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Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

Progress? NAEP Says Nope but Data Suggest Possible Positives for CTE

May 8th, 2014

Scores on the “Nation’s Report Card” continued to stagnate across the board, as this year’s results showed little change from the 2009 numbers in both mathematics and reading. However, an accompanying student survey further highlighted that students’ engagement in reading and math has an impact on their test scores.

On the survey, students who expressed interest in math or said they understood how it would help them in their future careers tended to post higher math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Similarly, students who reported discussing their reading every day or almost every day also had higher NAEP reading scores.

This correlation is a positive sign for CTE programs, which have proven effective in increasing student engagement and achievement rates.

Also within in this year’s NAEP results, the disaggregated data held even fewer positive signs. In fact, achievement gaps by race/ethnicity and gender remained unchanged since 2009. The largest of which is the gap between black and white students, with black students scoring 30 points below their white peers in reading and mathematics.

For the second time, the test’s results included a pilot program that delivered state-level disaggregated results for the 12th grade test. For a deeper dive into the results for the 13 participating states, check out this interactive infographic.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Legislative Update: Secretary Duncan Defends Administration’s FY 15 Budget Priorities before Congress, STEM Equity Bill Introduced in the House

May 2nd, 2014

CapitolOn Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the full House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) to discuss the Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget request for the Department of Education (ED). As we have previously shared, the President’s budget request calls for $1.117 billion for the Carl D. Perkins (Perkins) basic state grant program— the same amount the program is set to receive for FY 2014. It also reiterates the Administration’s request for a $100 million competitive Career Technical Education (CTE) innovation fund to be paid for out of funds already designated for this purpose.

House appropriators on the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee voiced strong concerns about these proposals several weeks ago, and the HEW Committee reinforced many of those concerns this past Tuesday. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), who was recently honored with NASDCTEc’s Star of Education Award, echoed these sentiments.

“[ED] does not propose any additional funding for the Perkins Act,” he said. “The solutions to address [the needs of the economy] are in CTE programs throughout the country funded through the [Perkins Act].” Rep. Thompson also pressed Secretary Duncan on the Administration’s proposal to fund “untested and often duplicative education initiatives when we have a tried and true solution in Perkins.”

Secretary Duncan argued that the Department’s competitive funding proposals were aimed to more effectively use limited resources and to scale-up successful CTE models.  Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) echoed many of Rep. Thompson’s concerns and also questioned aspects of ED’s 2012 CTE Blueprint, particularly its proposal to require mandatory consortia of LEAs, postsecondary institutions, and other partners in order to receive Perkins funding. After acknowledging the importance of collaboration between the secondary and postsecondary CTE learner levels, Rep. Guthrie pointed out that many “rural or smaller schools may not be able to form a consortium.”

On this point Secretary Duncan conceded that, “The consortia idea is one that we want to continue to think through. Anything we can do in that Blueprint — it’s two years out of date now —something we can do better [sic], we’d be happy to update.” While ED has not officially announced plans to update its CTE Blueprint, NASDCTEc is encouraged that a top Administration official has expressed a willingness to rethink aspects of the proposal.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) also raised concerns regarding the impact of competitive grant programs to ensure equitable access for students. “How do you plan to ensure equal opportunity and funding for all students and not just the ones from school districts with the ability to write grants?”

She also highlighted her efforts to expand Pell eligibility for high school students enrolled in early college programs. A similar proposal contained in the Department’s FY 2015 budget request would expand Pell eligibility for students as part of a career pathway and she encouraged the Administration to continue with these efforts. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), the newest member of HEW, also promoted a similar idea of using early college and dual enrollment as a model for CTE. Secretary Duncan said he was open to this idea and that the Department would look for promising strategies to encourage postsecondary credit and industry certification attainment at the secondary level.

Other members on the committee such as Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) voiced strong opposition to the Department’s new gainful employment and program integrity regulations among other similar topics.

An archived webcast of the hearing, including testimony, can be found here.

STEM Equity Bill Introduced in the House

Also on Tuesday, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) introduced the Getting into Researching, Learning & Studying of STEM (GIRLS-STEM) Act of 2014 (H.R. 4515). The bill would establish a program at the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that more female students participate in STEM education and have access to career and academic counseling. The program would provide grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) to support efforts and initiatives to encourage young women to study STEM subjects, educate parents about the opportunities for their children in STEM fields, provide mentorship opportunities for students, and prepare secondary students for transitions into postsecondary STEM programs.

“I know from personal experience that STEM careers can be personally and professionally rewarding, and we owe it to our young women to make sure they have access to the necessary education,” said Rep. McNerney, who has a Ph.D. in mathematics and worked for many years as an engineer. NASDCTEc applauds the Congressman’s efforts to promote young women in STEM programs and looks forward to working with him to more fully realize this admirable goal. A full press release on the legislation can be found here.

Performance Pilot Partnerships (P3) Update

As we shared last week, the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services and a number of other federal agencies, announced a new pilot program to better address the needs of disconnected youth in communities, states and tribal areas. The Departments released a consultation paper on this initiative which seeks to give a clearer picture as to the program’s design and purpose.

A webinar on P3 was also held this week, where it was explained that local Perkins grant recipients would be eligible to participate in these programs if an agreement is first reached with the state’s Perkins eligible agency. While funding stream “braiding” seems to be an objective of the pilots, it is still unclear at this time how reporting requirements for Perkins would be reconciled with other programs in a given project. As details on P3 become clearer, NASDCTEc will update the CTE community on the potential for collaboration.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: ED Continues Program Integrity Negotiations, NASDCTEc & IBM Host Briefing on CTE, Perkins

April 25th, 2014

CapitolBeginning this past Wednesday and ending today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) reconvened a panel for a third round of negotiated rulemaking on program integrity and improvement. Negotiators are discussing a number of proposed regulatory changes for postsecondary institutions including clock-to-credit-hour conversions, state authorization of distance learning programs, remedial coursework, cash management and — most contentiously — how to define adverse credit history for the purposes of certain federal financial aid eligibility.

Since a preliminary consensus had already been reached on clock-to-credit-hour conversions during the last round of negotiations, the panel moved quickly on a second draft of proposed regulatory language. The proposed changes maintain the existing conversion formula, but significantly improve the clarity of the regulation. The intent of this particular rule is to ensure that postsecondary students enrolled in programs which provide instruction based on clock hours rather than credit hours receive equivalent amounts of federal financial aid for the same amount of coursework. It is important to note that for a formal consensus to be completed, the panel must also reach consensus on the other issues currently under discussion.

A newly drafted set of rules governing state authorization of distance programs was also heatedly debated this week. These proposed regulations determine the legal authorization of postsecondary education programs provided by institutions that are not physically located in the state. These proposed rules would primarily affect online, distance and correspondence education programs. Such programs would need to meet the various legal requirements imposed by individual states to offer distance education programs in each state where an enrollee resides if 50 percent or more of a course can be completed remotely. Among many other proposed changes, an institution would not be eligible for federal financial aid for its students if its graduates are not able to receive a certification or complete a licensing examination required for employment in that state after program completion, unless the program obtains prior acknowledgement from the student.

A fourth and final round of negotiations is expected on May 19-20, 2014. As this process unfolds, NASDCTEc will continue to monitor these negotiations and gauge any potential impact on postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. More information on these negotiations and additional supplemental information can be found here.

NASDCTEc & IBM Host Briefing on CTE, Perkins

Yesterday the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and IBM hosted a briefing for stakeholder groups interested in learning more about CTE and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). NASDCTEc’s Executive Director Kimberly Green and Stan Litow, IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and President of IBM’s Foundation, provided a joint briefing on these issues in an effort to prepare these groups for the reauthorization of Perkins.

While no official timeline has been laid out by Congress for the reauthorization of the law yet, employers and other stakeholders groups in the education and workforce communities have taken a significant interest in CTE and the Perkins Act over the past year as the law has come due for renewal. As both the House and Senate take steps to reauthorize Perkins, the briefing provided important background information on the 2006 reauthorization process, emerging themes and major changes occurring within the CTE enterprise over the past several years, employers’ growing interest in CTE, IBM’s P-Tech initiatives in New York and Connecticut and finally what to expect in the upcoming legislative process surrounding Congress’ consideration of the law.

NASDCTEc would like to thank IBM for hosting the event and for those who participated in the briefing. As the reauthorization process gets more fully underway in the coming year, NASDCTEc looks forward to working constructively with Congress, employers and other stakeholder groups to thoughtfully renew the law which constitutes the primary federal investment in CTE and our nation’s high schools.

OCTAE RFI Update

Earlier this week, NASDCTEc shared an announcement from the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health & Human Services (HHS) regarding a request for information (RFI) on career pathway systems. This multiagency RFI is soliciting information from a diverse group of stakeholders from both the public and private sectors, as well as from state, regional, tribal, and local entities on how to develop and improve career pathway systems. Specifically they are seeking information on effective career pathway models, best practices, barriers to their development and implementation, and also ways in which federal agencies can more effectively support these types of systems. Responses collected through this RFI will help inform future departmental career pathway strategies, policies, and investments.

Responses are due June 9th, 2014, and the official notice can be found here. The departments have also announced a webinar to provide an overview of this RFI and to provide instructions on how to respond. More information on that, including how to register, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Federal Agencies Launch Program to Reach Disconnected Youth

April 21st, 2014

Today, the federal government announced a new pilot program to enable communities, states and tribal governments to better address the needs of their disconnected youth.

The Performance Partnership Pilots, also known as P3, are designed to grant communities more flexibility in using discretionary funding across federal programs to improve the education, employment, health and well-being for more than 5 million disconnected youth across the country by leveraging existing partnerships and supporting promising local strategies.

The federal government defines disconnected youth as being between the ages of 14-24, are low income and either homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, unemployed or not enrolled in or at risk of dropping out of an educational institution. Depending on a person’s circumstances, he or she may have as many as four case managers in order to access the full range of services needed. This means duplicative paperwork for the youth as well as the social worker and a multitude of other barriers to service.

Through P3, the Obama Administration is hoping to identify and scale up innovative community solutions that address the challenges of reaching disconnected youth. Local, state and tribal agencies are encouraged to re-imagine its current funding streams and services to breakdown program silos for a more coordinated approach. This could include blending competitive and formula grants or obtaining waivers for nonessential program requirements in order to create more opportunities for communities and states to design approaches that best meet their needs and build on their strengths.

To apply, send a letter of interest to [email protected].

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Legislative Update: President Obama Announces Final Round of TAACCCT Grants and an Apprenticeship Program, DOL Unveils WIA Incentive Grant Awards

April 18th, 2014

CapitolEarlier this week, President Obama and Vice President Biden traveled to the Community College of Allegheny County in Oakdale, Pennsylvania to announce two initiatives related to job training as part of the President’s larger job-driven training agenda outlined in his State of the Union address earlier this year. Both of these initiatives— one relatively new and the other part a larger existing program— are administered and funded by the Department of Labor (DoL).

The fourth and final round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College & Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program was the first of these initiatives to be announced. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Obama Administration designated approximately $2 billion to provide community colleges and other eligible postsecondary institutions with funds to expand career training programs that can be completed in two years or less. Intended to nurture partnerships between these institutions and employers, funding has been targeted for programs that prepare students for high-skill, high-growth careers. Funds have been distributed on a competitive basis among eligible institutions and have gone out in three separate installments, each with their own overarching areas of focus.

This fourth and final round of TAACCCT grants, worth a total of $450 million, will focus on three priorities outlined by the Administration:

  • Scale In-Demand Job Training Across the Country through National Industry Partnerships.
  • Advance Education & Training to Ensure a Seamless Progression from One Stepping Stone to Another.
  • Improve Statewide Employment and Education Data Integration and Use.

The Obama Administration plans to award at least one grant in every state and applications which emphasize the above priorities may be eligible for larger award amounts. DoL’s full announcement can be found here. Applications are due by July 7th and detailed instructions for applying can be found here.

American Apprenticeship Grants

President Obama and Vice President Biden also announced a new American Apprenticeship Grants competition which is set to begin in the fall of 2014. Funded through H1-B visa applications fees, $100 million in grants will be used to incentivize partnerships between employers, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, non-profits and faith-based organizations. Priority will be given to applications that meet three criteria laid out by the Administration:

  • Launch apprenticeship models in emerging, high-growth fields
  • Align apprenticeships to pathways for further learning and career advancement
  • Scale-up proven apprenticeship models

This announcement looks to strengthen Vice President Biden’s other recent effort  named the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC), an initiative that seeks to allow graduates to use their apprenticeship experience for postsecondary credit. More information on RACC can be found here. Application information for American Apprenticeship Grants is forthcoming.

2014 WIA Incentive Grant Awards

The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA), in conjunction with the Department of Education (ED), recently announced a list of eight states which are eligible to apply for approximately $9.9 million in incentive grant awards created under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). To have qualified, states must have exceeded performance levels under WIA Title IB and Title II during the 2012 program year. These incentive grants can be used to fund specific programs under the aegis of WIA or programs funded by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

To receive funds, a state must submit its application for an incentive grant award to DOLETA no later than May 30, 2014. Eligible states include Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. More information can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

36 States Participate in Field Test for Common Core-aligned Exams

April 14th, 2014

Field testing for Common Core-aligned assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is well under way in schools across the country. Since testing began in late March, millions of students have taken the computer-based assessments in mathematics and English language arts and literacy.

The newly developed exams are designed to align with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and better determine students’

progress toward college and career readiness through more complex (and non-multiple choice) items. The massive field test – which will involve students from 36 states – is one of the final stages before the assessments are finalized for schools to use in spring 2015.

Students in grades 3 through 11 will take the field tests through June 6, 2014. The assessments are as much a test for the students as they are for the technology being used. Many districts had to make large technological investments to administer the exams.

There haven’t been major incidents reported, aside from smaller technical glitches for both field test efforts. Smarter Balanced was scheduled to launch its tests on March 18, but delayed it by a week for “quality checking,” according to a spokeswoman.

Two additional consortia are developing similar tests for students with severe cognitive disabilities.  Field tests for those assessments are ongoing.

You can keep up with the field testing progress through regular updates from PARCC and Smarter Balanced.

Students aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the testing fun. Put yourself to the test – how would you fare on a practice exam?

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Legislative Update: House Appropriators Question Administration’s FY15 Priorities, New Proposals on Perkins Emerge

April 11th, 2014

CapitolOn Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee regarding the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget request for education.  As we shared previously, the Administration requested $1.117 billion for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program— a figure that would maintain the same level of funding as in FY 2014, but would keep the program below pre-sequestration levels. The request also proposed to use a portion of these funds for a competitive “innovation fund” similar to what the Administration has previously proposed in its 2012 Blueprint for Career Technical Education (CTE).

During the subcommittee hearing, members from both parties strongly questioned these aspects of the budget request, asked why additional funds were not requested for the Perkins Act and voiced strong opposition to the Administration’s other proposals for new competitively funded programs.

“The concern is that these proposals would be made at the expense of meeting our current obligations,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), echoed these sentiments and emphasized the importance of the overall federal investment in education. The full hearing and testimony transcripts can be found here.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) questioned the Secretary further on these issues asking, “Why does the Administration continue to propose competitive grants that only benefit a few students rather than investing in proven programs like CTE that help to further the goal of career readiness for all students?”

Secretary Duncan did point out that 89 percent of the funds from his department actually go to formula programs and that the Administration on the whole has invested heavily in CTE via alternative funding streams such as the Youth CareerConnect program.

However, there was genuine skepticism from many of the members present for how these proposals would negatively impact the ability of students to equitably access CTE programs throughout the country. As Rep. Roby pointed out, “We have yet to fulfill our commitment to fully fund existing formula-driven programs.”

To that end, members of Congress on and off the subcommittee have been hard at work over the past several weeks to push for additional investments for the Perkins Act ahead of the Congressional FY 2015 appropriations process. Two Dear Colleague letters, one in the House and the other in the Senate, were supported on a bipartisan basis by 93 Representatives and 25 Senators respectively, calling for a restoration of the Perkins Act basic state grant program to pre-sequester levels.

NASDCTEc encourages its members and those in the CTE community to reach out to all of the lawmakers who supported these efforts and thank them for their strong support for the Perkins Act and CTE. Special recognition must go to Sens. Blumenthal (D-CT), Kaine (D-VA), Baldwin (D-WI) and also Reps. Thompson (R-PA) and Langevin (D-RI) who lead these efforts in both Chambers.

Don’t know how to get in touch with Congress? Find out here!

Perkins Amendment Introduced in the House

Earlier this week Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the “Perkins Modernization Act of 2014,” which seeks to more closely align CTE programs with labor market needs. Specifically it would substitute all references to “high skill, high wage, or high demand occupations in current or emerging professions,” currently found in the Perkins Act and substitute them with “employment in current or emerging in-demand industry sectors or occupations.” A definition for an “in-demand industry sector or occupation” is also proposed, which would be informed to a greater extent by labor market information culled from various sources at the local, state and national levels.

As the House Committee on Education and the Workforce (HEW) along with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) continue to work to reauthorize the Perkins Act, it is important to note that the above proposal is not a comprehensive reauthorization bill. Instead the Perkins Modernization Act introduces into the reauthorization discussion an issue important to these members of Congress.  NASDCTEc appreciates Reps. Kennedy, Kinzinger, Davis, and Polis’ recognition that CTE programs are crucial components to the nation’s economic competitiveness and agrees that a greater availability and use of labor market information is needed to ensure that CTE programs prepare students for success in the workforce.

NASDCTEc looks forward to working constructively with Congress to thoughtfully reauthorize the Perkins Act and to ensure that programs are empowering students with the necessary skills and knowledge demanded by today’s employers and affording graduates the opportunity to secure family-sustaining wages.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Moves on ESRA

The House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) moved forward on the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366). This bill, introduced by Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), reauthorizes the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). Currently, ESRA supports educational research programs such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), NAEP exams, and state longitudinal data systems. “Quality education research is critical to successful schools,” Rep. Rokita said upon the Committee’s approval of the bill by voice vote.

A particularly promising aspect of the bill would amend the authorization for state longitudinal data system grants to encourage the alignment of data across K-12, postsecondary and workforce programs. This would greatly support efforts to report on post-program employment outcomes for CTE graduates. Moreover, H.R. 4366 emphasizes the importance of using data effectively and lays out a more thoughtful approach to its use. The Workforce Data Quality Campaign, of which NASDCTEc is a national partner, supported this bill. The text of the bill, fact sheets, and other useful information can be found here.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Apprenticeship Bill

On Wednesday Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act, a bill that incentivizes employers to increase the number of apprenticeships available to young people. Specifically the LEAP Act would grant companies a $1,500 tax credit for hiring new registered apprentices under the age of 25. A $1,000 tax credit would also be offered to employers hiring apprentices older than 25 years of age. The bill would also incent the expansion of existing apprenticeship programs

The Workforce Investment Act

Both Chambers of Congress have continued discussions on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) this week. According to recent reports, the Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chairman of the House HEW Committee, John Kline (R-MN), have publicly stated that they have “resolved nearly all differences” and hope to complete the legislation when Congress returns from recess in late April.

“The likelihood is that the staff will be able to hammer out what is left while we are gone,” Chairman Kline said. “Hopefully, by the time we come back, we’ll have it all put together,” Chairman Harkin was reported as saying.

There has also been speculation that the reauthorization of WIA could possibly be attached to Congress’ consideration of extending unemployment insurance benefits. NASDCTEc will monitor this process as it evolves and will continue to work with policymakers to ensure that a thoughtful reauthorization of the law emerges from these negotiations.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Spring Meeting Recap: CTE & STEM— Making the Connection

April 10th, 2014

STEM-CTERepresentatives from the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and business communities discussed the ways in which STEM and Career Technical Education (CTE) are linked on Wednesday, April 2nd at NASDCTEc’s annual spring meeting. The panel, moderated by Jay Scott Assistant Director at the Kansas Department of Education, explored the ways in which CTE and STEM are connected and examined issue areas which are of interest to both communities. The panel, spurred in part by NASDCTEc’s Associate Executive Director’s recent publication, CTE is your STEM Strategy, tackled this fundamental linkage and looked for ways to build upon this interconnectedness.

Linda Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation (CTEq), started the session off by outlining what a STEM occupation is and the positive impact STEM skills and knowledge have on one’s ability to find gainful employment. Noting that STEM occupations constitute 11 percent of the U.S. workforce, she pointed out that job postings for those with a strong STEM background generally fared much better than those without similar knowledge and skills. She went on to argue that CTE is an effective method of delivery for STEM education and one way to improve upon existing programs that link the two is through greater alignment of CTE programs with the labor market. “Above all, corporate America expects results,” she said. Among other proposals, Dr. Rosen suggested that employers should be engaged (and vice versa) in more meaningful ways and that accountability provisions within current law should be more closely linked with labor market needs.

June Streckfus, Executive Director of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MBRT), focused her remarks on the work her organization is currently doing in the state of Maryland. She outlined the main points of emphasis for her organization and Maryland’s STEM strategy— accelerating student & teacher growth along with cultivating public support for these initiatives. This last point guided the rest of her presentation where she convincingly demonstrated that employer engagement— something the state of Maryland is ideally situated to leverage given its close proximity to many large national employers— was a key tool for improving employment outcomes for students. To support her argument, she highlighted an article that found a strong positive correlation between the number of employer or professional mentor interactions with students and employment outcomes after program completion.

Ted Wells, Chief Strategy Officer for STEM Connector®, rounded out the discussion with an overview of how his organization seeks to support public-private investment in STEM programs. Throughout his presentation he highlighted the importance of CTE and STEM as strategies to effectively address the nation’s skills gap. He went on to argue that this skills gap is clearly evident and that it has persisted for far too long. Wells recommended that CTE be incorporated more heavily into the standards movement, specifically within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common  Core State Standards (CCSS). He also emphasized the importance of involving STEM leaders within the CTE enterprise and stressed the importance of educating policymakers on the importance of these twin issues.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Breaking our Baccalaureate Addiction

April 8th, 2014

It’s not that kids aren’t “college material,” but that the bachelor’s degree is increasingly immaterial

Recently, Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute kicked up a lot of attention with his piece on why we should be telling more kids that they aren’t college material.

Central to his argument was that career technical education (CTE) – or teaching and learning that provides students with the academic, technical and employability skills they need to access the careers of their choice – is a more viable option than a four-year degree for many, and one in which we should be counseling more students.

On this point, I agree with Petrilli 100 percent. CTE is one of the best kept secrets out there. Students taking CTE sequences are more likely to graduate high school (at rates upward of 90%, well above the national average) because they find value in the authenticity and relevance CTE brings to their learning.

CTE students are also more likely to go on to “college,” with 75% of graduates who took at least three CTE courses enrolling in postsecondary education within two years. They have the added advantages of real-world experience from work-based learning and career exploration opportunities, and have unique access to mentors and resources to help them chart their future beyond the traditional college prep counseling.

On top of that, completers of CTE postsecondary programs are more likely to be employed than those completing an academic-focused program. Eighty-six percent of postsecondary students completing an associate’s degree in a CTE field of study, for example, are still employed five years later, compared to 78.6 percent of those completing an associate’s degree in an academic field of study.  They are filling the skills mismatch, and not fast enough for many employers in the health services, manufacturing and IT sectors.

To summarize, CTE keeps students in school and puts them on a pathway to success. Yay CTE! CTE for all!

So, what’s the problem?

My problem is this: While I appreciate positive attention for CTE, I believe Petrilli did CTE a major disservice with his piece. By setting up CTE as the option for students who are not “college material” he ultimately undermined the value CTE has for all students. And, perhaps more importantly, he reinforced the image problem the CTE community has to deal with every day: CTE remains the place you put kids who just can’t make it to college.

As long as CTE is framed as the non-college option, rather than a pathway to a broader set of college options, we are perpetuating CTE as an inferior, rather than an equally viable (and more reliable), choice.

Despite a decade of efforts to raise the rigor and quality of CTE programs by anchoring them in 21st century knowledge and skills and building stronger linkages between secondary and postsecondary programs through dual/concurrent enrollment, early college programs and other mechanisms, CTE is still not something many parents want for their kids. The stigma of old-school “voc-ed” is a hard one to shake.

So allow me to reframe the discussion. Instead of talking about CTE as being solely for those who can’t be successful in four-year programs, let’s talk about how we can break our country’s addiction to (and reverence for) the bachelor’s degree.

As Petrilli clearly lays out, the notion that a four-year degree is the only option is at best outdated and at worst sets up false expectations for too many students (as evidenced by high remediation, low degree completion and increasing debt). It no longer makes sense to put all of our eggs in the four-year basket. There are many other postsecondary pathways that lead to a family-sustaining wage, job security and mobility that are not being presented as a realistic option to enough of today’s students, and therefore, not being taken advantage of enough.

It is incumbent upon us to encourage more students to engage in these opportunities. And when I say more students, I don’t just mean poor or minority students, but also suburban or higher-income students who go on to a four-year degree because that’s just how it’s done in their communities, regardless of their actual career interests. We need to redefine college so technical colleges, community colleges and the other postsecondary institutions don’t continue to get the short shrift in the minds of parents, students and policymakers.

Finally, we need to flip the system so “career” comes before “college.” Students’ career aspirations should dictate their postsecondary pathways rather than the other way around. It’s not easy, it’s not clean – in fact, it’s a paradigm shift – but it’s what it’s going to take to get our economy back on track and all students their shot at the American dream.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

 

The Obama Administration Unveils Youth CareerConnect Grants and a New Apprenticeship Program

April 7th, 2014

Obama Announces YCC AwardsThis morning President Obama visited Bladensburg High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland to announce the winners of the Administration’s Youth CareerConnect (YCC) grant program. This competitive grant initiative, administered jointly by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Education (ED), seeks to scale up successful collaborative partnership models between school districts, postsecondary institutions, the workforce investment system and employers.

Specifically it aims to improve the high school experience by encouraging the integration of classroom and workplace learning experiences in an effort to better equip students “with the knowledge, skills, and industry-relevant education needed to get on the pathway to a successful career, including post-secondary education or registered apprenticeship,” a White House official said.

Structured similarly to the Administration’s Race to the Top program, the YCC grants are comparable to the “innovation fund” proposed in the President’s 2012 Career Technical Education (CTE) Blueprint. “The idea behind this competition is, how do we start making high school in particular more interesting, more exciting, more relevant to young people?” the President said. “We want to reward the schools that are being most innovative.”

In all, the President announced twenty-four grants totaling $107 million which derive funding from H1-B visa fees collected by the Department of Labor. Bladensburg High School, the venue for today’s announcement, was part of a larger group within Prince George’s County which received a $7 million award. Their portion of the grant will support the school’s efforts to expand its Health and Biosciences Academy which was prominently featured during the announcement.  As President Obama pointed out, these grants support “cooler stuff than when I was in high school.”

More information on the YCC grant program can be found here. The White House has also released an additional fact sheet on the program which includes a full list of awards.

Vice President Biden Announces Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium

The President’s unveiling of these grants also coincided with Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement of a new Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC) initiative. The main objective of this new effort is to ensure students who participate in certain apprenticeships have the opportunity to earn credits that will transfer to a community or technical college of their choice. RACC is aiming to make these types of articulation agreements more common throughout the country by creating a national network of postsecondary institutions, employers, unions and associations which will expedite the process of transferring a student’s work experience within a Registered Apprenticeship into credit for a program at a participating institution.

The RACC is part of the Administration’s larger goal of doubling the number of apprenticeships over the next several years and will be jointly administered by the Department of Labor and Education. “As a result of this exciting new consortium, graduates of a Registered Apprenticeship program will not only have better access to jobs that lead to a sustainable career, but they’ll also have better access to an education – all with little or no debt” Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said at a separate announcement. Consortium participants must be accredited degree granting institutions in order to be eligible. At the moment, specific third-party organizations will evaluate the postsecondary credit value of a particular apprenticeship for the purposes of a completion certificate at the end of a program.

More information on RACC, including how to join the consortium, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

 

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