National Association of State Directors of Career
Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

Legislative Update: Competency Based Learning Highlighted at Recent Senate HELP Committee Hearing

November 1st, 2013


Yesterday the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee held the second of twelve scheduled hearings on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).  The hearing, titled “Attaining a Quality Degree: Innovations to Improve Student Success,” examined innovative practices in higher education which according to Chairman Harkin (D-IA), “are increasing student learning, engagement and degree completion.” Witnesses at the hearing spoke about a great variety of innovations and offered insight for how to improve higher education. However, one practice in particular— competency-based learning— emerged from the hearing as a clear favorite among those providing testimony.

Competency based education (CBE), according to the President and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, “is a student-centered, learning-outcome-based model. Where you get the education is secondary to what you know and are able to do.” This idea— to prioritize mastery of skills and knowledge over time spent in class— was a continual theme throughout the hearing. Dr. R. Scott Ralls, President of the North Carolina Community College System, testified that through this model their students, “are better able to attain meaningful industry certifications as well as traditional academic credentials, built on top of a foundational core of academic, workplace, and technical competencies.” These remarks and others have promising implications for Career Technical Education (CTE) and the broader college- and career-ready agenda as competency-based education can help remove barriers between CTE and core academic courses, and support more innovation in the classroom.

An archived webcast of the hearing, along with witness testimony, can be found here.

Secretary Duncan Unveils Timeline for a College Ratings System

Renewed energy and focus on innovative practices in higher education has largely been spurred by the Obama Administration’s call to make college more affordable. As we shared previously, college tuition and fees have increased by a staggering 538% since 1985 and the administration has made it a priority to combat these rising costs. Towards the end, the President proposed over the summer to link federal financial aid to school performance based on a national college ratings system. Factors such as average tuition, loan debt, graduation rates, and employment outcomes are all being considered to create a college or university’s rating. The administration has planned a series of hearings on college campuses across the country to gather input for the new system.

On Wednesday Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education Secretary, announced a proposed timeline for the creation and roll-out of this ratings system. A “technical symposium” is expected early next year where the rating methodology will be discussed. After this an initial version will be released sometime next spring which will be open for public comment.  Please check our blog for more updates as this process unfolds.

Budget Conference Committee Convenes

Also on Wednesday, the Budget Conference Committee convened for the first time, starting negotiations between both parties over the budget and other fiscal issues such as tax and entitlement reform. The conference committee— created as part of the agreement that ended the most recent government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling— is tasked with reconciling the House and Senate budget proposals which fund the federal government at $967 billion and $1.058 trillion respectively. More information on this committee can be found here. As we shared last week, this is an important opportunity for Congress to reverse or reduce the harmful cuts to the federal budget mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). These cuts, known as sequestration, have had a negative impact on education programs throughout the country and it is critical that the CTE community engage their members of Congress throughout these negotiations.

Although the process has only just begun, the committee must finalize a compromise by December 13th. This gives the appropriations committees in both chambers very little time to craft the necessary 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government before the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on January 15th. In a rare joint letter, Senate Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and House Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), have urged the committee to come to an agreement no later than Thanksgiving. According to the letter an early agreement would allow for, “more thoughtful and responsible spending decisions, set the parameters for the budgetary savings that need to be reached in your Budget conference, and build momentum for a larger budget agreement that addresses the nation’s wide range of fiscal challenges.” The full letter can be found here.

Please check our blog for updates as this process continues to develop.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Federal Government Shutdown and Debt Limit Stalemate Continues

October 11th, 2013

Today marked the 11th day of the federal government shutdown, and many federal agencies and programs remain closed. Congress has been unable to come to an agreement over a temporary spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), which would fund the federal government at current levels for a short period of time. This week, House Republicans proposed and passed a series of “mini CRs” that would fund certain portions of the federal government, but Senate Democrats and the Obama Administration have reiterated their demand for a “clean CR” which would instead fund the entire federal government and contain no additional provisions unrelated to spending.Capitol

Earlier this week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified before the Senate about the need for Congress to raise the statutory debt limit or face severe economic consequences when the debt ceiling is reached on October 17th. Secretary Lew’s testimony, combined with increasingly unfavorable polling data for the Republican party, has made both sides increasingly amenable to negotiations over these issues.

Last night, President Obama met with the Senate Democratic Caucus and later with a smaller contingent of House Republicans. After these meetings, a new GOP proposal surfaced which would create a six-week extension for the debt limit and set up a framework for negotiations to reopen the federal government. While promising, these proposals fall short of the preconditions Senate Democrats and the White House have set, and it remains unclear how the process will unfold. Negotiations are set to continue and the House will remain in session through next week, canceling a previously scheduled recess.

Check our blog for updates on this evolving situation.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Business Roundtable Releases Priorities for Improving Education and Workforce Training

October 11th, 2013

This week, the Business Roundtable (BRT) released a report detailing the organization’s approach to ensuring the competitiveness of the U.S. workforce. The report draws on interviews with over 30 experts in education and workforce development, including NASDCTEc’s Executive Director Kimberly Green and Associate Executive Director Kate Blosveren. The report, Taking Action on Education and Workforce Preparedness, identifies five priorities for achieving the group’s objective:

  • Fully adopt and implement the Common Core State StandardsBRT
  • Encourage students to study and pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)
  • Develop more effective teachers
  • Expand access to high-quality early learning programs
  • Ensure that postsecondary education and workforce training programs align with employer needs

The report offers a wide range of policy solutions for each of these priorities and includes   recommendations for the CTE community. For instance, the report is supportive of competency-based learning models as a way for students to better demonstrate mastery of skills and knowledge. It also promotes skills-based assessments, and incentives for completing credentials that are industry-recognized and valued by prospective employers.  CTE programs across the country continue to be excellent models for how these goals can be achieved.

BRT also encourages policy makers to include the expansion of pathways between education and careers through the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. This legislation has historically served as a catalyst for many of these policy recommendations and aspects of it, such as Rigorous Programs of Study, have been successful models in helping students transition from the classroom to the workplace.

The full report can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate

AEI’s “The Labor Market Today: Is Unemployment Cyclical or Structural?”

September 11th, 2013

Though the 2008 economic recession officially ended in June of 2009, the United States has still been experiencing a consistently high level of unemployment during its recovery. This is a subject of critical national concern that policymakers and stakeholders alike must address as we continue to put America back to work. This past Monday, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) held a panel discussion titled “The Labor Market Today: Is Unemployment Cyclical or Structural?” to better address and explain the nation’s struggle with unemployment. Peter Diamond, Nobel Prize-winning economist and keynote speaker at the event, expressed the urgency surrounding this perennial topic saying, “The issue of unemployment is to my mind a crisis in this county.”job-market

Dean Baker from the Center of Economic and Policy Research and AEI’s Kevin Hassett joined Diamond on the panel to discuss whether unemployment is a product of the natural business cycle or if there are structural components at work hindering job growth.  Diamond in particular argued that current trends in unemployment stem from a lack of aggregate demand and recommended further investments in education, training, and infrastructure to spur growth along with other fiscal and monetary stimuli. Alternatively, Hassett highlighted the negative consequences of long-term unemployment as a result of the recession.  Each of the panelists agreed that more work is needed to reconnect unemployed individuals with in-demand jobs.

Career Technical Education (CTE) rests at a critical juncture between many of these potential areas of improvement and was spoken about positively. Diamond’s suggested fiscal policies promoting education and training were particularly useful in connecting the dots between investments in CTE and positive returns-on-investment later in the labor market. Along with this, the panel also recommended that keeping students, workers, and the unemployed consistently engaged with the labor market was of critical importance.  CTE does this exceptionally well, providing students with practical workplace experiences along with the academic and technical skills needed to successfully compete in the workforce. Work sharing programs like those seen in Washington State and Germany were also mentioned as potential models for improving the national unemployment situation.

A summary of the event, related presentations, and an archived video can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Career Pathways to Help the Middle Class Secure Better Skills and Higher Wages

September 4th, 2013

It is important to take into account that workers with higher levels of education tend to have greater earnings and lower unemployment rates than workers with lower levels of education. It is a hard economy and post-secondary education is going to play a vital role is securing good jobs for low-income adults and long-term unemployed workers. These individuals require access to effective post-secondary programs and training.

Profiles of adult workers in need of better skills and wages from all 50 states have been developed by COWS (Center on Wisconsin Strategy) and CLASP. The research reflects every state’s profile estimating the number of adult workers (ages 25-64) who are without two or four-year college degrees or has limited English skills and who make less than the state median wage or are in the labor force but have been employed for the last one year.

Career pathways are connected education and training services that make it possible for students to advance gradually to higher levels of education and employment in an industry or field of their choice. States have adopted Career pathways help adults and youth gain the postsecondary education and training they need for high demand and better-paying jobs.

The data in the profiles serves as a great resource for setting goals and designing policies and strategies to meet the unique requirements of this demographic that can be effectively used by policymakers and advocates. Developing strategies based on private and public funding sources, such as the Workforce Investment Act, Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the Higher Education Act, and state and local funding should be the focus of policy makers. It is the need of the hour to address this issue and help more workers secure credentials and family-sustaining employment.

Please visit here for state profiles and data for all 50 states.

Kimaya Dixit, Communications & Marketing Manager

ACTE’s Infographic Promotes CTE Funding

August 21st, 2013

To make your voice heard when the Congress is out during their month-long recess in August, reach out to the policy makers through social media. Digital advocacy campaigns over Twitter and Facebook are not only gaining popularity, but are also surprisingly effective.

Tapping into this, the Association for Career Technical Education (ACTE) has developed a compelling infographic to spread the message of CTE and the importance of stopping cuts to Perkins funding. The call to action is to share the infopgraphic on Facebook pages of your Members of Congress throughout the month. More information on this is available here.

The infographic creatively draws attention to stopping the cuts and increasing CTE funding.


Kimaya Dixit, Communications & Marketing Manager


ICYMI: Rhode Island Granted $670,000 for Workforce Training and Education

August 20th, 2013

An announcement made by Governor Lincoln D. Chafee says that Rhode Island will receive a $670,000 Workforce Investment Act (WIA) incentive grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rhode Island qualified for this incentive grant due to its high performance in adult education and workforce development program. The grants are in action since 1998; however this is the first time that RI has been eligible.

All WIA performance targets regarding adult education, entering postsecondary education or training have been sufficiently exceeded by Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE). Some of the targets surpassed include GED completion, educational gains, entered employment and employee retention.

Funds from the incentives grants will most likely be used to purchase technology tools. This will also be accompanied by investment in data-analytics technology that will track the progress of employment programs and analyze specific trends in workforce development. Besides using the tools in adult education classrooms, RIDE also plans to establish a Technology Committee to implement a comprehensive statewide technology strategy to address policy and access issues.

The incentive funds will play a vital role in continuing to improve the quality of adult-education services in Rhode Island.

For official comments from the Governor and other state officials, please read this.

Kimaya Dixit, Communications & Marketing Manager

State CTE Policy Updates: July Edition Part Two

July 31st, 2013

State MapThis past month, a number of states have adopted or implemented policies related to Career Technical Education (CTE). Below is a part two of July’s state policy updates, all of which focus on dual enrollment or postsecondary CTE. You can read part one here.

Educational Collaborative Partnership in Maine
Maine passed legislation creating a collaborative board – with representatives from secondary and postsecondary CTE – to implement a program by 2014-15 that will enable more CTE students to earn college credit through dual enrollment while still enrolled in high school. Specifically, the state defines “dual enrollment career and technical education program” as a non-duplicative learning pathway that begins in junior year, extends over a three-year period, includes summer career academies and a college freshman seminar experiences, meets national concurrent enrollment standards, includes college-level coursework that supports an associate’s degree, and concludes at the end of the summer following the student’s senior year. While the agreements are made between institutions, there are opportunities for credits to be accepted across the state.

Dual Enrollment in Rhode Island
Rhode Island passed the Dual Enrollment Equal Opportunity Act this month requiring the State Board of Education to create regulation establishing statewide dual enrollment. The regulation must allow students to enroll in courses at postsecondary institutions that satisfy academic credit requirements at both the secondary and postsecondary level (it is unclear at this time if CTE courses will fall under this distinction of “academic credit”.) The State Board of Education is expected to convene a work group to help establish such a policy, including its impact on funding, and then school districts (including charter school and CTE schools) will have to adopt the policy by June 2015. Districts will then be required to report annually on the number of students engaging in dual enrollment and number of postsecondary credits earned. The bill is effective immediately.

Missouri’s Innovation Education Campuses
Missouri passed SB 381 establishing the Innovation Education Campus Fund, supporting partnerships between high schools or K-12 districts, public or private four-year institutions of high education, public two-year institutions of higher education, and/or Missouri-based businesses. The campuses engaging in such partnerships are eligible to receive funds if they are actively working to lower the cost of degree and shorten the time to earning a degree, provide applied and project-based learning in consultation with the business and industry partners, graduate students with direct access to career opportunities, and engage in active partnerships in ongoing program development and outcome reviews.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

Common Core State Standards & CTE Roundup

July 8th, 2013

CCSS LogoWith nearly every state in the country working to implement the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English/Literacy, and more and more resources and information being generated by states, districts, schools and education-focused organizations to support implementation, NASDCTEc is excited to present a blog series on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Career Technical Education (CTE) that features news and resource directly impacting CTE educators as well as other materials we think are useful to the field.

Featured Resources & Tools
The Teaching Channel offers an ever-growing library of videos to support the classroom-level implementation of the CCSS, including a number of videos that could be of specific use to CTE educators, such as this video on communications and robotics, this video on designing an iPad case for teachers, and this video on inquiry-based teaching.

The Georgia Department of Education has a Wiki page to support educators as they implement the CCSS in English Language Arts/Literacy, with a specific focus on CTE, science and history teachers. While only Georgia educators can use the message boards and share resources, the site has some good introductory tools to support non-English teachers’ implementation of a literacy-focused task, including “the reading process” and “writing.”

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) published an article entitled, With Common Core State Standards, Why Service Learning Matters Even More.” The authors define service learning as “when the academic and service connection is deliberate and includes student initiative, authenticated needs, reciprocal collaborations with community partners, and meaningful reflection” and argue that the goals of the CCSS are intertwined with the goals of service learning.

CTB/McGraw Hill released an infographic to help explain the CCSS and related assessments and resources.

CCSS and CTE Update
The International Society of Technology Education (ISTE) has released a position statement supporting the Common Core State Standards and calling on states to align the implementation of the new content standards with the organization’s National Educational Technology Standards (NETS). Included with the position statement is an infographic.

Updates on Common Core Assessments

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)
PARCC recently released updated information on the non-summative components of the assessment system, including a mid-year assessment, K-1 formative assessment tools, diagnostic assessments for grades 2-8, the speaking and listening assessment, and professional development (PD) modules for educators and administrators. None of these assessments or tools will count towards a school’s or student’s accountability score, and only the speaking and listening assessment is required for every student to take.

Notably, while all of the components were originally intended to be released in 2014-15 school year, PARCC has decided to delay the formative and diagnostic assessment tools until 2015-16 to dedicate more time to the finalization of the summative assessment components (e.g., performance-based assessments and end-of-year assessments in mathematics and ELA/Literacy). The assessment PD modules will be released next summer. See here for an update on all of these components, including procurement updates.

In other PARCC-related news, Oklahoma has decided to opt out of the PARCC assessments and develop their own Common Core-aligned assessments moving forward, citing technology challenges and costs. The state has not yet decided to fully leave the PARCC consortium or stay on as a “participating state,” which carries no major responsibilities or commitments at this time.

In June, PARCC held three Twitter Town halls, the transcripts of which can be found here.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
As a reminder, Smarter Balanced now has online practice tests that aim to give educators, parents and students a preview of the full assessment system set of come online in 2014-15.  To learn more about the practice tests, see the Smarter Balanced website.


Have a good CCSS-CTE resource to share? Contact us at [email protected]!

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director



State CTE Policy Update: Five States Adopt the Next Generation Science Standards

July 1st, 2013

Last week, Maryland and Vermont joined Kansas, Kentucky and Rhode Island as the first five states to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

The NGSS were released in Spring 2013 after a 3-plus year development effort. The effort began when the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academies of Sciences, developed The Framework for K-12 Science Education (released  in July 2011), which identified the key content all K-12 students need to learn in science based on research and input from scientists, science educators, and science education standards and policy experts.

The Framework was the guiding document for the NGSS and set the content and much of the organization of the NGSS, including the intersection of content (core ideas), scientific and engineering  practice, and cross-cutting concepts. For more on the NGSS and their development and design, see

The NGSS have a clear  relationship with and impact on Career Technical Education (CTE), including, but not limited to, a renewed opportunity to integrate traditional science courses with CTE courses in engineering, health sciences, and agriculture. Our State CTE Policy Updates will monitor progress on state adoption and new resources relevant to the CTE field in the coming months.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director