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Special Edition

November 8, 2021


Into the sphere of real world learning

School leaders say it's time to move away from the chalkboard era

In a two-minute Kauffman Sketchbook video, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell says, "Real World Learning allows for our students to have a practical experience at what the market has to offer and focuses on making sure that we have done our part to prepare kids for college, life, and career."

Chief Innovation Officer of Community America Anita Newton adds, "As students try to navigate the new economic and job landscape, we have students graduating that don't have the requisite skills needed to fill those jobs. This next-generation, they are the most innovative, expressive, thoughtful, with one notable exception. They have difficulty making the transition from school to work."

Real World Learning (RWL) is a Kansas City community initiative that brings together educators, business leaders, and organizations like Aligned toward a common goal:

By 2030, all high school students across our region graduate with skills and experiences (MVAs*), in addition to their diploma, that prepare them for future work and learning.

An MVA is one of four regionally adopted market value assets, which include:

  • work experiences
  • college credit
  • regionally vetted industry-recognized credentials
  • entrepreneurial experiences

Aligned has worked both legislatively and through outreach to strengthen the impact of real-world learning for students in Kansas and Missouri. For example, we helped pass the Visiting Scholars legislation that provides a pathway for subject matter experts to work as certified teachers in business education partnership programs, like CAPS, in Missouri schools. In addition, we have supported improving liability laws to increase business participation in RWL programs.

In this special edition of the Aligned Update, we focus on Holland 1916's 4th-grade math engagement tour and sit down with Blue Valley CAPS Executive Director Corey Mohn to check in on how the program has evolved over the past decade.


Divide and Conquer

Holland CEO says kids who know division can learn its business

When Holland 1916 celebrated its hundredth anniversary five years ago, the company reflected on employee relationships and contemplated how they would navigate the next century. "The way we got to the first hundred years was great people," said CEO Mike Stradinger. So, to mark this corporate milestone, the company decided to deepen its commitment to education and student engagement.

Holland 1916's work-based learning programs traditionally focused on high school students, but they often found that a third had already checked out by then. The company leadership agreed that if a student could divide, they could learn the business. As part of their anniversary celebration, the company launched a new program to introduce 4th graders to real-world math applications at one of its subsidiary companies. 

Holland Nameplate makes stainless steel and aluminum nameplates and metal control panels for more than 1,000 customers. You will find their products on machines or equipment where information needs to be permanently displayed. Making these nameplates requires a lot of math, and young children who participate in Holland's real-world learning program quickly realize they have the numeracy skills to solve business-related problems.

Continue (2 min. read)

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Real-world learning reaches tipping point

An interview with Blue Valley CAPS Director Corey Mohn

The Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) is a high school innovation program where students participate in authentic, profession-based learning opportunities. CAPS programs exist across 19 states and three countries (U.S., Canada, and India). Actual employers mentor students in their workplace, and students use industry-standard tools to solve real-world problems.

Some strands offered include bioscience, engineering, medicine, and healthcare, to name a few. These learning environments allow participants to explore potential careers based on their passions, purpose, and strengths. CAPS adheres to five core values that guide each program: profession-based learning, professional skills development, self-discovery and exploration, entrepreneurial mindset, and responsiveness.

CAPS started in Kansas at the Blue Valley School District and has grown to five affiliates with five school districts sending students. Missouri has the largest program activity nationwide, with 21 affiliate programs and 69 school districts sending students. The program offers a playbook for those who are looking to launch profession-based learning programs. Videos also provide a deeper dive.

Earlier this month, Aligned sat down with Corey Mohn, the executive director of the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) and CAPS Network, to learn how CAPS is changing the way students and parents value work-based learning.

In layman's terms, what does CAPS do for students?

The idea is we are fast-forwarding students past high school and college and dropping them into what would effectively be their first job by giving them a chance to work on work-based projects.

The program started in 2009 at Blue Valley; what has changed since then?

As we think about where we've come from and what's coming in the future, I think the headline here is the ability to do this across a much broader set of players with more school districts and more business partners engaged. Organizing and facilitating a national network of schools has been rewarding as we continue to see acceleration about leading into career-connected and profession-based learning.

We hear a lot about real-world or project-based learning, but you have described it as profession-based; what's the difference?

We've heard all about problem- and project-based learning and those are a fantastic foundation, but they also tend to be a little more simulated, a little more linear. On the other hand, profession-based takes the project-based learning and puts it on steroids by involving the business partner, the nonprofit, the folks out in the community. 

Continue (5 min. read)


Session sneak peeks ahead

Legislative sessions in Kansas and Missouri will start after the first of the year. However, we are three weeks away from the pre-filing date in the Show-Me State. That means lawmakers are currently busy studying proposals and drafting bills.

We will preview our legislative agenda in our December newsletter. Expect to see lots of focus on real-world learning solutions. In the meantime, please reach out with your ideas and questions. Now is the time to engage with policymakers. 

All our best,

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Torree Pederson



(913) 484-4202


Linda Rallo

Vice President


(314) 330-8442

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