For the past 32 years, the National Council for Agricultural Education (The Council) has provided leadership for stakeholders in agriculture, food, fiber and natural resources systems education. As part of its goal of to stimulate positive growth in agricultural education, The Council recently completed a review and revision of the agriculture, food and natural resources (AFNR) Career Cluster Content Standards.
The AFNR Career Cluster Content Standards originally were developed as part of the 2003 U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Career Clusters Project. Last revised in 2009, the new version of the standards have a number of advancements, with the revision focused on ensuring that they:
- Reflect essential and up-to-date knowledge and skills that students need to be ready for early-career success in a variety of AFNR disciplines;
- Provide a sound basis upon which to design AFNR related Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses; and
- Provide a sound basis for developing end of course/program assessments to measure students’ attainment of essential disciplinary knowledge and skills.
Another goal of this revision project was to identify strategies for encouraging greater adoption and use at the state and local level. One way we did this was by partnering with NASDCTEc to fully align our work to the Common Career Technical Core (CCTC) Career Ready Practices and the AFNR Career Cluster standards to encourage State Directors of CTE to see them as a viable resource to build courses in the AFNR cluster and assess performance, as well as to help agricultural educators better demonstrate how their students perform within the CCTC. Prior to the 2015 revision, the correlation and alignment between this standards set and the AFNR CCTC had been vague. The standards were also cross-walked to several other key frameworks including the Next Generation Science Standards, the Common Core Standards, and the National Standards for Financial Literacy.
The AFNR Career Cluster Content Standards provide state agricultural education leaders and educators with a high-quality, rigorous set of standards to guide what students should know and be able to do after completing a program of study in each of the eight AFNR career pathways.
State leaders and local educators are encouraged to use the standards as a guide for the development of well-planned curriculum and assessments for AFNR-related CTE programs. These standards are intended to help shape the design of all components of an agricultural education program including:
- Classroom and laboratory instruction.
- Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) experiences through organizations such as the National FFA Organization and the Post-Secondary Agriculture Students Organization (PAS).
- Work-based learning experiences such as Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) Programs and internships.
Just as agriculture varies throughout our nation and around the world, so will our agricultural education programs. While adoption and use of these standards is voluntary, states and local entities are encouraged to adapt the standards to meet local needs. States should explore these standards in conjunction with state and local advisory committees to determine what is most relevant and appropriate for their students in providing that all-important link between the school and the business community.
The AFNR industry is a highly technical and ever-changing sector of the global economy upon which everyone is dependent. We will continue to meet national and global demand for a safe and abundant food, fiber and fuel supply only if we invest in the growth and development of the human capital for the AFNR industry. Strong, relevant AFNR CTE programs that are informed by industry and education stakeholders are one way we can meet workforce needs now and in the future.
For further information professionals are asked to consult the standards documents online at https://www.ffa.org/thecouncil/afnr or by contacting The Council directly at 317-753-3319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was contributed by Mike Honeycutt, Managing Director, National Council for Agricultural Education.