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

Building Academic Momentum: Webinar Explores Benefits of Accelerated Learning

November 25th, 2013

Chalkboard with words "back to school"Today the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) and College and Career Readiness and Success Center (CCRS Center) co-hosted a webinar Understanding Accelerated Learning Across Secondary and Postsecondary Education which expanded on a recent report on the same subject. The event described and critically assessed how accelerated learning is defined on the secondary and postsecondary level, the ways in which these strategies have been implemented on and across these learner levels, and gave a number of representatives from various backgrounds an opportunity to present additional information on specific programs highlighted throughout the webinar.

Speakers included:

  • Joseph Harris, Director of the College and Career Readiness & Success Center
  • Jennifer Brown Lerner, Senior Director of American Youth Policy Forum
  • Melinda Mechur Karp, Senior Research Associate at the Community College Research Center
  • Louisa Erickson, Program Administrator at Washington State Board for Technical and Community Colleges
  • Thomas Acampora, Field Manager for the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University

The presentation began with an overarching definition for “accelerated learning” which, for the purposes of the webinar, means a change to the traditional academic timeframe for learning allowing students to progress more quickly through curriculum. This type of approach helps tailor the pace of learning for individual students and allows for all students— not just “high achievers”— to participate in this type of innovative instruction. Ultimately the goal of accelerated learning is to harness the quickened pace of education to build “momentum” for a student so that they have the necessary knowledge and confidence to persist at the postsecondary level.

Throughout the webinar many successful applications of this approach were examined in great detail. Acampora in particular stressed how accelerated learning can be used as a strategy for high school transformation by individually tailoring coursework to students through stand-alone courses. He emphasized his core belief that all students can reach these high levels of achievement given the necessary resources and stressed how these high expectations eventually lead to better student outcomes by “instilling a culture of success.” Mechur spoke at length about the unique opportunities dual enrollment gives to students and showed how earning postsecondary credit on the secondary level can support transitions between the two and incentivize completion.

Erickson’s presentation primarily focused on Washington state’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program (I-BEST) which seeks to contextualize basic education through a team-taught series of courses. The approach helps to expedite the learning of basic skills in reading, math, and writing in effort to keep students and disconnected youth or adults engaged in their education so that they can simultaneously receive job-training while learning these subjects. Moreover, participating students have the opportunity to earn college credits while enrolled, supporting student persistence at the postsecondary level.

More information on the webinar, along with slides, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Arlington Career Center Hosts Congressional Staff Visit

November 22nd, 2013

student chefsToday Arlington Career Center (ACC), a regional Career Technical Education (CTE) facility, hosted Congressional staff and other interested stakeholders who had the chance to get a first-hand look at a number of CTE programs in action. Located in Arlington, Virginia, the center is nestled near the urban areas of Northern Virginia. The visit was organized by the Association of Career Technical Education (ACTE) and was a great opportunity to showcase ACC’s commitment to rigorous and engaging CTE programs which serve over 1,100 students in the district.

The visit began with a demonstration from the Culinary Arts program, where students were hard at work baking cookies for an upcoming holiday event. Chef Michael Natoli, the instructor of the program, highlighted the many careers his students have been able to pursue thanks to the training they received in his classroom. Alumni of the program have gone to some of the top culinary institutes in the country and many have pursued rewarding careers in the field.

After wrapping-up with the student chefs, visitors were taken on a tour of the rest of the center.  The automotive technology and auto body repair programs were visited next. Instructors there stressed the value of the program’s relationship with local businesses and highlighted the experiential learning opportunities many area employers are able to provide students during and after program completion. The Mercedes dealership in particular has a strong affiliation with ACC where some students have gone on to earn well over a six-figure salary with credentials and certificates earned through the center at no cost to students or their families.

auto progThroughout the tour similar partnerships and other best practices were shared with those visiting. For instance, ACC’s communication and information systems programs help graduates become certified with Adobe for the company’s suite of software. Students in other programs have the opportunity to learn the technical skills for television and video production and have been able to put them to use later on in their education and careers. Many ACC students have the opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school which has helped them transition to other postsecondary opportunities in their field. Every program provided rigorous, hands-on, content and quite a few afforded students the opportunity to “test drive” their career of choice before graduation. This was the case for many health science students who, in conjunction with the local emergency services, are expected to go on ride-along trips with career mentors in their prospective area of study.

At the conclusion of the tour a panel discussion was convened where students, faculty, and state officials discussed ACC’s ongoing successes and focused on the many opportunities these programs have given students.  On the whole, the visit to ACC was a great experience for everyone involved and truly helped to showcase the important and lasting impact CTE programs have on students and their surrounding communities. As Congressional interest in federal CTE legislation intensifies, these types of visits will be an essential part of highlighting the importance of federal investment in CTE through the Carl D. Perkins Act. NASDCTEc and its partners in the CTE community look forward to this process and applaud the great work on display at ACC today.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

NASDCTEc Participates in Congressional Briefing on Perkins

November 13th, 2013

CapitolYesterday Kim Green, Executive Director of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc), participated in a Congressional briefing on the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins). Hosted by the bipartisan Congressional Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, the briefing provided information on Perkins and CTE more generally. Policymakers, their staff, and other relevant stakeholders attended the standing room only event which consisted of a panel discussion on these topics. Johan Uvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education and Eric Gearhart, Director of Research and Foundation Relations at SkillsUSA, also participated in the briefing.

The panel was spurred by the House Education and Workforce Committee’s ongoing consideration of the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Deputy Assistant Secretary Uvin began the discussion by framing his remarks around a recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) which found that adults in the United States are lagging behind their peers internationally for literacy, numeracy, and problem solving. Uvin argued that CTE is one of the best ways to address this problem. He contended that improving the delivery system and ensuring consistent quality of CTE programs throughout the United States was an important task that the reauthorization process for Perkins must address.

Eric Gearheart organized his remarks through the perspective of the students SkillsUSA, along with other Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs), serve on a daily basis. He pointed out that CTE is a great strategy for student engagement and “is essential to enfranchising students throughout the country.”  Gearheart emphasized the mutually beneficial relationship between businesses and CTE programs and argued for tax incentives for the private sector to help encourage these connections.

Green organized her presentation around NASDCTEc’s vision paper Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for Career Technical Education which helped to contextualize Gearheart and Uvin’s earlier observations. Green spoke about the history surrounding the Perkins Act, areas in current law that are being considered for improvement, and other insights into the reauthorization process. She also highlighted NASDCTEc’s recent national report on individual state CTE standards.  Green linked the report’s findings to the overall discussion on how to leverage federal investments from the Perkins Act to continue to promote innovation and improve the quality of CTE programs throughout the country.

A question and answer session followed the panel’s presentations where members of the audience posed a series of questions to the panelists. Among the many questions asked, the status of Perkins reauthorization was a recurrent theme throughout. Panelists shared updates on their work to help renew the law, but ultimately agreed that only a concerted bipartisan effort from both chambers in Congress would result in a new iteration of the Carl D. Perkins Act. The House Education and Workforce Committee seems to have earnestly considered this message— following the briefing the committee scheduled a hearing on the Perkins Act for next Tuesday, November 19th.

Please check our blog for more details as this process unfolds.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Recent Publication Looks to Answer the Question, “Is College Worth It?”

November 5th, 2013

State Map

Is college ultimately worth the time, effort, and other assorted costs associated with it? A new paper released yesterday by College Summit and Bellwether Education Partners seeks to answer this question and put the persistent “Is College Worth It?” debate to rest. The whitepaper, funded by Deloitte LLP and titled Smart Shoppers: The End of the “College for All” Debate, reaffirms the value of a postsecondary education and argues that students and parents need additional tools to help them navigate the increasingly opaque marketplace for postsecondary education. The publication was released yesterday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. where a group of distinguished speakers discussed the wider implications of the report’s findings.

J.B. Schramm, founder of College Summit and moderator of the event, emphasized the value of college throughout the morning saying that, “it’s important that we’re arming them [students] with the tools to select the postsecondary education that is the best fit for their individual needs.” He went on to highlight how his organization’s research, “shows time and time again how college is the single best investment young adults can make in their future.” These statements come at a time when the college wage premium is at an all-time high and according to some studies is over 80 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma.

Smart Shoppers also goes to great lengths to conflate the term “college” with the broader idea of postsecondary education. As the authors point out, “Part of the misunderstanding is that to many people ‘college’ suggests a four-year bachelor’s degree” but that is not “what college looks like for the majority of students in the U.S.” The paper goes on to highlight the important role community colleges, remote learning, and postsecondary career technical education (CTE) programs have within the space many collectively refer to as “college” or “higher education.”

This distinction, along with the significant positive impact college has for students over the long-term, was a recurrent theme throughout the event. Industry and business representatives echoed these sentiments and underscored the link between a robust postsecondary education system— one that serves every member of society equitably— and their continued need for a skilled workforce.

The full report can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

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