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Getting Smart Podcast

Nov 25, 2020

Today the Getting Smart team is joined by Donna McDaniel to discuss professional learning and real-world learning.

Donna is a longtime educator who has bridged the world of business and education. Through her experience and numerous school settings, Donna has invaluable experience for knowing the ins and outs of what qualifies as real-world skills. She has taken this knowledge to create the CAPS program in the Blue Valley School District, which has gone on to create a network of more than 70 professional learning-centric schools in the United States. Now, Donna is supporting Kansas City’s Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, as they seek to implement a novel regional movement towards ensuring that all students graduate with valuable professional experiences.

Also joining the conversation in this episode is Rashawn Caruthers, the Director at Getting Smart. Previously, she was the Director of Career and Technical Education at Kansas City Public Schools and, prior to that, the Assistant Director of Career and Technical Education at Kansas City Missouri School District.

Together, Tom, Donna, and Rashawn take a look at Donna’s journey in business and education, the importance of professional learning and market value assets, the real-world learning initiative she is a part of, and the kind of impact she has seen through real-world learning experiences. The Getting Smart team found Donna’s commitment to the intersectionality of education and the workplace inspiring and is sure you will too!


Key Takeaways:

[:10] About today’s episode with Donna McDaniel.

[1:00] Tom welcomes Donna McDaniel to the podcast.

[1:05] Tom shares that they are also joined by Rashawn Caruthers.

[2:35] Going in the “wayback machine,” Donna shares why she decided to study education in Kansas City.

[3:40] What attracted Donna to being a teacher (and later, a school leader) as someone who used to personally struggle in school.

[4:21] Where Donna started her career in education.

[4:59] Rashawn reflects on her early career in education and how her and Donna’s paths have aligned.

[5:19] About Donna’s pivot from the world of business to the world of education and why she believes this experience was crucial in her ability to lead in education.

[7:26] The origin story of Blue Valley’s program, CAPS.

[9:42] Rashawn shares her experience with CAPS.

[10:10] How CAPS helps students develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

[13:20] CAPS is a next-generation career center. Donna further describes what the program itself looks like.

[14:56] Tom shares his appreciation for CAPS and how it has become a national movement in real-world learning.

[15:46] How did the idea of “market value assets” from Susan Wally turn into a regional initiative sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation?

[20:02] Rashawn speaks of the key pieces in real-world learning and what she most loves about the initiative.

[21:00] Donna shares why she believes that this real-world learning initiative has had such strong, positive support across the region.

[23:11] Which kinds of high schools are involved in the initiative and how many are involved in the initiative?

[24:21] Donna shares a specific example of how the initiative has had an impact on a school that was greater than expected.

[26:19] Tom highlights some rural communities and schools that have successfully modeled real-world learning experiences.

[27:55] Challenges that high schools have faced trying to expand access to real-world learning.

[30:45] As a district leader in Kansas City, Rashawn shares her perspective on the challenges of trying to create real-world learning experiences in a classroom.

[33:00] Does Donna find the commissioners of Missouri and Kansas to be generally supportive of what the districts are trying to do?

[34:41] Donna elaborates on how she has been a strong advocate across the region for getting students core credits for real-world learning opportunities.

[36:03] Could this real-world initiative be replicated in other states?

[37:04] What does Donna hope to see in the next five years as it relates to real-world learning?

[39:07] Tom underscores one of his favorite parts about the real-world learning initiative.

[40:05] Donnas shares how she thinks the pandemic has created even more of an opportunity to create jobs.

[41:13] Tom thanks Donna for her leadership and for joining the podcast!

[41:51] Rashawn shares some parting thoughts about the real-world initiative.

[42:31] Donna shares some parting words and gives her thanks to Getting Smart.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Donna McDaniel

Blue Valley School District

Blue Valley CAPS

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Rashawn Caruthers

Northland CAPS

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundations Real World Learning Initiative


Hickman Mills School District

Getting Smart Podcast Ep. 265 — “Corey Mohn and Shameka Montgomery on Next-Gen Career Education


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