Transforming individuals and communities across West Virginia
Excel Together West Virginia is an initiative for community transformation affecting people of all ages, educational backgrounds, and career trajectories, with participation and loose coordination from multiple government and civic organizations. The goal is to develop individuals with better resilience and opportunity, provide employers with a high performance workforce, and rally communities in shared purpose, commitment, effort and accomplishment.
This page details the theory and practice of the initiative, and how it connects to the larger vision. Please contact us if you'd like to learn more or participate.
West Virginia faces many education and workforce challenges
West Virginia grapples with a large range of issues:
- low high school graduation rates
- low rates of postsecondary matriculation and graduation
- too many young "opportunity youth" who are discouraged and disconnected from education and the workforce
- a current workforce with skills that don't meet current and future needs
- many adults who are stuck in low-pay futures, without the skills to take advantage of further training
These problems affect hundreds of thousands of West Virginians, and can have crushing personal consequences, burden employers, and hobble communities' economic development efforts to retain existing employers and attract new ones.
Even the larger cities in West Virginia may only have small targeted programs addressing some of these challenges, and rural West Virginia is largely left behind. This isn't just a school problem - any solution that starts in the schools leaves out adults already in the workforce will take decades to have an effect on the larger community.
One underlying problem
Excel Together West Virginia takes a new perspective on these challenges - they are all facets of the same fundamental problem. West Virginians lack a key set of High Performance competencies, including quantitative reasoning skills, professional literacy skills, problem-solving strategies and mindsets, learning agility, the intention to excel supported by persistence and attention to detail, and self-efficacy, the belief in their own ability to succeed.
This deficit of High Performance competencies manifests itself across many different areas - school success, college matriculation, workforce, economic development, and more.
Like the Six Blind Men and the Elephant, West Virginia has attempted to solve all of these problems with separate programs with different funding, strategies and curriculum. By recognizing that these challenges are all manifestations of the same underlying issue -- a lack of High Performance competencies -- Excel Together West Virginia can use the same strategy across all of these areas, leading to extraordinary partnerships and scale.
Excel Together brings CSM to West Virginia
CSM is a self-paced, online course that develops High Performance competencies. It is the world's first and only personalized learning technology that not only builds the student's academic skills, but also how they learn, how they act and how they feel. In a work context, these High Performance competencies function as transferable "employability skills" that are useful in every job, across sectors and positions.
The same CSM Course is taken by high school dropouts as well as corporate managers with advanced degrees, which highlights the broad value of the High Performance competencies. CSM is used in schools, colleges, adult education, workforce development, and employee upskilling. To our knowledge, CSM has the broadest range of use of any single course.
People who complete the CSM Course earn the CSM Certificate.
The CSM Course provides a way to build skills in scale, and the CSM Certificate provides indications of these skills. However, the CSM Certificate is of little use if no colleges or employers recognize it -- few people would take CSM. Excel Together West Virginia is concerned with embedding value in the CSM Certificate so that there are concrete benefits to having earned it. This makes school, adult education and workforce programs much more likely to offer the CSM Course, and for individuals to take it.
With work already accomplished by Excel Together West Virginia, the CSM Certificate is both universally valuable and universally attainable. What can West Virginia do with these new tools?
Excel Together West Virginia has a plan
Making progress on West Virginia's challenges requires unprecedented scale -- it requires changing the skills and life trajectories of hundreds of thousands of people. Furthermore, as funding sources are increasingly scarce, any progress must be done on thin budgets.
Excel Together West Virginia has a plan to ensure that colleges and employers recognize the value of the High Performance competencies certified by the CSM Certificate, and that West Virginians have free, accessible, equitable opportunities to obtain a CSM Certificate. CSM is already becoming a pathway to postsecondary education and better work opportunities for people of all ages and educational backgrounds.
Excel Together WV has put together the necessary infrastructure for an ambitious initiative:
- Through the Office of Adult Education in the WV Department of Education, CSM is available to all adults in the state, with a personal coach, and at no cost (paid for through a combination of state and federal funding). Most adult education teachers in the state are Certified CSM Coaches, capable of helping people of all academic abilities complete CSM.
- CSM satisfies the general education math requirements for an associate degree at the state community and technical colleges, providing an exceptional new pathway for adults to enter and successfully complete college.
- Through Workforce West Virginia, people on unemployment insurance are able to satisfy their weekly job search requirements by taking CSM.
- Employers are able to indicate their recognition of the value of the CSM Certificate in hiring practices, with special indicators of those employers in the state job's database. Many key industry associations and business organizations are helping encourage participation by their members and the larger business community to take part, including Workforce West Virginia and industry and business associations including the WV Manufacturers Association, the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia, and others.
A streamlined pathway to college
Few make it thorugh the conventional path
Before Excel Together West Virginia, the road to a college degree was daunting for many West Virginians, and especially scary was the general education college math requirement. Looking at the diagram, to fulfill the requirement, a high school dropout with 4th to 6th grade math skills would need to:
- take a HiSET (high school equivalency) course, and then take the HiSET test -- most will fail the first time and have to take the course multiple times,
- then take the ACCUPLACER or ACT college placement test -- most will place into developmental education,
- then take multiple semesters of developmental education,
- then take the required college math course - about half would fail, and need to retake the course
Only after all of this would they be ready to take the healthcare or IT courses that they came to college for! Just a few percent of students ever will complete these hurdles.
Note that nearly half of high school graduates have 4th to 6th grade math skills, who then have to face all of these hurdles except for the HISET test.
CSM's streamlined path eliminates these hurdles
With Excel Together West Virginia, anyone can fulfill their college math requirement at many colleges simply by taking CSM! All colleges in the West Virginia Community and Technical College System accept the CSM Certificate as math credit that satisfies the general education math requirement for an associate degree. CSM is designed with built-in deep remediation and is extraordinarily supportive. This transforms college access and completion for both students and adults across the state.
Excel Together West Virginia is a single initiative that rallies the community in shared purpose, commitment, effort and accomplishment.
Whether you're a local non-profit, a school district, a 4-year college, a city or county government, an employer, or other, there are ways to participate, with benefits for the organization, for its employees or the people that it serves, and for its community.
- High schools can incorporate CSM into their curriculum so their students graduate with college math credit that will vastly increase their chances of college success (and save hundreds of dollars) and a certificate that excites employers. Schools can use CSM as class for the 4th year of mathematics (satisfying the high school graduation requirements), as a college-prep class, for students in credit recovery, as a CTE class, in an after-school or summer program, etc.
- Employers can recognize the value of the CSM Certificate in hiring to gain access to a higher quality workforce, or as a workforce development strategy in partnership with schools, adult education, or local nonprofits. Additionally, the the CSM Course can be used internally for employee upskilling, as preparation for rigorous training programs, for promotion transitions, or as part of tuition assistance programs.
- Colleges can articulate CSM for college math credit, opening a pathway from adult education and schools. Colleges can also use CSM as a pre-college bridge course, as a regular math course/curriculum, as a course for students on probation, as a college stop-out recovery program, and more.
- Community organizations can use CSM for postsecondary transition, HiSET preparation, as a bridge to rigorous workforce training programs (including technical apprenticeships), as an employability skills workforce course, as a skills program for formerly incarcerated, as part of a drug rehabilitation program, as an afterschool or summer youth college and career readiness program, etc.
- City / county governments can use CSM as a combined workforce and economic development program, as a summer youth program, as a community uplift program, and to locally coordinate all of the activities in this section.
If you'd like to explore participation in Excel Together West Virginia, we'd love to hear from you! Please contact us to start a conversation.