Mississippi Welcomes Dr. Aimee Brown to Lead State CTE System

December 9th, 2019

Dr. Aimee Brown was appointed Mississippi’s Director of Career and Technical Education in June 2019, following nearly three decades in the CTE field.

Before Aimee joined the Mississippi State Department of Education, she served 12 years as the CTE Director for the Madison County School District — one of Mississippi’s largest school districts. There, she led the expansion of the district’s CTE programs, resulting in two of her district’s five career academies being nationally recognized as model academies. Before then, Aimee was the CTE director in a smaller rural district, where she worked to improve equity and access to CTE for her students. Prior to becoming an administrator, Aimee received her doctorate and taught business and technology at both the high school and community college levels.

Aimee’s experience at the local level will be a key asset as Mississippi transitions to Perkins V and further expands CTE across the state. When asked why she transitioned to a role at the state level, Aimee explained that it was her “inner desire to take what she learned and help other districts.” 

“That’s what I have enjoyed so much about the job, I get to interact with CTE directors in the state and help them develop their own programs and initiatives.”

Looking ahead, Aimee and her team plans to leverage career academies and other promising CTE strategies to further support learners in Mississippi. While at Madison County, she saw that “these initiatives helped many of the students perform better in their subject areas,” as well as improved their discipline and attendance. 

Aimee’s team is also considering strategies to support a variety of learners, including underperforming students and students “in the middle” — those who are neither high-achieving nor at-risk. One potential lever is the new option for high school students in the class of 2022 to earn a CTE endorsement on their graduation diploma. This endorsement would be available to students who complete a CTE program; earn Silver Level on WorkKeys; and, either receive dual credits, participate in a work-based learning experience, or earn an industry-recognized credential. 

Over the next year, the team will also work to support the Mississippi Board of Education in developing a state strategic plan that aligns with Perkins and the specific industry needs of the state. For Aimee, a key component of this work will be ensuring equity and access to high-quality CTE across rural and urban populations.

Roger Barnes, An Example of Missouri’s Remarkable History of Developing CTE Champions

November 22nd, 2019

Roger Barnes retired in June 2019 after over three decades of working to support students across Missouri. A week later, he took over as Missouri’s new State CTE Coordinator. When asked why he decided to transition to the new role, Roger explained that he knew he “wasn’t ready to stop serving students.” 

Roger’s journey to his current position began similar to that of other CTE champions: as a CTE student. In high school, he was enrolled in his district’s local agricultural education program. After graduating, he went on to earn a four-year degree in agricultural mechanics but then decided to return home to work alongside his father on the family’s farm. During this time, Roger also began serving as a substitute teacher in the same agricultural program that had earlier supported his educational journey. Motivated to continue empowering more CTE students, Roger sought his teaching certification and worked his way up to becoming a high school principal. Later, he served as director of a local area career center and ultimately superintendent of a school district.

This experience at the district level allowed Roger to develop a deep insight into the effects of statewide systems and policies on students and teachers in the classroom. As a superintendent, he was invited to join Missouri’s CTE Advisory Council and collaborate with business leaders, policymakers and administrators across the state to inform the experiences of students in both rural and urban communities. 

In his first year as State CTE Coordinator, Roger plans to continue collaborating with the statewide CTE Council to develop a high school CTE certificate for the class of 2021. The expectation is that the certificate will help students signal to businesses their level of career readiness following graduation from the secondary level. In addition, Roger intends to develop state programs that support opportunities for teachers to obtain work-based learning and professional training.

“To me, our real bright spots are what our CTSOs are doing in the state,” Roger noted. 

Last year, Missouri saw 2 percent of its FFA students earn the American FFA degree — the highest degree an FFA member can receive — despite less than 0.5 percent of all FFA members nationwide earning this award. 

Recognizing the state’s history of developing leaders through CTE, Roger looks to continue uplifting students across the state to become Missouri’s next generation of CTE champions.

New Resources Available on Statewide Efforts to Boost Career Training

November 18th, 2019

Advance CTE has added new resources to the Learning that Works Resource Center that highlight recent state efforts to coordinate across systems and strengthen career readiness training. Delaware, for example, is building out its capacity to increase postsecondary attainment by scaling regional career pathways and work-based learning. Similarly, Rhode Island is leveraging its New Skills for Youth (NSFY) grant to restructure the state’s entire talent pipeline and strengthen connections across education and workforce systems. Since 2015, Rhode Island has seen a 56 percent increase in the number of Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, a 38 percent increase in Advanced Placement course participation, and a tripling of the number of college credits earned by high school students. 

Massachusetts, another state that was awarded the NSFY grant, is also coordinating activities to significantly expand access to high-quality CTE programs. So far, increased investments in technical training equipment have led to a rapid expansion of the state’s career training capacity, resulting in more than 10,000 additional students enrolling in career training programs across Massachusetts. 

To learn more about these initiatives and related work, visit Advance CTE’s Resource Center

The Empire State Welcomes Amy Cox to State CTE Director Role

November 13th, 2019

Amy Cox recently took over as New York’s State CTE Director. Having managed both secondary and postsecondary state programs, she entered the position with strong leadership experience in statewide initiatives and a promising ability to helm the state’s CTE system. Prior to her current role, Amy spent over a decade at the New York State Office of Higher Education, where she worked on Teachers of Tomorrow, Race to the Top, Teacher Opportunity Corps and P-TECH. 

Amy’s list of priorities includes developing a comprehensive framework for work-based learning that is flexible across the state, as well as facilitating greater interdepartmental and stakeholder engagement to maximize programmatic effectiveness. 

With her experience at the intersections of CTE and various statewide initiatives, Amy is positioned to be a strong communicator across diverse stakeholder groups that have historically operated in silos. For example, she is currently strengthening bridges for collaboration between the secondary and postsecondary teams that are working on Perkins — with the goal being to develop a unified team. Looking across other departments and agencies in the state as well, Amy wants to stimulate deeper conversations on topics relating to CTE and encourage greater data transparency and sharing. 

At the programmatic level, Amy’s team will also work with the state’s Technical Assistance Center to assist local education agencies in developing approvable programs and expand access to CTE, working to ensure equitable access and support for underrepresented learners. Along with this work, her team is looking to build a comprehensive framework for work-based learning that is flexible and adaptive to regional needs in the state. 

Maryland Welcomes Tiara Booker-Dwyer to Helm State CTE System

October 28th, 2019

Beginning her career as a researcher in neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, Tiara Booker-Dwyer, Maryland’s new State CTE Director, has since built a remarkable career around improving educational success for learners in Maryland.

While at Hopkins, Tiara developed a passion for teaching and later went on to work at the middle school and high school levels. Leveraging her experience as a science teacher, Tiara continued supporting students through the Maryland Department of Education, where she led efforts to promote STEM under the Race to the Top initiative. While at the Department, she also served as the Executive Director for the Office of Leadership Development and School Improvement, as well as the Department’s 2016-2017 Ombudsman. 

A dynamic leader, Tiara entered her new role with a bold vision for CTE in Maryland. Among her priorities is to use Perkins funds over the next year to build a more inclusive CTE culture in the state. In addition, Tiara and her team are focused on supporting school counselors, teacher development and special populations of students.

Along with her deep history on the education side, Tiara spent two years as a program director for the Maryland Business Roundtable, where she supported collaboration between industry professionals and local schools districts. Leveraging this past work, Tiara is now collaborating with the business community to develop a professional counseling model to further support school counselors. 

“School counselors need more support. Maryland is proposing to use business and industry professionals to provide career counseling to CTE students.” 

Under the professional counseling model, groups of business professionals would be trained to go to schools and provide periodic career guidance to cohorts of students. This would provide students with valuable career insight opportunities while also allowing “school counselors to focus on mental health priorities and academic advising,” she said. 

Another focus for Tiara is around the professional growth of CTE teachers. “I recognize when we get CTE teachers from the field,” she explained, “they come in with the content and need support with pedagogy and classroom management. CTE teachers must be equipped with the skills, knowledge, and resources to meet the needs of all students, including English learners and students with disabilities.” To address this gap, Tiara is looking to provide CTE instructors from the field with professional learning experiences on differentiating instruction, using data to inform instructional interventions, engaging diverse learners and other forms of support to better enable them to be effective in preparing their students for a career field.

With strong support from state leadership, Tiara and her team are working to revitalize the state’s CTE system. Central to their vision for CTE in Maryland, she believes, is the opportunity to be bold.  

 

Long-time CTE leader, Angela Kremers, becomes Director of Arkansas’ Division of Career Technical Education

October 21st, 2019

In early 2019, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill that restructured the state’s government, reducing the number of cabinet-level agencies from 42 to 15. As a result, Angela Kremers became the new Director of Arkansas’ Division of Career Technical Education, now housed within the Department of Education. 

With the government’s reorganization and her new role, Angela is facing new challenges and procedures, as well as the unique complexities of the state’s CTE system. But Angela sees long-awaited opportunity. 

“I am excited about the opportunity because we have such a perfect storm – we are on the precipice of change,” she said. Being within the department of education — along with higher education, which was moved there as well — “gives us greater capacity than we had before; the resources, the alignment, the conversations. When we talk about pathways, we all are discussing it under one roof, using similar language. I’m excited.”

Angela’s optimism isn’t purely based on good faith. She came into the position with a long-rooted background in CTE and related work. While in high school, she was actively involved in a career technical student organization (CTSO) and took on leadership positions, serving as a local and state officer and eventually being elected federation president. Following her time in the medical field, Angela served as a health sciences high school CTE teacher, then transitioned to the postsecondary side to support student articulation agreements. Later on, Angela served as a senior program associate at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, where she managed the foundation’s education portfolio and engaged in national conversations addressing systemic gaps across the education continuum.  

With her rich experience working to support students and CTE programs, Angela is set on  advancing Arkansas’ CTE system. She is focused on improving program of study quality, strengthening professional development opportunities for CTE teachers and building pathways in new and emerging fields, such as artificial intelligence and analytics.

“Catching up and getting to Perkins V speed is great, but we still have to be looking five, ten years down the road. We can’t just be playing catch up if we want to meet the needs of students, industry, and communities.”

New Hampshire Welcomes Eric Frauwirth to State CTE Helm

October 16th, 2019

Like many other leaders in CTE, Eric Frauwirth’s journey to his current role overseeing New Hampshire’s CTE program is truly unique. Originally from Massachusetts, Eric took what he describes as the ‘grand tour’ through CTE — traveling around the country teaching at the high school and postsecondary levels, then returning to Massachusetts to serve as the dean of CTE and business at a local community college. 

Eric sees his new role as an opportunity to update New Hampshire’s CTE system and make changes that will have lasting impacts. To accomplish this, Eric has been everything but a stranger to innovative ideas.

“Absolutely everything is on the table,” he said. 

One of Eric’s main priorities is to improve the way in which New Hampshire delivers CTE to better provide access and equity to students across the state. The state will be embarking on an effort to identify all possible delivery models – in addition to the current shared time centers – to provide more CTE programs to more learners. 

“We’re considering taking some of our non-lab CTEs — accounting, business, marketing — and instead of offering one of the courses at a regional center, we offer it at the five comprehensive high schools in the region. This would allow more students to be eligible while also freeing up space at the CTE centers to create more room for labs.” New Hampshire also recently received a $46 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to expand charter schools and Eric is considering how they might fit into the new CTE puzzle.

Fortunately for Eric, the state’s education commissioner is not only supportive of CTE but also is an out-of-the-box thinker who is willing to let Eric’s team be creative. For example, the CTE office is planning to purchase an RV, with the goal of converting it to a mobile classroom to travel around the state to build exposure and access to CTE. The RV will be equipped to carry out experiments as well as highlight the many programs in the different regions of the state. 

Eric’s team took this idea a few steps further by making it a competition among the CTE programs to design the mobile classroom’s wrap, using the theme “I am CTE.” CTE students will also paint the RV once the design is selected. The winners will get to see their work travel all across the state promoting CTE.

“We brought it to the commissioner and we expected the two outcomes to be either he throws us out of his office or he was going to love it. The first sentence out of his mouth was ‘can I drive it’.”

 

Student Leaders On Capitol Hill, Calls for Doubling the Investment in CTE

October 10th, 2019

This past month, hundreds of student leaders came to Washington D.C. for SkillsUSA’s Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI) and the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America’s (FCCLA) Capitol Leadership training. Both programs offer training and leadership development activities for youth Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) leaders.

SkillsUSA hosted over 550 students and advisors from 29 states at the WLTI. This year’s conference included training on personal and workplace skills, a panel discussion about effective legislative visits with experts from Capitol Hill, and a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. FCCLA’s annual Capitol Leadership training also provided students an opportunity to share their Career Technical Education (CTE) experiences with elected officials, while also developing their communication and collaborative skills.

Advance CTE’s Policy Fellow, Jade Richards, spoke with both groups of students and provided an overview of CTE funding at the national level. Students later went to Capitol Hill and passionately communicated to their representatives the impact of CTE in their communities, as well as the need to double the federal investment in CTE.

As a long-standing advocate for policies and legislation that enhance high-quality CTE programs across the country, Advance CTE is committed to empowering students leaders in America. Join us and the CTE community as we continue the campaign to create a brighter future for learners, businesses and communities everywhere.

Visit Isupportcte.org to learn more about the importance of doubling the federal investment in CTE. Email IsupportCTE@careertech.org for questions and updates on the campaign. 

SkillsUSA 2019 WLTI U.S. Capitol Photo

Welcome Jade Richards, Summer 2019 Policy Fellow

July 31st, 2019

My name is Jade Richards and I am very excited to join Advance CTE over the Summer. During my time I will be working as a Policy Fellow supporting the organization’s policy and communication priorities. 

A recent graduate from American University, I come with a fresh perspective and a bold eagerness to effect Advance CTE’s mission. Over the past five years I have worked with a range of organizations, including Toyota Government Affairs, the United States Senate through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and the Aspen Institute. These experiences allowed me to develop a deep insight of how public-private partnerships influence the policy-making process. My experiences also informed my abilities to think critically, problem solve, and be a dynamic asset to teams. 

Recently, I also worked for a year as a STEM enrichment teacher at an elementary school. This experience was pivotal as it provided first-hand exposure to some of the challenges and successes of urban schooling. As a long-time advocate for equitable and high-quality education, I look forward to the opportunity to further develop my understanding of education policy while at Advance CTE. 

By Jade Richards, Policy Fellow 

Education Not Working For All

July 29th, 2019

The national postsecondary attainment rate across all groups of students has steadily increased over the past decade. Despite this positive trend, a recent research paper by the Center for American Progress found persisting gaps in students’ access to higher education. 

Using nationally representative data to investigate how degree attainment rates for adults compare in the U.S., the report looked at how geography and socioeconomic factors continue to impact students’ access to the postsecondary level. In the report, researchers found that despite an overall 20 percent increase in attainment in the last decade, the distribution of growth is uneven across the country. National patterns reflect lower attainment rates in rural areas and highly stratified rates – with the largest attainment gaps between racial and ethnic groups – in urban areas. This pattern highlights two significant insights:

  • Students in rural counties and low-income students in urban ones are being left behind when it comes to accessing postsecondary education and a pathway to the middle-class.
  • Though community and regional colleges serve the majority of rural residents and low-income students, funding for these institutions has historically lagged and only 50 percent of pre-recession funding have been recovered. This is just one of the challenges that limit the ability of these institutions to continue being an effective route to a good paying job.

Earlier this year, researchers at Brookings explored the landscape of the millions of young adults who are out of work. In their study, researchers used cluster analysis to segment out-of-work young adults into five groups, including:

  • 18-21 year olds with a high school diploma or less; 
  • 22-24 year olds with a high school diploma or less;
  • 18-21 year olds with at least some education beyond high school;
  • 22-24 year olds with at least some education beyond high school; and 
  • 22-24 year olds with Bachelor’s degrees

Clusters were categorized based on similarities in students’ work history, educational attainment, school enrollment, English language proficiency and family status. Specific policy recommendations were provided for each group, such as utilizing re-engagement centers with  those who have a high school diploma or less. Work-based learning and certification attainment were the only recommendations consistent across all five clusters.

Meeting the Needs of Those Left Behind 

Community colleges have traditionally worked to meet the needs of underserved students and dislocated workers. With skills-training and work-based learning gaining popularity, these institutions are also increasingly strained for resources, especially since they are in the midst of a historic funding disadvantage. The Community College Research Center (CCRC) highlights this challenge in their report on The Evolving Mission of Workforce Development in the Community College.

Today, over two-thirds of states’ accountability and funding measures are tied to completed degrees or certificates. This has led to many community colleges integrating guided pathway programs into their systems as a means to improve attainment rates. 

The CCRC research points out that noncredit programs are also increasing in popularity, as they are often shorter, more flexible and responsive to industry needs. While for-credit programs may take up to two years to launch a new program in response to student and local market needs, noncredit programs can do so in a matter of weeks or months. Because they are also shorter and tend to target specific skills needed in an industry, students often see them as a more affordable investment in their time, education and career development.

However, according to a recent report by Opportunity America, these programs can come with disadvantages, namely, they do not provide college credit or financial aid to their students. 

Given that the majority of students who are enrolling in these programs are out-of-work and/or low-income, many advocates are calling for legislation like the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS Act), which would extend eligibility for Pell Grant funding to short term credit and noncredit programs that meet several key criteria. Proponents also argue that federal education policies need to keep pace with the changing dynamics of the workforce and postsecondary systems, to support life-long learners by aligning credited and non-credited programs.

 

Jade Richards, Policy Fellow 

 

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