Career-Ready Capstones: Looking Back — and What’s Ahead


By Lance Hostetter, Colorado Program Manager

Nine months ago, I met with 28 Colorado educators in Denver. In what felt like a first date, we shared a little bit about ourselves, laughed at each other’s jokes, swapped professional accolades, and traded a personal anecdote or two. And then we got to work.

The work to develop innovative, industry-aligned performance tasks and capstone projects started in early 2018.

The work to develop innovative, industry-aligned performance tasks and capstone projects started in early 2018.

Although these educators came from schools all over the state and held various positions in those schools, we all had something in common: we believe Colorado students deserve every opportunity to succeed in our thriving economy. That was the thread that kept us together, pushing us to develop innovative, industry-aligned performance tasks and capstone projects.

The idea for these career-ready performance tasks came from a need unique to Colorado. The state’s economy is thriving and job opportunities are abundant, but it doesn’t have enough of the right talent to fill these jobs. That’s where the Colorado Educator Voice Fellowship came in. We saw the need to identify in-demand skills and competencies to support promising practices that promote career and life success pipelines.

To accomplish this work, we knew we needed expertise from a variety of folks — those who knew the day-to-day of industry and education.

Colorado Fellows presented their career-ready capstones at our December Expo in Denver.

Colorado Fellows presented their career-ready capstones at our December Expo in Denver.

The best way to make change in education is to solicit ideas and expertise from educators. Not only do they possess the passion for education—they are the experts. That’s why we recruited 28 educators to help lead the development of career-ready capstones. These Fellows brought a wealth of knowledge about academic standards, CTE pathways, college and career readiness, and vast classroom experience that proved essential during the development of these resources.

To make real change toward improving student outcomes, we needed to include additional voices at the table. With help from our partners at Colorado Succeeds, multiple industry representatives, and Project Lead The Way, we embedded authentic industry-aligned skills and competencies, and high-quality project-based learning into each capstone project.

On December 7, 2018, our Colorado Educator Voice Fellows presented their drafts of career-ready capstone performance tasks to panels of expert guests. Standing on stage at the Denver Art Museum, groups of educators took turns holding the microphone and advocating for high-quality career readiness. They described how the performance tasks they designed over the past year help students become career-ready by taking a deeper interest in their studies, experiencing improved learning outcomes, and developing critical cross-sector competencies.

All of this and more led us down a path where we not only developed nine different career-ready capstone projects (available February 2019), but brought together a wonderful group of people passionate about improving student outcomes to form a community dedicated to creating and championing new pipelines for student success.

“If we had all been left to our own devices and the Fellowship didn't exist, then none of these tasks would exist,” said Fellow Kate Newburgh. “Most of us wouldn't know we even had it in us to create them.”

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We hope to see these capstone projects used in schools and districts across the US to support students’ mastery of core content and career-ready, cross-sector competencies. We will continue to reflect, revise, and grow in the work of preparing all students for career and life success.

Learn more about the process for developing career-ready performance tasks here. To learn more about the Colorado Educator Voice Fellowship, visit our webpage.


Take the Lead Colorado: 21st Century Work-Based Learning

Newsletter: January 2019