Alabama Students Gain Early Exposure to Career Planning to Meet New Online Graduation Requirement

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — May 11, 2009 — With financial support and assistance from Microsoft Corp., the Alabama Department of Education announced plans to roll out CareerForward™, a powerful online course covering globalization, career planning, financial literacy and entrepreneurship, statewide by the 2009–2010 school year to make sure students are college- and career-ready, and able to compete in the 21st century global economy.

Alabama is the second state in the nation — after Michigan — to require students to have an online learning experience before they graduate from high school. CareerForward is unique in its focus on the critical development of a skilled work force, helping young citizens assess their skills and interests, explore global opportunities, and recognize the importance of technology in jobs of the future. Microsoft Partners in Learning will also award $50,000 to the project to help offset costs to train educators how to teach the course and to further their professional development.

“CareerForward helps Alabama students win in the global economy,” said Joe Morton, Alabama state superintendent of education.

Tommy Bice, deputy state superintendent of education for Instructional Services, agreed: “CareerForward will help our students see the connection between school and work, and it will strengthen students’ 21st century skills as it asks them to critically think, reflect and do online research.”

“Alabama is taking a necessary step as it adopts more rigorous high-school graduation requirements,” said Anthony Salcito, general manager of U.S. Public Sector Education at Microsoft. “We are pleased that CareerForward meets the state’s criteria for online learning because students’ career choices are critical to the talent pipeline and future business prosperity in the U.S. When you set a high bar for student expectations, we’ve learned our kids will exceed it and our schools will adapt to support.”

Alabama is committed to preparing all students to be college- or career-ready, and exposing students to an online experience is an important component of meeting that challenge. School administrators are excited to share CareerForward with 739,500 Alabama public school students. The Alabama Best Practices Center will receive funding from Microsoft to develop and provide professional development to schools and systems that select CareerForward as part of their curriculum. Michigan Virtual University will also receive support to serve as a consultant to help Alabama deploy CareerForward statewide.

“Our superintendent, Randy Fuller, along with committee stakeholders, agrees that CareerForward will support our district’s goals of helping students explore career choices and develop a plan to get there while building online skills,” said Susan Poling, technology coordinator for Shelby County Schools. “I think students will particularly like the interactive budgeting tool, the professional interviews, and the video clips all found within this course. We want to give all our high-school students the opportunity to complete the CareerForward course.”

About CareerForward

CareerForward was developed three years ago through a unique public-private partnership between Microsoft, Michigan Virtual University and the Michigan Department of Education. Eighteen thousand Michigan students have pledged to complete the course this school year. The media-rich online learning program helps students wrestle with some of the burning questions about their futures: What am I going to do with my life? What is the world of work like? What will I need to succeed? What’s next for me? Using a variety of multimedia, course topics explore these questions and more. Throughout the course, students are asked frequently to reflect on what they are learning, to write their thoughts down as a continual refinement of their thinking, and to discuss their thoughts with other students, either in person or online.

Students can work with local educators to access the online course, which takes about four to six weeks to complete. The course is designed to be facilitated by a local teacher and can be used independently or as part of an existing face-to-face course in career planning, business or global studies.

“This course helps students realize the crucial importance of education to their future,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Michigan Virtual University. “Integrating technology into every student’s education allows them to experience their education outside the classroom — in the world of technology. It helps bring relevance to their learning.”

Further information on CareerForward is available at http://review.careerforward.org/careerforward. A video clip is also available at http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=en-US&vid=031c7926-608f-42eb-aa7f-a29f436db0cb about how CareerForward is impacting students in Michigan. More information about the Alabama Department of Education is available at http://www.alsde.edu. More information about Microsoft U.S. Partners in Learning is available at http://www.microsoft.com/education/pilus.mspx.

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