of students (as many as 60% in some counties) choosing to attend the community colleges in our region, which we don’t acknowledge or legitimize as a viable post secondary pursuit.   Half of those students, at the post secondary level, need some form of remediation in math or English and many are dropping out due to financial needs, lack of motivation, or pure frustration.

Our employers in the region tell us of their difficulty hiring low and mid range employees, because there is no training ground, nor pool of skilled young people prepared to enter the labor market. And yet we continue to scratch our heads and ask why?

What if we created a system that was approachable and engaging?

What if we designed an education system that was navigable and less complicated for students and parents?

What if we made matriculations services, academic help, and financial aid accessible to ALL students?

What if we were able to provide engaging ways to remediate at the high school level making math and English relevant and interesting to students?  And prepared our students to succeed at the post secondary level?

What if we could help students design a road map, an education and career plan, allowing them to engage in their future, planning for the end goal and working towards that goal?  Perhaps this road map could start as early as middle school.

What if the education system of our region was the feeder to employers in our area?   And our community colleges worked closely with our local businesses to provide industry recognized training, credentials and degrees?

These are questions we see, but don’t necessarily know how to answer.

One idea I have is perhaps we need to sit in the uncomfortability of change.  If we are not getting push back from time-to-time, maybe we do not understand the full truth.  And without the full truth, our choices and actions might leave us inside the box of complacency.

A place for us to start is for us to define the “box” we call the education system,

be uncomfortable as we buck up against change, think bigger dreams, and, as we build our audacious dream, keep in mind: “Being approachable and engaged are the onramps to so much good.”

In collaboration for All Students’ Success,


Katie Barr

NCCPA Grant Director

Northern California Career Pathways Alliance

Welcome to the Northern California Career Pathway Alliance Blog

Welcome to the Northern California Career Pathway Alliance!  We are excited to have you with us!

The Northern California Career Pathway Alliance (NCCPA) is an alliance of six counties in the North Bay region which includes: Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Solano.  Our work is driven by the Career Pathway Trust, a $15 million grant that will help us align the K-14 educational system and be responsive to the economic drivers of our region.

What does that mean?  Well, let us explain!

Our goal is to create a regional approach to Career Pathways that allow students from throughout the region to successfully transition from high school to post-secondary education to employment in the local industry markets.
Labor market data reveals a regional demand for skilled workers in the areas of healthcare, business and finance, manufacturing, software engineering, biotechnology, agriculture, and hospitality and tourism.
Early Assessment Program data shows that few students are ready for college (35% of North Bay 11th graders in English/Language Arts).  In math, the number is 17%.  Most students must take remedial English at the Community College (70% in North Bay area).  While roughly half of graduates (40-55%) enroll in Community College, only 17-31% of all students and 10-18% of socioeconomically disadvantaged students, complete 1 year of credits in 2 years.
To serve the needs of all students and subpolulations (those first in their family to attend college, living in poverty, and living in rural areas) NCCPA is providing Career and Technical Education awareness beginning in middle school, integrating CTE/core curriculum to make it more relevant and engaging, giving students opportunities to interact with employers in the classroom and at the workplace, providing intentional college transition programs on the high school site and providing targeted support services to address individual needs.
Involved in this alignment work are 22 school districts in our region, the six County Offices of Education, the five Community Colleges (College of Marin, Napa Valley College, Mendocino Community College, Santa Rosa Junior College, and Solano Community College), the five Workforce Investment Boards, and 164 local/region business and community agencies.
It is an interesting time to be a part of education!  With the Local Control  Funding Formula and Common Core State Standards, we (the community) have the opportunity to transform the educational experience for our youth and truly prepare them for college, career and life!
How to be involved: 
If you are a business owner or community member and interested in assisting us in this important initiative, you can help!  We are seeking local and regional businesses that would be interested in supporting our students through mentoring, job shadows, internships, and/or teacher externships.   We currently have 164 business partners who are willing to invest their time, talent and treasure in our future…think about joining them!
For more information please contact Katie Barr, CTE Grant Director @

Upcoming Events:

January 24, 2015: Work Based Learning and B/E Liaison Training @ NCOE.   Contact Angela Higdon at for more information.

March 25, 2015: Terra Linda High School Experiential Site Visit @ 320 Nova Albion Way, San Rafael.  To register for this event contact Sally Chacon at