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

Pathways for all – With CTE at the Heart

March 9th, 2015

This blog series provides readers with insight on the valuable content that is being shared at the NASDCTEc Spring Meeting. Guest bloggers are partner organizations, supporters and other experts that will be present at the national gathering in Washington, DC in April.

For a very long time, American education has offered an either/or choice for students: Either follow a career track OR enter the (default) baccalaureate track which, while well-intended, is failing LARGE numbers of students. Today’s Pathways model offers a third choice, combining the best of both. And CTE Leaders have an incredible opportunity today to provide leadership in defining and driving the NC3T logo clean largePathways agenda.

At NC3T (National Center for College and Career Transitions), we promote the notion that school districts thrive when they work with employers and postsecondary partners to create a “pathways for all” approach. The Pathways for All approach is more flexible, individualized, and based on the real needs and opportunities in today’s workforce, where skills and knowledge, not years of schooling, leads to meaningful work and family-sustaining earnings.  To accomplish this, each district develops a broad array of pathways, some which are more career- or occupation-specific, and some which are more thematic, like social justice, visual arts, and global leadership.  Ideally, each pathway is designed to lead to several post-secondary options, such as programs leading to certificate programs, associate degrees, and baccalaureate degrees.

To explore this comprehensive Pathways-for-All system, CTE local administrators and state leaders are well positioned (probably best-positioned) to help drive the conversation.  You can drive the Pathways conversation from several entry points, including   Readiness, Teaching and Learning, Effective Employer Engagement, Postsecondary Connections, and Career Development.

Help Define Student Readiness For Work and Life Success
CTE leaders can continue to advance the idea that readiness requires more than academic skills.  Readiness for all students includes Learning Skills, Thinking Skills, Communication Skills, Executive Skills, Persistence and Work Ethic, Interpersonal Competencies, Career Search and Career Management, Civic Awareness and Commitment.

We should stand against definitions that define Career Readiness separately from Postsecondary Readiness.  Yes, there are specific technical skills that are a gateway for certain careers.  But apart from that narrow band of skills, for the most part, the skills and knowledge and attitudes for work success and postsecondary success are the same, but they’re just applied differently based on the learner’s or worker’s context.  A student is really just a worker whose immediate job is learning.

Create Dynamic Teaching and Learning
CTE leaders can work to ensure that CTE teachers learn and apply the most promising and effective teaching practices, utilizing active learning strategies like project-based, problem-based, and inquiry-based learning.  Although CTE content is based on industry-based skills, CTE instruction can easily fall prey to the same trap as a core academic course, in which a teacher “stands and delivers,” conveying information about a career field or the processes of that field, without challenging the students to engage in deeper learning, problem solving, and creativity.  Some CTE teachers deep down may believe that their students can’t learn more deeply, and that simple regurgitation of information and imitation of skills are the best they will be able to accomplish.  This is where strong professional development, and challenging teacher perceptions through collaborative leadership, are essential.

Model effective employer involvement
In a strong pathways system, employers and volunteers are actively involved in classrooms, interacting regularly with students, and helping students get into the workplace.  CTE programs can always get better at utilizing employers in multiple facets of their work.  A good first step is to re-purpose your program Advisory Councils into “Partnership Councils” with the goal of driving deep business-industry involvement in all aspects of instruction, career mentoring, and experiential learning.

Engage leaders from postsecondary education
Each pathway program of study needs active collaboration among teachers and faculty, so that curriculum can be well-aligned and offer early college credits.  CTE teachers and administrators can create the structures and processes for collaboration and recognizing student learning for college credit that others in the school system and colleges can build upon.

Inform Career Exploration
CTE leaders and staff usually have the best understanding and access for career-based information.  They can help inform a comprehensive K-12 career exploration and career development system.

Start the Bigger Conversation
CTE leaders are particularly able, and well-positioned, to develop good working relationships with K-12 system leaders, postsecondary education, and employers. As a result, they are the ideal point people to convene these sectors and begin to explore what a Pathways System looks like.  You can host a business-education summit; create a Readiness-forum among K-12, postsecondary and employers; or call partners together to discuss the merits and challenges of the Pathways-for-All approach.

Positive Momentum
If you’re in the CTE movement, you may already recognize that the wind is behind our backs in this work.  Many educators, parents, and business/community leaders are troubled and looking for better answers: They realize that core standards and testing are necessary, but not sufficient, because alone they do not adequately engage enough students. They recognize that too many students are pursuing college and taking on debt without a realistic career objective. And they understand there is a broad continuum of postsecondary options for which our guidance systems and programs of study don’t match up well. The result is that only 40 percent of our young adults complete an Associate’s degree or BA program, and about half of young adults lack tangible knowledge and skills that are in-demand.

Just promoting college-going isn’t enough: We must promote discovery, exploration and postsecondary education that has purpose.

So, the wind is behind our backs, but it could change direction at any time. We need to act quickly and help build consensus about what a Pathways-for-All system can be in our communities.

Federal rules, regulations and funding are slow in coming, which is why the pioneering leadership we’re seeing at the state and local levels now is so critical. CTE isn’t the full answer, but it is a foundational part of what a pathways system will become, and CTE leaders can help leverage and engage all facets of our education system to create Pathway Systems that work.

Thank you for your indispensable leadership.  We are standing with you.

Hans Meeder, President and Co-Founder
National Center for College and Career Transitions

Thanks to NC3T for being a NASDCTEc Spring meeting sponsor!

This Week in CTE

March 6th, 2015

@CareerBuilder  The title says it all: 13 growing occupations with certifications to boost your hireability and pay grade: .

How Google and Coursera May Upend the Traditional College Degree
Coursera, the online education firm and Google, who needs no introduction, have teamed up to bring together Instagram and a variety of other tech companies to launch microdegrees. These microdegrees will consist of online courses and a hands-on capstone project designed with input from universities and tech industry focused on providing learners less expensive and customizable degrees.

Power of Entrepreneurship
Intel released this video on how today’s technology can help people overcome barriers to starting the businesses they want.

NASDCTEc 2015 Spring Meeting!
NASDCTEc’s Spring Meeting is only a month away! Join us in Washington, D.C. to hear from national leaders, work together to build common solutions to problems facing Career Technical Education, get the latest state and federal policy updates, hear from best practice programs of study from across the country and network with State CTE Directors and partnering organizations. Registration closes March 20, so register today!

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

NOCTI: Honoring our Past and Embracing our Future

March 3rd, 2015

This blog series provides readers with insight on the valuable content that is being shared at the NASDCTEc Spring Meeting. Guest bloggers are partner organizations, supporters and other experts that will be present at the national gathering in Washington, DC in April.

From our early days 49 years ago as part of the “vocational” teacher certification process, to our current leadership in the areas of technical data-driven instructional improvement, credentialing and digital badging, NOCTI has always been proud to be an important member of the career NOCTI--Navy-11-2009and technical education (CTE) community.  As a non-profit entity lead by a board elected by the 56 state directors of CTE around the country and in US territories, we do our best to stay ahead of the needs of the field we serve. Though we won’t discuss the specifics of those needs in this blog, we will mention how NOCTI is working to provide forward-thinking solutions for the CTE community.

At our core, we consider everyone we work with to be a partner striving to make CTE as strong as it can be.  Recognizing outstanding established and promising CTE teachers and administrators is important to NOCTI and one reason why we provide awards each year to these CTE professionals. NOCTI’s awards focus on the qualities important to our founders and are awarded each year at the ACTE Vision conference.  In addition, we participate in additional opportunities for our students to show off their skills, most recently through the NOCTI-sponsored Video Contest as part of CTE Month.  NOCTI received 44 video submissions from media classrooms across the nation focused on the 2015 theme “Mission CTE.”  Check out the videos here!  Finally, here are a few other resources worth mentioning.

Collaborations: In addition to the numerous industry association partnerships we maintain, we believe that connecting to our community and related communities is critical. NOCTI has close relationships with NASDCTEc and Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) as well as the National Academy Foundation, the International Baccalaureate Program, Mozilla, the National College Test Administrators and the Association of Test Publishers.

Teacher Tests: We continue to fulfill our commitment to expand our current teacher testing battery. We recognize that we are the only organization with the ability to assure that incoming instructors have experiences in all aspects of their particular industry, and that this has always been part of our history. NOCTI has increased its teacher test offerings to reinforce a commitment to this important population.

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA): By leveraging our association with the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS), NOCTI is able to assess experiences that have occurred outside the classroom through Prior Learning Assessments. This service has been particularly successful with our returning servicemen and servicewomen and community college partners.

Digital Badges: NOCTI currently offers over 120 digital badges. We are collaborating with multiple partners to deliver badges that include both summative and formative structures, as well as badges for both cognitive and hands-on skills.  Badges are also being explored that are based on both asynchronous and synchronous evaluation.  Lastly, we have also started work with a number of our industry partners in building customized badging platforms.

Deep Analytical Reports: By utilizing NOCTI-collected data, we can assist states and regions in identifying which programs–and by extension which teachers–are able to deliver technical instruction that facilitates student competence. What would you do as a curricular leader in your state if you were able to objectively identify the best blueprint reading program in your state? We think we know the answer and we are providing the data to help states get there.

Industry Credentials: All NOCTI assessments are industry credentials and include benchmarks established by industry.  When utilized properly, the assessments provide a way to compare student competence against current industry standards in over 100 unique programs of study.  Local industry practitioners play an important role in assisting with the comparison between knowledge and skills learned and applied.  NOCTI also currently delivers over 40 collaborative industry association credentials.

Contact us at  to see how we can help you. NOCTI is excited to be a Gold sponsor of the NASDCTEc Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C.; be sure to seek us out and say hello!

Thank you NOCTI for sponsoring the 2015 Spring Meeting!

Register today for NASDCTEc’s 2015 Spring Meeting!

February 11th, 2015

The NASDCTEc Spring meeting is just around the corner, so register now!
With confirmed speakers from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, Aspen Institute, Education Week, Education Daily, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Manufacturing Institute, among others, our upcoming Spring meeting is shaping up to be our best yet!

Participants will learn from national experts and each another on topics such as career pathways, private sector credentialing and CTE in the media, and get the latest on federal policy through panels, collaboration roundtables and breakout sessions. Visit our agenda page for more details.

Don’t miss out on this exciting and informative event!

Member registration
Non-member registration

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

Celebrating CTE Month

February 3rd, 2015

Happy CTE Month! Throughout the month we will highlight CTE resources, examples of stellar progctemonththumbnailrams from around the country, major onsite and online events and more. To start of us off, below are a list of a few events.

CTE Month is kicking off tonight, Tuesday, February 3 from 5-8 p.m. as the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus in conjunction with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and Project Lead The Way (PLTW) host a cocktail reception featuring student demonstrations, titled: TODAY’S INNOVATION, TOMORROW’S CAREER SUCCESS. We’ll be live Tweeting the event @CTEWorks too! RSVP by contacting

Can’t join us in person? You can find us on Twitter on February 12 at 1 p.m. as we chat with the College and Career Readiness and Success Center using the @CTEWorks and @CCRSCenter twitter handles.

Friday, February 20 from 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., ACTE will partner with Montgomery College of Maryland and Montgomery County School District to host a school visit at the college’s Rockville, Maryland, campus on Friday. This visit will give congressional staff and education stakeholders the opportunity to see an example of a successful postsecondary CTE program and hear from educators, students and business leaders about how these programs are preparing students for college and career success. To learn more, email

We look forward to highlighting and celebrating CTE over the next few weeks. If you have anything you’d like to share that you’re doing in your community, email

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

Register Today for Upcoming Webinars

February 2nd, 2015

There’s still time to register for NASDCTEc’s upcoming webinars!

2014 State CTE Policy Reviewspr
February 5, 2015, 3 – 4 p.m. ET
States are increasingly looking to CTE as a means to help close the skills gap and boost the number of people with a postsecondary credential. Join us as we step through the major state policy trends affecting CTE from 2014 including new laws, executive actions and regulatory activity. This webinar will coincide with the release of the second annual “2014 State CTE Policy Review,” a joint publication from ACTE and NASDCTEc.


  • Catherine Imperatore, Research Manager, Association for Career and Technical Education
  • Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate, National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium

Register Today

Employer Engagement: State PerspectivesUntitled
February 10, 2015, 2 – 3 p.m. ET
Join us for an in-depth discussion as we take a closer look at how Alabama and Kansas, in concert with their employer partners, work together to inform, align and enhance their CTE systems at the secondary and postsecondary levels. This webinar is the second in a series on employer engagement. To learn more about employer engagement in CTE, check out our newest report!


  • Dr. Philip C. Cleveland, Alabama State Director of CTE and Workforce Development
  • George Clark, President, Manufacture Alabama and Chair of the Alabama Workforce Investment Board
  • Dr. Blake Flanders, Vice President of Workforce Development, Kansas Board of Regents
  • Keven Ward, Public Sector Consultant, Trane

Register Today

2015 Spring Meeting Registration Open

January 15th, 2015

Join us April 8 – 10, 2015 in Washington, DC 2014-11-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-washington-dc-back-Marko-Berndtfor NASDCTEc’s annual Spring Meeting. This meeting is designed to bring together secondary and postsecondary leaders in Career Technical Education (CTE), as well as national partners and CTE stakeholders to share and learn from one another. Meeting themes include cross-systems collaboration, innovative state solutions and a state and federal policy outlook. We hope you can join us! Get more information on the Spring Meeting’s agenda and logistics on the event homepage.

Be sure to register by February 2 to take advantage of our early bird registration. Members and non-members should register today to secure these special rates.

We look forward to seeing you in April!

Member registration
Non-member registration

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

Upcoming Webinars

January 6th, 2015

Strategies for Financing CTE
January 15, 2015, 2 – 3 p.m. ET
Authors of the new report, “State Strategies for Financing CTE,” will unpack the study’s important findings. Co-hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, this webinar will explore the ways in which states are financing CTE at the secondary and post-secondary levels using state and federal funds, including a closer look at performance-based funding approaches. For an overview of the report, check out our Learning that Works blog.


  • Steve Klein — Director, Center for Career & Adult Education and Workforce Development, RTI International/Principal Investigator for the National Center for Innovation in Career and Technical Education
  • Laura Rasmussen Foster — Program Director, RTI International/National Center for Innovation in Career and Technical Education
  • Suzanne Hultin — Policy Specialist, Education Program, National Conference of State Legislatures
  • Andrea Zimmermann — State Policy Associate, NASDCTEc

Register Today

2014 State CTE Policy Review
February 5, 2015, 3 – 4 p.m. ET
States are increasingly looking to CTE as a means to help close the skills gap and boost the number of people with a postsecondary credential. Join us as we step through the major state policy trends affecting CTE from 2014 including new laws, executive actions and regulatory activity. This webinar will coincide with the release of the second annual “2014 State CTE Policy Review,” a joint publication from ACTE and NASDCTEc.


  • Catherine Imperatore, Research Manager, Association for Career and Technical Education
  • Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate, National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium

Register Today

Employer Engagement: State Perspectives
February 10, 2015, 2 – 3 p.m. ET
Join us on February 10th from 2 – 3 PM ET to take an in-depth look at how specific states and employers inform, align and enhance their CTE systems at the secondary and postsecondary levels.


  • Dr. Phil Cleveland, Alabama State Director of CTE and Workforce Development
  • Dr. Blake Flanders, Vice President of Workforce Development, Kansas Board of Regents
  • Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate, NASDCTEc
  • Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager, NASDCTEc

Register Today 

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

Experts discuss CCSSO Opportunities and Options Report on the Importance of Career Readiness

December 1st, 2014
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) brought together leaders in K-12, higher education and the business community today to discuss recommendations from CCSSO’s newly released report encouraging states to make career readiness a priority.

The report, Opportunities and Options: Making Career Preparation work for Students, resulted from a year-long taskforce including K-12, higher education and affiliate groups such as NASDCTEc. Opportunities and Options, supported by 43 states and territories to date, presents a clear set of actions states can take to close the skills gap and ensure more students graduate from high school prepared for high-skill, high-demand careers.

These recommendations include:

  • Developing sustainable employee and business partnerships,
  • Creating high-quality career pathways, and
  • Prioritizing accountability systems
Maura Banta, IBM’s Director of Global Citizen Initiatives in Education and task force representative reiterated the necessity of partnering business and education to create career-ready workers if the U.S. is to remain a global competitor. To accomplish this, businesses can take the lead in showcasing their passion for collaborating with education, developing staff-buy in and focusing on both short term and long term outcomes.

Terry Holliday, Kentucky Education Commissioner and Career Readiness Task Force Chairman urged states to develop high-quality pathways that help all students reach successful careers in their communities. To that end, Holliday urged local and national groups representing education, business and stakeholders, to streamline credentials and certifications to help students determine what credentials are necessary in today’s workforce.

Scott Ralls, North Carolina Community College Systems President discussed the interest gap that exists in CTE, and called on states to work with students earlier to showcase the opportunities that exist within CTE, and how it can prepare students for living wage careers.

Lastly, June Atkinson, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction and incoming President of CCSSO, outlined a series of the ways in which CTE can move forward. She highlighted Opportunities and Options’ capability to serve as a resource for recommendations for Carl D. Perkins Act reauthorization; the opportunity for states to network to share information, challenges and lessons learned; and the necessity to engage State Governors to move the CTE agenda forward.

To learn more about the report, find NASDCTEc’s press release here, and the full report here.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

This Week in CTE

November 7th, 2014

Opportunity Nation: If we promise to stop trying to make #fetch happen, will you promise to help us make #CTE happen?

ARTICLE OF THE WEEK: In South Carolina, A Program That Makes Apprenticeships Work
South Carolina was facing a shortage of qualified workers, so launched an innovative apprenticeship program in a variety of fields including nursing, pharmacy and IT. The tax credit for companies certainly helps, but the major influence has been the German companies, BMW and Bosch, who have plants in South Carolina and developed a system of apprenticeships similar to Germany’s. “Apprenticeships are win-win,” says Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. “Apprentices are opportunities for young people to punch their ticket to the middle class and for employers to get that critical pipeline of skilled labor.”
Read More 

We released a new fact sheet this fall providing an overview about what CTE is and why it’s important, all backed up by hard data. For example: CTE concentrators are far less likely to drop out of high school than the national average, estimated savings of $168 billion per year.
Read More

WEBINAR OF THE WEEK: The State of Employer Engagement in CTE
Over the summer, NASDCTEc conducted a survey of the State CTE Directors to better
understand how and in what ways employers are engaging in CTE today. December 3rd from 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET, we will host a free webinar that will unpack the survey’s results and seek to illustrate the employer engagement landscape with a particular focus on the ways in which states are and can foster and sustain meaningful employer engagement to strengthen their CTE system for all students.
Register for free

RESEARCH REPORT OF THE WEEK: Labor Market Returns to Sub-Baccalaureate Credentials: How Much Does a Community College Degree or
Certificate Pay?
A new study published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, which studied 24,000 first-time community college students in Washington, found that short-term certificates have ‘minimal to no positive effects.’ However, it is important to note the value of these short-term certificates as stackable credentials that can lead to more training and experience. “It can be a foundation that gets you in the door and it gives you something you can work towards,” said Kate Blosveren, Assistant Executive Director of NASDCTEc.
Read More 

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate