Diversity and Inclusion: Now What?

By: Dane White, North Coast Region Supervisor, CDE

Perhaps my naivete will show here, but I think we’re close to rounding a critical corner when it comes to our professional conversation about the meaningful inclusion of diverse populations in agricultural education. My observations indicate we are past defining inclusion and are well on our way to recognizing en masse that inclusion is both a moral and practical imperative to agricultural education. Should this assessment of our general progress be accurate, that moves us into a phase of question asking, investigation and systemic solution exploration. 

There’s no question our state is rapidly diversifying and the need to meaningfully engage students of all ethnicities, backgrounds, socio-economic situations and belief systems grows more urgent. With a 3-ring model that has proven to be a paragon of educational excellence for nearly a century, the question becomes: how can we continue to evolve its systems in order to best meet the needs of ever-diversifying audiences?

It makes sense to begin with an examination of existing research. Fortunately, there are respected academics who have devoted themselves to this topic; particularly Dr. Stacy Vincent from the University of Kentucky. One piece of Dr. Vincent’s research I found interesting led me down the rabbit hole studying social identity theory. There’s a lot to it – but even a brief summary can help us understand quite a bit more about inclusion.

In short, Tajfel (1979) proposed that the groups (e.g. social class, family, skin color, language spoken, etc.) to which people belonged were an important source of pride and self-esteem. Groups give us a sense of social identity and a sense of belonging to the social world. In order to increase our self-image we enhance the status of the group to which we belong. We can also increase our self-image by discriminating and holding prejudiced views against the out group (the group we don’t belong to). Therefore, we inherently divide the world into “them” and “us” based through a process of social categorization (van Knippenberg, 2000). 

It’s not hard to see that this theory manifests itself in agricultural education – let’s say in officer selection processes that include an interview/slating phase before a popular election. It’s possible that without thoughtful system development coupled with guidance and coaching our student leaders can naturally gravitate to those with whom they most closely identify, fostering a cycle of selecting those most like them (Ding, 2019).

Ultimately that process, when repeated often enough, can create a prototype. Eventually, that prototypicality fosters a culture where those less like the prototype will make greater strides to assimilate; in effect changing who they are to become more like the mold. When it comes to behavioral traits such as respectfulness and kindness, that’s a good thing. However, there can also be some negative bottleneck effects that inhibit inclusion efforts. It can be seen in programs where chapter officer candidates are not representative of the larger population.

Empirical data indicates to us that this is a broad phenomenon. A recent study published in the Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology Journal validated and further explored the findings from Hains et al. (1997), explaining that prototypicality becomes increasingly influential for leadership endorsement as a group’s identity becomes more attractive (Steffens, Peters, Haslam, & Platow 2018). For example, the “cooler” an FFA event like State Conference is and the more a student is excited about being a part of that collective experience, the more likely he or she is to strive to approximate the behaviors and identity they see as being successful therein. Approximation and assimilation further prototypicality.

I know this to be true, at least anecdotally, because of a conversation I had this summer. A student attended the State FFA Leadership Conference his freshman year, saw leaders being admired by and having influence over their peers, and decided he wanted to someday be among their ranks. The challenge he perceived he faced was his ethnic heritage: Latinx to the core. While some might be envious of the beautiful culture his family gave him, he saw it as incompatible with the culture of an organization he so badly wanted to help lead. So, he set about stripping himself of anything that was atypical; anything that would distance him from the prototype.

To me this validated another finding of prototype-based leadership study: that social minorities may find it difficult to assume leadership roles. If the organizational culture within specific organizations renders social minorities less prototypical than majorities, then minorities will find it more difficult to achieve and maintain an effective leadership role (Hogg & Terry, 2000). Yowza. Knowing this, there’s work to be done. How can we broaden the potentially exclusive elements of the prototype to ensure that all students could envision themselves as successful in an FFA jacket? 

As a state organization, this is where the next evolution of the Agricultural Incentive Grant (AIG) comes into play. Though it’s only one piece to a comprehensive solution, the AIG can be utilized to drive further improvement in cultural inclusion efforts. The primary mechanism proposed that will allow that is currently referred to as a “parity metric”. This tool will measure the degree of similarity between a school’s large population and the engagement of students in the SAE and FFA components of the agriculture program. As with much of the new AIG, there will be a scaled process. Programs that are doing an outstanding job engaging a broad cross-section of the school’s population will be funded differently than those who will be on a path to more significant improvement and growth in this area. 

In doing this we have the chance to broaden the prototype at the local level and help strengthen our collective vision that agricultural education can be for every type of student. The more we engage all types of students meaningfully in the three circles, the more likely we are to see an elevation of diverse populations into leadership roles that alter the prototypicality equation. 

It’s up to us all to analyze, collaborate and create solutions that move the needle, little by little. If our profession is anything – it’s one filled with thinkers and doers and solvers. Soon I believe we will have rounded yet another corner and will be able to celebrate significant growth in this meaningful field. 


DIng, J. “Leadership and intergroup relations: which leader is more favorable or more effective while leading distinct subgroups?” (2019). Honors Theses. 1382. 

Hains, S., Hogg, M., & Duck, J. (1997). Self-categorization and leadership: Effects of group prototypicality and leader stereotypicality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 1087- 1099. 

Hogg, M., & Terry, D. (2000). “Social Identity and Self-Categorization Processes in Organizational Contexts.” The Academy of Management Review, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 121–140. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/259266.

Steffens, N., et al. “One of Us … and Us … and Us: Evidence That Leaders’ Multiple Identity Prototypicality (LMIP) Is Related to Their Perceived Effectiveness.” Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, vol. 3, no. 2, Apr. 2018, pp. 175–199., doi:10.1080/23743603.2019.1624156.

Tajfel, H. (1979), Individuals and groups in social psychology. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 18: 183-190. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8260.1979.tb00324.x

van Knippenberg, D. (2000). Group norms, prototypicality, and per- suasion. In D. J. Terry & M. A. Hogg (Eds.), Attitudes, behavior, and social context: The role of norms and group membership (pp. 157-170). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/

Nominate Your Favorite California Agricultural Teacher to be the 2019-2020 Golden Owl Award® FFA State Star Advisor

By: Nationwide Insurance

As the number one farm insurer in the United States1, Nationwide is bringing attention to the importance of agricultural education and the tremendous contributions of teachers. In partnership with the California Farm Bureau Federation and California FFA, Nationwide expanded the Golden Owl Award® to California. Now through February 1, 2020, students, parents, fellow teachers or other supporters are encouraged to nominate their favorite agricultural teacher for a chance to be recognized as one of the best in the state. To nominate your favorite agricultural teacher, visit www.goldenowlaward.com

So, what’s in it for the teachers? Six finalists across California, one from each of the six regions, will receive an individualized plaque and $500. One finalist will be crowned California FFA State Star Advisor and receive the coveted Golden Owl Award trophy and $3,000. 

“Nationwide is proud to recognize outstanding teachers for their dedication to agricultural education in their communities,” said Brad Liggett, president of agribusiness for Nationwide. “This award symbolizes the hard work that individual teachers have put into agricultural education to help students pursue their passion for leadership and farming.”

Nationwide recognized the contributions of 17 Iowa and Ohio agricultural teachers during the 2018-2019 inaugural Golden Owl Award program. Following the recognition, the Iowa Educator of the Year, Brad Taylor of Roland-Story High School, quickly saw a 30-student increase in his agricultural shop class for the fall semester – at a high school with just over 300 students. 

“I think it’s important to be a role model for the students that we have in our classes, so they understand what the opportunities are for their futures,” Taylor said. “This award symbolizes the hard work that individuals have put into agricultural education to help students realize what their full potential is.”

As a result of the positive response from the communities in which Golden Owl Award nominees make a difference, the 2019-2020 Golden Owl Award program was expanded from two states to five: California, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania. This effort is the result of a partnership between Nationwide, the California FFA, California Farm Bureau, Illinois FFA, Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers, Farm Credit Illinois, the Iowa FFA Foundation, Ohio FFA, Ohio Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania FFA, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Compeer Financial. 

Nationwide is accepting nominations for California’s top agricultural teachers until February 1, 2020. Finalists will be announced in March 2020 and the California FFA State Star Advisor of the Year will be announced in April 2020 at the State FFA Leadership Conference. For more information or to nominate your favorite agricultural teacher, visit www.goldenowlaward.com

1 Source: 2018 SNL Financial Report. Based on statutory data.

California FFA Needs Your Help

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

California FFA wants to buy a ‘CalAgPlate’ for your automobile! 

Since its inception in 2014, the California Agricultural License Plate program has raised over two-million dollars for agricultural education. The program, sponsored by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), distributes ninety-cents of every dollar generated by the program in the form of grants to agricultural education organizations. Recipients of these grants have been organizations such as California Agriculture in the Classroom, California State Fair Farm Tours, Madera District Fair, Enrich LA and the California FFA. At inception, the program needed 7,500 plates to be sanctioned by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Many of those plates were put on the road by the efforts of students and teachers of the California FFA. Currently, the program is in danger of being cancelled unless an additional 3,100 plates are put on the road. California FFA and the agricultural community at large are being called to action to continue this program. 

To meet this goal the California FFA will purchase a CalAgPlate for the first 3,500 vehicle owners who want to support agricultural education in California by placing a plate on their vehicle. 

To apply, visit this link for the registration form. Once the form is complete, mail it to the California FFA at P.O. Box 186, Galt California, 95632. Questions? Call (209) 744-1600.

“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds,” those words, as written by E.M. Tiffany, serve as the official FFA Creed and are taught to every freshman enrolled in an entry level agriculture course. Despite being eighty years old, the FFA Creed still holds true today as the agriculture community has proven once again their deeds will make our future brighter. We are being called on to support the future of agriculture through our deeds, please sign up for your CalAgPlate today!

Anyone interested in a plate simply needs to fill out the linked form and mail it to the California FFA Center. Once the form has been processed, your plates will show up in the mail. 

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/

California Department of Education Update, November 2019

By: Charles Parker, California Department of Education State FFA Advisor

As I sit here in my cubicle, staring at the computer screen, I wonder what will be next! I can most certainly share that in the short eight months in this position, I have realized that I know much less than I thought, and I continually find myself navigating through the challenges.

Knowing that I work with a group of talented individuals who care for agricultural education and the students we serve enables me to think beyond the “issues” that have come up and look to the future. Thank you to those that have embraced our new team, made those tough calls, and continue to seek out ways to help. 

As we enter the winter months, what used to be the slow time for agriculture teachers is now the busy time. We find ourselves busy attending professional development workshops and working with our students in completing a myriad of applications. From State Degree to Proficiency to Stars, this is a time where we get to help students receive recognition for their time outside of the classroom, where they are conducting their experiential learning through their SAE’s.

AET has provided a tool which has helped students in completing those applications. As our understanding and use of AET grows, so will the number of students who are receiving recognition. But the recognition goes beyond the application, where some schools showcase their SAEs through a science fair display board approach. Every student in the program develops a visual display which they proudly showcase at a venue where teachers, administrators, industry partners, parents and students see and value what the students are able to accomplish. Using pictures and stories, the students share their hands-on experiences highlighting their garden, science experiment, ag mechanics project and livestock, among others. 

If our goal is for every student to have an SAE, then what better way to show value than by making the SAEs a focus point for the school and community? This is but one way to highlight SAEs in your local program. I am certain there are many other methods. What are you doing? How have your numbers in SAEs grown? Take some time to share with others what you are doing, send in pictures that we can add to our social media pages and join us in creating an environment where every student has an SAE.

  1. What’s Up with Funding?

Not only do we get to help students, but we also have a unique opportunity to help our programs as well. With the funding provided by the State Legislature for CTE, we are in a position to make positive changes that can impact our programs for years.  

The State’s Perkins V Plan is due to the federal government by April 2020. These funds help local programs as well as maintain funding for State Staff. With the Perkins V Plan, the State will also be developing a State Plan for CTE. This CTE State Plan will be the guiding document for all future funding, both Federal and State.

There are some in the system who want to leave the decision regarding credentials to the local board. Those same individuals see little value in CTSOs (FFA). And, there is little mention of industry engagement. If we value credentials, FFA and advisory committees, then we will need to become part of the process.

In the coming weeks, there will be opportunities to provide public input towards the development of the Perkins Application and the State CTE Plan. Teachers, administrators, industry partners, students and parents all need to take the time to call in, write letters, submit emails or attend public meetings.

Perkins public input can be provided on 

  • November 13 at a Public Meeting in Sacramento
  • November 20-22 at the Association of Career and College Readiness Organizations (CAROCP) CTE Conference in Rancho Cucamonga.
  • December 2 at a Public Meeting in Orange County
  • December 11-13 at the Joint Special Populations Advisory Committee (JSPAC) Conference 

In addition, input can be provided via email during November. Be observant and wait for details from Mr. Patton and CATA as they will help with speaking points.

In addition to Perkins, there are other funding opportunities available to help local CTE programs. To help you in navigating the funding options and be in a position to work with your local district to leverage funds for your program, the following deadlines are being provided.

November 15, 2019 – CTEIG Applications Due

December 2, 2019 – Prop 51 Applications Due

December 18, 2019 – K-12 Strong Workforce Applications Due

Having your five year acquisition schedule is more important now than at almost any other time. Working with your local advisory committee in developing the schedule can be the initial step in ensuring that funds are available for your program.

I am hopeful that with the funding options, your program will prosper and your students will have the latest technology available. 

  1. State Staff Update

As we head into November, we once again find ourselves developing a plan to meet the needs of Agricultural Education and California FFA while beginning the search to find an outstanding teacher who wishes to join State Staff and become part of a quality team. I want to extend my gratitude to Josiah Mayfield for his leadership for the past eleven years and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Having looked at the existing staff and their strengths, Dane White has agreed to serve as the Assistant State FFA Advisor. With Dane’s move to this new role, it opens up the North Coast Region Supervisor position, which will be stationed in Sacramento.

If you have ever thought of serving on State Staff, now is the time to pursue that goal. To be eligible, an individual must take a test and be ranked. This is really not a test, but an application where you answer some questions regarding your experiences. Those interested should complete the test (application) by November 20 so that they may be ranked prior to December 1. 

Returning back to my computer screen, I notice a stream of incoming emails and realize it is once again time to answer those difficult questions, accept the meeting requests and be prepared to jump on the upcoming conference call. All of this is done with a smile as I am a lucky man, working in a career that I love and with people that I admire.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/

Sacramento Scene, November 2019

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

“Newsom supporter” is what the comment posted to the California FFA newsletter stated. It was written in direct response to the “Sacramento Scene” article in the October Golden Slate. The comment is greatly appreciated as it caused a lot of reflection in terms of the purpose of the Sacramento Scene section of the Golden Slate and its potential audience. Moving the Golden Slate into the digital era has been an enlightening and educational experience. The release of the publication on a new platform means that more people read and have access to CATA’s communications. This medium also means that data and feedback is more accessible and more immediate than ever before. 

As a teacher I took great pride in not allowing my students to know my personal views on any topic when delivering Agriscience curriculum. My role was to facilitate the students discovery of the data and evidence for each subject area and then allow them to come to their own conclusions using the empirical method of discovery. Teaching students how to find and evaluate the credibility of information and then use that knowledge to problem solve and come to conclusions is one of the most important skills that they can learn. 

I take much the same approach as an advocate for agricultural education. I have a micro-focused view of politics, state agencies, government officials and policies that is centered on what is good for FFA students and agricultural teachers. My primary role is to be the voice of agricultural education in Sacramento. Additionally, I am the source of communication to the CATA membership about what is happening politically as it relates to California agricultural education. My course of action is guided by the CATA membership, mentors and friends of the FFA, and 18 years of ag teaching experience and knowing what worked for kids in the classroom. 

I reread October’s “Sacramento Scene” and found it to be an accurate account of the events relevant to agricultural education that transpired in the Capitol. But as I read it a second time, I was cognizant of the potential legislators, staffers, government employees, department of education personnel and people outside of the CATA that might also have access to it. Thank you for your comments and the reminder about the mission. We continue to welcome your feedback.

Sacramento Scene

October 13 was the last day that the California Governor had to sign bills from the 2019 legislative cycle. In all, more than 3,000 bills were debated by the Legislature, culminating in 870 being signed into law by Governor Newsom. Many of these new laws will go into effect on January 1, 2020. The following are a list of bills that are pertinent to Ag Education, which were tracked or actively engaged by CATA.

Later start of school day (SB 328) Senator PortantinoSigned into law

SB 328 will mandate that middle schools cannot begin the school day before 8 a.m. and high schools cannot begin earlier than  8:30 a.m. There is an exclusion in the bill for rural schools. 

School facilities bond (AB 48) Assemblyman O’DonnellChaptered by the Secretary of State 

AB 48 will put a $15 billion bond for new construction and renovation on the ballot for 2020 and 2022. The funds could be used for preschool, K-12 and higher education. Approximately $500 million dollars of these funds are eligible to be used for CTE infrastructure. 

Maternity leave for teachers (AB 500) Assemblywoman Gonzales – Vetoed by the Governor

AB 500 would have required school districts and community colleges to provide six weeks of paid maternity leave for teachers and classified employees. 

Charter School Regulation (AB 1505) Assemblyman O’DonnellSigned into law

AB 1505 makes various changes to the processes of charter school authorization, appeals and renewal. Important to CATA is a newly hired charter school teacher is required to have a certificate of clearance and the required credential for their teaching assignment.

CATA Update

Congratulations to the following individuals for being selected to receive their Honorary American Degrees at the 2019 National FFA Convention in Indianapolis: Carlos Lopez, Reedley; Rosemary Cummings, Nipomo; Dustin Sperling, San Joaquin Delta College; Lilly Pimentel, Hanford; Ralph Mosqueda, Hemet; Elizabeth Ammon, Susanville; Theresa Noga, Ferndale; and Sonia Falaschi, Los Banos. CATA hosted an Honorary American Degree dinner in Indianapolis for the California recipients. 

Elimination of the CalAgPlate Program 

Since the call to give away 3,000 license plates was given over a month ago, only 98 plates have been given away. The CalAgPlate program is in danger being eliminated. Currently the number of plates on the road has dropped below the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) required threshold. If we don’t get 3,000 more plates registered the program will be discontinued. To date California FFA has allocated $273,523 to the CalAgPlate Program and as a result has received $1,238,607 in proceeds. These funds are used annually to fund portions of the California FFA News, State FFA Conference, and all of the FFA leadership conferences across the state. If every chapter gave away 10 plates, we would easily reach our goal.  


Matt Patton, Executive Director, California Agricultural Teachers’ Assn.

P.O. Box 186
Galt, CA, California 95632

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/