New Advance CTE Report Examines Expanding Middle School CTE

October 30th, 2018

Middle school Career Technical Education (CTE) has the power to expose students to college and career options and equip them with the transferable skills they need to plan for and succeed in high school and beyond. In recent years, a number of states have invested resources and supports to expand CTE and career exploration opportunities in middle schools, a trend that is likely to continue with the recent passage of the Strengthening Career Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), which now allows states to use Perkins funding to support CTE as early as the fifth grade.

To help states unpack the potential approaches to expanding and ensuring high-quality middle school CTE options, Advance CTE – in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers and Education Strategy Group, through the New Skills for Youth Initiative, funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. – examine leading states’ approaches to middle school CTE in Expanding Middle School CTE to Promote Lifelong Learner Success. Some of the state approaches highlighted in the report include:

  • Nebraska’s use of in-and-out of school experiences to expand access to middle school CTE, particularly to rural communities;
  • Ohio’s use of standards and course options to ensure vertical alignment of middle school and high school CTE;
  • Utah’s competency-based approach to middle school CTE; and
  • North Carolina’s Career and Technical Education Grade Expansion Program.

The report concludes with major considerations for states when implementing or expanding middle school CTE, such as removing any restrictions that prevent states from accessing Perkins V funding and deciding whether middle school CTE is about career exploration, career preparation or both.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

Three Takeaways from the National Forum to Advance Rural Education

October 17th, 2018

Last week’s National Forum to Advance Rural Education was the nation’s 110th annual gathering of rural teachers, administrators, superintendents and state leaders from across the country.

I attended the meeting on behalf of Advance CTE to talk about our work on high-quality CTE and the CTE on the Frontier series. The meeting also served as a powerful opportunity to hear and learn from state and local innovators from rural America. Over the course of the conference, three themes stood out to me:

1. Preparing learners for careers is a priority for rural educators

We spend a lot of time trying to convince policymakers that what follows the “and” in “college and career ready” is just as important as what precedes it. But at the conference this was already understood. From the breakouts to the keynotes to the tabletop conversations, everyone emphasized the importance and value of exposure to real-world learning in high school and in college. This idea was best captured by student panelist Savannah Burris, a senior at Holyoke High School in northeast Colorado, who said that high school students need to get “real world life experience” to be prepared once they graduate. Throughout the rest of the conference, participants heard about efforts to strengthen regional career pathways, provide robust career guidance to high school students, expand access to rural career centers, and partner with employers and industry leaders in rural communities.

2. Collaboration is key in rural schools and communities

I heard a lot of stories of local and state leaders who are working collaboratively with employers, neighboring school districts and members of their community to prepare learners for success in the real world. One example is a partnership between the Widefield and Peyton School Districts, which are both located just outside of Colorado Springs. Over the past three years, Widefield and Peyton have collaborated to purchase and design a facility for hands-on instruction in industries such as woods manufacturing and construction.

The facility, called the Manufacturing Industry Learning Labs (MiLL) National Training Center, is equipped with state-of-the-art machinery that was acquired through relationships with nearly 70 industry, education and community partners. Students in the program can enroll in Widefield’s Project Lead the Way engineering program and earn CTE credit, math credit and even postsecondary credit. MiLL has gained such attention and interest that the center is now offering evening classes to community college students and is working with employers to train new hires.

3. Rural America is an incubator for innovation — because it has to be

Tight budgets, teacher shortages and small student populations have forced rural schools and institutions to be creative with how they deliver high-quality educational experiences for learners. These same challenges make rural institutions better positioned to test new ideas and see what works. Collins Career Technical Center in Lawrence County, Ohio, for example, organized a student learning experience earlier this year called “No Hazards Here.” The experience, which simulated a chemical spill resulting from a collision between a truck and a bus, involved students across all programs offered at the career center. Students in the health academy were responsible for performing CPR and caring for the dummies who suffered from the crash. Students in the auto body repair and automotive technology programs serviced the damaged vehicles. Meanwhile, forensics students tested the chemicals in the spill using full-body HAZMAT suits and rinsing hoods. Dedication from the center staff, as well as relationships with the local community college, helped make the event a success.

As Rural Teacher of the Year Wade Owlett, a Pennsylvania elementary school teacher who was awarded the title on the second day of the conference, eloquently said: “innovation is not the key to success. It is the key to survival.” The same features that make it challenging to scale high-quality CTE in rural communities can also be assets that allow for flexibility, creativity and collaboration.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

CTE’s Equity Challenge

September 20th, 2018

Throughout history, and continuing today, learners of color, low-income learners, female learners and learners with disabilities have been historically tracked into terminal vocational programs leading to jobs with uncertain promise of economic growth and prosperity. While the quality of CTE programs has significantly improved since then, many of these same learners cannot access high-quality CTE programs of study that prepare them for success in postsecondary education and their future careers.

To help state leaders recognize these historical barriers and adopt promising solutions to close equity gaps in CTE, Advance CTE is launching a new series of policy briefs called Making Good on the Promise. The first two briefs are now available in the Learning that Works Resource Center.

The first brief explores CTE’s history, taking a close look at the practice of tracking learners into low-quality vocational programs and examining the different ways that certain learners have faced barriers to accessing high-quality CTE programs of study. The second brief highlights promising practices from states that are using data to identify and address access and achievement gaps by different learner populations.

Ultimately, each learner deserves to access a learning environment in which he or she is supported, feels welcome, and can acquire the knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve lifelong career success. But many of the structures and systems in place today enforce historical biases and discrimination that make it challenging for learners to access these opportunities. Reversing historical trends and expanding access and opportunity for each learner will require tough conversations, humility, and a commitment to both quality and equity.

In Delaware, for example, state leaders made a commitment to use state CTE data to expand equitable access to high-quality CTE programs. Through the regular CTE performance management process, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) compares the population of learners in CTE programs to learners in the larger student body to identify enrollment gaps.

If a certain learner population is either underrepresented or overrepresented in the program of study, it triggers a structured protocol. DDOE staff work in partnership with local leaders to conduct interviews with teachers, learners and parents and dig deeper into the root causes. DDOE and district staff debrief about the conversations and collectively develop a report summarizing the findings of the study. Although local sites are not required to act on DDOE’s recommendations, many recognize the need and seize the opportunity for additional state support.

Conversations about equity are often difficult, but they are necessary to secure access and opportunity for each learner. Collaborative, data-driven strategies like Delaware’s CTE performance management protocol allow state leaders to identify and address inequities in an impactful way.

In future briefs, we will explore how state leaders can work to rebuild trust among communities that have been historically under-served, expand opportunity for every learner, and put mechanisms in place to ensure learner success. The Making Good on the Promise series is made possible through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. These briefs and all future resources can be accessed in the Learning that Works Resource Center at careertech.org/resource/series/making-good-promise.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Webinar: The State’s Role in Communicating about CTE

September 10th, 2018

Join Advance CTE on Thursday, September 20 from 2 – 3 p.m. ET for Advance CTE’s webinar, The State’s Role in Communicating About Career Technical Education (CTE). Advance CTE will feature Idaho Career and Technical Education and how they have transformed the way in which they communicate about CTE with all stakeholders. Caty Solace, Outreach and Communications Manager at the Idaho Workforce Development Council, will discuss how Idaho CTE created a statewide brand, introduced storytelling as a major component of their communications plan and the tactical strategies they used to better communicate about the value and promise of CTE across all audiences.

Speakers:

  • Caty Solace, Outreach & Communications Manager, Idaho Workforce Development Council
  • Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Manager, Advance CTE

Register today!

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Manager 

Advance CTE Releases Report on Postsecondary CTE Program Quality

August 1st, 2018

With the majority of “good jobs” that pay a family-sustaining wage requiring at least some college education — such as a technical certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree or another credential of value — ensuring the existence of high-quality postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) programs and pathways is more important than ever before in preparing learners for high-skill, high-wage and high-demand careers.  

Although postsecondary programs are typically considered to be the purview of individual institutions, supported by academic freedom and local control, states have an important role to play in ensuring that each learner has access to only high-quality and relevant programs, notably by leveraging program approval and program evaluation policies and processes. Today, Advance CTE released Driving Quality in Postsecondary CTE: Approval and Evaluation Policies, a report that explores how states are leveraging this role to ensure quality.

Without question, states and postsecondary systems and institutions face unique challenges and opportunities in the quest to ensure program quality and relevance. These challenges include a variety of governance and delivery models, state and federal requirements, and multiple layers of program approval through regional and occupation-specific accreditors. At the same time, states, systems and institutions have meaningful opportunities to support and fund those programs that are best serving learners and their communities’ workforce needs.

Advance CTE’s report also explores a few specific state examples:

  • In Wisconsin, the Technical College System (WTCS) uses its statutory authority to review and approve all postsecondary programs in two phases: concept, where the system office and then the State Board review program foundations, including labor market justification, and program, where the system office and State Board review program curriculum. WTCS also suspends as many associate degree programs as it approves, so that programs that no longer have labor market relevance and/or quality outcomes are phased out and newer programs with higher quality and more relevance are adequately supported.
  • The California Community Colleges system is the largest system of higher education in the nation, with 114 colleges serving 2.1 million students. In 2004 the Chancellor’s Office developed what is now called the California Community Colleges Curriculum Committee (CCCCC) to coordinate efforts between local and statewide curriculum processes and work on program and course approval and evaluation. Through the CCCCC, the state has been working to delegate some of the responsibility of program approval and evaluation to individual institutions, but with policy guidance from a thorough and robust handbook. In this way, the system is working to reduce the burden on colleges while still maintaining quality of programs.
  • The Florida College System (FCS) and State Board of Education (SBOE) work together to ease the burden of program approval processes by designing and validating curriculum frameworks at the state level. These frameworks involve input from numerous industry partners and content experts and list key standards and benchmarks that programs must meet. Once a curriculum framework has been approved by the SBOE, other FCS institutions may apply the framework to new programs and are not required to undergo an approval process. Most FCS institutions start programs by using an existing framework, allowing them to start their program more quickly and avoid a lengthy approval process.

Check out Advance CTE’s report to learn more about ensuring quality in postsecondary CTE programs.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

New Resources: Designing Meaningful Career-Ready Indicators (Part 1)

July 5th, 2018

Over the past four years, Advance CTE has been tracking how states value career readiness within their federal and state accountability systems, shared in our bi-annual report, Making Career Readiness Count (released in 2014 and 2016), in partnership with Achieve. The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2016 led a significant increase in states valuing measures of career and college readiness in their accountability systems, which has the power to truly transform districts and schools across the country.

With nearly every state’s ESSA plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education, states are in the process of actually designing their new or revised accountability systems, including developing business rules and guidance to locals on data collection and designing report cards.

To help states design and implement the most meaningful career-focused indicators at this key moment in time, Advance CTE, Education Strategy Group (ESG) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) are developing a series of career-focused indicator profiles organized around the four types of measures recommended in Destination Known: Valuing College AND Career Readiness in State Accountability Systems.

Today, we are releasing two on Progress toward Post-High School Credential and Assessment of Readiness. These profiles explore how leading states, including Delaware, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia, are designing their indicators to ensure they are based on quality, validated data, are inclusive of all students, and are aligned with meaningful outcomes. They should serve as a resource and inspiration for states working on similar indicators.

In the next few weeks, Advance CTE will be releasing two additional profiles on the other categories defined in Destination Known: Co-curricular Learning and Leadership Experiences and Transitions Beyond High School. And, in the coming months, we will release our third edition of Making Career Readiness Count in partnership with Achieve, ESG and CCSSO. Stay tuned for more!

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

More Evidence Demonstrates How Postsecondary Credentials Can Help Learners Unlock Career Opportunities

June 11th, 2018

Earning a credential of value is still the surest path to success for American workers. A recent New America poll released last month finds that 80 percent of American adults believe there are more opportunities for those who pursue education after high school, compared to 14 percent who think it is better to enter the workforce right away.

For adult learners, the connection between education and careers is even more important. According to Public Agenda, 71 percent of adult prospective students — those who are actively working to go back to school — say that their primary motivation is either to get ahead in their current career or to get the skills they need to start a new career.

Studying the return on investment for credential earners can be quite an undertaking, however, considering the vast number and types of credentials on the market today. Credential Engine, a nonprofit dedicated to counting and cataloging every credential, estimated in April that there are more than 330,000 individual credentials available in the United States today, and only a fraction of them are available at four-year institutions. That count includes nearly 67,000 postsecondary certificates, 13,600 Registered Apprenticeships and 5,400 certifications.

It is well understood that a university education can improve career opportunities. But where to start? Does major matter? And what is the return on investment for other sub-baccalaureate credentials like associate degrees, postsecondary certificates and industry certifications?

More Advanced Credentials Lead to Higher Earnings, but Field of Study Matters

With so many credentials on the market, how can learners navigate the education marketplace and find the credential that best suits their career interests and economic goals?

New research out of the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce helps us begin to demystify the credential marketplace.

The report finds that, while median income rises with more advanced credentials, the field of study matters a lot. A bachelor’s degree in architecture and engineering, for example, will land you a median salary of $85,000, far above the $46,000 median salary for education majors. Further, less education can even lead to higher earnings, depending on the field of study. Associate degree holders who study science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) earn a median salary $13,000 higher than workers with bachelor’s degrees in psychology & social work. Certainly, credentials help learners unlock career success and earn a family sustaining wage, but field of study is far more important than level of education.  

A separate Georgetown study puts a magnifying glass up to one particular type of credential,  postsecondary certifications, examining earnings for individuals who earned a certification at an Oregon community college. The study finds that, on average, certification earners experienced a 19 percent increase in earnings. And Pell students experience an even larger premium, more than 50 percent of their wages prior to enrollment, further demonstrating the power of short-term certifications to provide an on-ramp to a sustainable career.

How Can States Help Learners Navigate the Credential Environment?

As the universe of postsecondary credentials continues to grow, learners will need support and guidance to help determine which credentials to pursue and where to pursue them. Already, a number of states have developed protocols to review, verify and publish a list of high-quality, industry-recognized credentials for secondary and postsecondary students. A new 50-state scan from the Workforce Data Quality Campaign finds that 30 states identify or plan to identify credentials of value at the state level. However, only 23 states report that they analyze employment and earnings outcomes and only 21 seek regular employer input.

If credentials are going to deliver on their promise, the credentialing system must be transparent and learners must be able to know which credentials are valued in the marketplace and recognized by employers. It is important for states to set up systems to regularly gather and put to use employer input. The evidence is encouraging, but there is still a lot of work to do to help demystify the credentialing marketplace and empower learners to achieve their career goals.

To learn more about credentials of value or state strategies to promote high-quality credentials, visit the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

New Video To Help You Make The Case For CTE

May 18th, 2018

We are excited to announce a new CTE video as part of the CTE: Learning that works for America® campaign for you to watch and share with your community.

Why Is This Important? 

We know that how we discuss CTE in the media, with policymakers, employers and families matters. We are thrilled to share a new video that showcases what today’s CTE looks like and how it prepares learners for their future careers while closing the skills gap for employers across the country. We know that learners who participate in CTE graduate at a higher rate, are more satisfied with their education, and just as likely as non-CTE students to go on to postsecondary education. Now, it’s time that everyone understands the incredible value of CTE.

How Can You Use This?

This video is designed to help you make the case for CTE in your community and demonstrate the many benefits of today’s CTE! Share it at your statewide meetings, with partners, and encourage your networks to use it too.

We’ve developed a promotional toolkit to get the word out on this video, which you can find here. If you’re curious about the data points in the video, check out our one-pager on the data here.

Join the Conversation: 

To get you started here are two tweets you can share right now, but be sure you are following us on twitter @CTEWorks.

Tweet: I support the work of @CTEWorks as they continue to combat false perceptions of what CTE is and who it is for. This video highlights how CTE prepares learners for success. We hope that you will watch, share and #RT! https://careertech.org/campaign-video #CTEWorks

Tweet: Learn how Career Technical Education prepares learners for their futures while closing the skills gap for employers across the country. https://careertech.org/campaign-video #CTE #CTEWorks

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Manager 

How New Skills for Youth States are Defining Criteria for High-quality Career Pathways

May 10th, 2018

What defines a high-quality career pathway? Is it alignment to labor market needs and career opportunities? The quality and qualifications of teachers and faculty? Access to meaningful, aligned work-based learning experiences? Perhaps all of the above?

Defining the the components of high-quality career pathways is a critical priority of the 10 states participating in New Skills for Youth (NSFY), an initiative to transform career pathways and student success by expanding options for high school students. NSFY is a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Strategy Group and Advance CTE, generously funded by JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Today, Advance CTE released a series of snapshots highlighting promising practices and achievements of the 10 NSFY states, including the different approaches each state is taking to define and promote high-quality career pathways.

In Massachusetts, a cross-sector committee developed criteria for high-quality college and career pathways (HQCCP), part of an effort to improve career-readiness opportunities for students in the commonwealth. Massachusetts plans to identify, designate and support two types of high-quality secondary pathways: early college pathways, which enable students to earn up to 12 college credits in high school, and innovation pathways, which are aligned with high-demand industries. The joint committee set a high bar to designate each type of pathway. To officially be recognized as a HQCCP, pathways must:

  • Provide equitable access;
  • Be structured around guided academic pathways;
  • Incorporate enhanced student supports;
  • Expose students to different career options; and
  • Be supported by partnerships between at least one institution of higher education, a secondary district or school, and employer partners.

In 2017, Massachusetts began accepting applications to designate HQCCPs, and plans to announce designated sites shortly. These sites will receive support, and in some cases, funding, from the state, and will work together as a community to strengthen meaningful career pathways that are aligned to the joint committee’s HQCCP criteria.

Other NSFY states chose different approaches to defining quality career pathways. Ohio designed a framework for local program administrators to evaluate program quality and make informed decisions about which programs to scale up and which to phase out. The framework is designed using four dimensions: learning environment and culture, business and community engagement, educator collaboration, and pathway design.

Wisconsin took a regional approach through its Pathways Wisconsin pilot. Through the project, which has been rolled out in four regions across the state, regional Pathways Wisconsin directors are working with key stakeholders in their community to identify and recognize different career pathways within priority industry areas.

Defining criteria for high-quality career pathways was a common priority across the NSFY states. Other priorities include:

  • Expanding meaningful work-based learning opportunities and career advising supports: Rhode Island engaged state business leaders to define and develop learning standards for work-based learning that could be implemented at the high school level. Oklahoma and Wisconsin are implementing new academic and career planning policies.
  • Engaging employers to help design and validate relevant career experiences and related credentials: With the help of industry partners, Ohio developed a graduation endorsement called the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, which recognizes students who demonstrate employability skills upon graduation. In Louisiana, state leaders leveraged existing employer networks to establish education subcommittees on regional workforce development boards.
  • Expanding accountability systems to include a focus on career readiness: As states worked to develop and finalize their ESSA plans, accountability was a priority for NSFY states in 2017. Oklahoma adopted a postsecondary opportunities measure that looks at AP, IB and dual enrollment as well as industry certification and work-based learning. Separately, Kentucky is leveraging the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics to identify and validate industry-recognized credentials, which will be valued in its accountability system.
  • Beginning the work of aligning systems to lay the foundation for sustainability: Tennessee is working to integrate NSFY efforts into Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, a widely popular initiative to improve postsecondary access and success. Nevada codified the governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation into state law. Meanwhile, Delaware is working to strengthen Delaware Pathways, a statewide initiative to enhance and expand high-quality career pathways.

To learn more about the pursuits of the NSFY cohort, read the 2017 NSFY Snapshot Executive Summary or download individual state snapshots.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Putting CTE on the Frontier into Action

April 11th, 2018

Putting Learner Success First: A Shared Vision for the Future of CTE lays out a reality where all learners have access to a high-quality education that leads to rewarding career opportunities and can gain the skills they need, when they them, without the limitations of place or time.  Yet in too many states, learners in rural communities are less likely to have access to Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways, experiences and supports than their peers in suburban or urban areas.

Given the unique challenges to expanding CTE on the “frontier,” Advance CTE launched a year-long initiative to unpack the biggest barriers and identify promising practices from across the country. Based on interviews with over a dozen state secondary and postsecondary leaders – in addition to local practitioners and national experts – Advance CTE released a series of four briefs with short case studies on states’ approaches to addressing the most pressing challenges to expanding access to high-quality CTE pathways in rural communities.

While this research and the embedded case studies can serve as a critical resource for states as they advance their own priorities and policies to address gaps in rural CTE pathways and experiences, it also shined a light on how interwoven each of these challenges are and the need for states to address all of them comprehensively and collaboratively.

To support such efforts, Advance CTE has released its CTE on the Frontier: Rural CTE Strategy Guide. This tool offers series of questions for state leaders to use as they reflect on current efforts to expand access to high-quality CTE and career-focused pathways and experiences in rural communities and to identify future opportunities and actions. While many of the questions may be difficult to answer at this time, those unanswerable questions can provide a lot of direction for a state’s next steps, including data to gather and partners to engage.

Advance CTE has also released a companion facilitation guide to help state leaders make the most of this resource and to support states’ efforts to address the five cross-cutting elements of a rural CTE strategy.

Want to learn more? Join us for a webinar on the CTE on the Frontier research and lessons learned on May 17. Register today!

CTE on the Frontier briefs: 

CTE on the Frontier was developed through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

 

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