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Home Blogs Empowering students for college and careers: Q&A with the Texas Education Agency Tri-Agency Workforce Priorities Partnership team

Empowering students for college and careers: Q&A with the Texas Education Agency Tri-Agency Workforce Priorities Partnership team

Southwest | August 09, 2023

A Black female student sits at a table in a library with her laptop open in front of her, while a Black male teacher leans down alongside her and points at her laptop screen

How can Texas schools prepare their students for success in college and careers? For the Texas Education Agency (TEA), student success hinges on effective advising. That's why TEA developed the Effective Advising Framework (EAF) and began piloting it with regional service centers and school districts in 2020.

The EAF is a K–12 framework for expanding access to high-quality college, career, and military advising by streamlining and modernizing advising offerings and services. The framework supports school districts to provide students with strong counseling programs focused on individual career and academic planning. While many schools may start this process at the middle and high school level, the EAF is built to ensure advising services are available well before middle school.

The EAF is part of a broader state initiative to advance economic prosperity in Texas. In 2016, Texas Governor Greg Abbott established the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative, a collaboration between TEA, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the Texas Workforce Commission. Priority 2 of the initiative focuses on ensuring students receive the support necessary to succeed at all stages of their education and in their transitions to the workforce.1 Effective advising is one strategy for achieving that priority.

Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative Strategy 2.2: Expand access to effective college and career advising by:

  • Developing a shared framework for high-quality advising throughout the education and workforce continuum.
  • Streamlining and modernizing advising offerings and services for students to support informed decision-making about postsecondary education and careers.
  • Offering professional development to educators, advisors, and school counselors.

Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest and TEA partnered to form the Tri-Agency Workforce Priorities (TTWP) Partnership, which is supporting the implementation and iterative refinement of the EAF. We spoke with the REL Southwest team leading the partnership—Holly Williams, John Spence, and Lynn Mellor—to learn more about the partnership's goals and how they intend to achieve them.

What are some of the key challenges facing Texas high school students when it comes to accessing high-quality career and education pathways?

High school guidance counselors often juggle multiple responsibilities. As a result, most high school students meet with their counselor only once each year. This episodic approach prevents counselors from offering the kind of integrated academic and career planning support students need, including working with students to create actionable individual graduation plans that support readiness for college, careers, or the military. Research has found that high-quality individual graduation planning has the potential to support college and career readiness.2

Can you talk about how the TTWP partnership will address these challenges?

The 2022–27 TTWP partnership will support TEA to understand implementation of the EAF, which will allow them to iteratively refine their approach. The partnership will kick off with an Ask an Expert project that compiles research on effective advising practices. REL Southwest and TEA will use the research gathered through this project to codevelop materials, tools, resources, and a rubric that school districts can use to assess the quality of materials available to help students develop individual graduation plans. REL Southwest also will provide coaching to TEA to create grade-level benchmarks that districts can use to monitor students' progress toward becoming ready for college and careers.

Later in the partnership, REL Southwest will conduct a study to help TEA understand how districts are implementing and using individual graduation plans with students. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data collection, REL Southwest will investigate student growth on college and career readiness indicators and will explore how schools are supporting students. The research team will gather information about advising and academic supports related to individual graduation plans, as well as factors that inhibit or facilitate successful implementation of those plans through interviews with counselors and other advising staff, observations of planning sessions, and student focus groups. Results from this study will inform statewide implementation of the EAF.

What are some of the outcomes you expect to see from the work of the TTWP partnership, and what benefits can Texas high school students and educators expect to see?

Ultimately, the partnership aims to increase the number and percentage of Texas high school graduates who demonstrate preparedness for college, careers, or the military, as well as the number and percentage of high school graduates who go on to be successful on their chosen path. Success could look like enrolling and persisting in college; earning an industry-based credential; finding work in a high-wage, in-demand occupation; or entering the military.

Districts must take a few intermediate steps on the path to helping students realize these long-term outcomes. These steps include using the materials, tools, and resources based on effective or promising practices to conduct individual graduation planning, requiring individual graduation plans for all students by grade 8, and increasing the number of school staff who are equipped to advise students.

"We are thrilled to launch the TTWP partnership and work side-by-side with our TEA partners in the Division of College, Career, and Military Preparation as they prepare to roll out the EAF statewide. Through our work together, we will support the goal of the division to ensure that all Texas high school students have access to high-quality career and education pathways." — Holly Williams, TTWP Partnership Lead

For more information and updates about the partnership, visit the REL Southwest website.


1 Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative. (2022). Linking education and workforce: Spurring economic growth across Texas (2020 commissioners' report executive summary).

2 Solberg, V. S., Wills, J., Redmon, K. & Skaff, L. (2014). Use of individualized learning plans: A promising practice for driving college and career efforts. Findings and recommendations from a multi-method, multi-study effort. National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, Institute for Educational Leadership.


Belema Ibama-Johnson

Belema Ibama-Johnson

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