New Designs for School
New Designs for School

We’ve all had the experience of truly purposeful, authentic learning and know how valuable it is. Educators are taking the best of what we know about learning, student support, effective instruction, and interpersonal skill-building to completely reimagine schools so that students experience that kind of purposeful learning all day, every day.

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Vista Unified School District is transforming learning by making relevant connections to the world of work.

In previous blog posts, we have provided an overview of the three brushstrokes that guide our work at Vista Unified. In this post, we focus on the third brushstroke, making a Relevant connection to the world of work.

Last year, Vista Unified entered into a new public-private partnership called Talent Cities. Talent Cities is a smart city solution. It focuses on the use of data to create a new, powerful bridge between the world of education and the world of work. Our partners in this effort include the San Diego Workforce Partnership, University of California at San Diego, Vista Chamber of Commerce, Solatube, Datron, and New Learning Ventures. You can learn more about Talent Cities from our new video:

At Vista Unified, we know that by the time students reach high school some may have already started to experience challenges that may cause them to lose interest and not see the relevance of school to the real world. These challenges may even cause them to drop out of school before they begin their high school experience. In many cases, we have found that even students who have experienced success find school irrelevant at times.

Our goal is to address, head on, this “relevance gap” in middle school. Accordingly, we have begun piloting the Talent Cities solution in our middle schools. Here our goal is to create a wide scope project that engages every middle school student in connecting their strengths and interests to the jobs of the future within the high priority career sectors of the San Diego County economy. San Diego has been identified as a smart city that is leading the country in job growth in priority sectors such as advanced manufacturing, clean energy, health care, information and communication technologies, life sciences, and retail.

The Talent Cities project aims to give all students, regardless of socio-economic background, the awareness and hands-on experiences in the world of work to make better, more informed choices about their future careers.

Talent Cities

So far early results from Talent Cities are promising. The partnership is growing with new companies joining the call-to-action. Early returns on data show us interesting insights from both students and employers. Here are some examples of what we are seeing so far:

  • Students say they most need to improve their proficiency with 21st century skills. This exactly matches the skills that employers say they are having the most trouble finding on a national level.
  • Students from high and low socio-economic backgrounds are equally unfamiliar with the high priority sectors of the future. While low socio-economic students tend to lack a career focus, high socio-economic students tend to select traditional occupations.
  • 55% of students saw a possible career in advanced manufacturing following a Talent Cities experience.
  • Employers are able to weight the 21st century skills in the order most relevant to their corporate culture and provide that feedback to educators and students.

The Talent Cities solution will provide students with an individual talent profile and at the same time provide businesses with a granular view of the regional talent base as it grows. The result is richer conversation and proactive engagement between educators and employers, eliminating the gaps in talent development before they open.

For more information about Talent Cities visit

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Matt Doyle, Gerri Burton, and Robert Crowell

Dr. Matt Doyle is the Assistant Superintendent of Innovation for Vista Unified School District in California. Gerri Burton works with New Learning Ventures. Robert Crowell is the Community Partnership Lead for Vista Unified.