Recapping the 2017 ACTE CareerTech VISION Conference (Part 1)

December 13th, 2017

Note: Once again this year, Advance CTE attended the CareerTech VISION conference hosted by our partners, the Association for Career and Technical Education. What follows are our staff’s highlights and favorite moments.

Career Clusters at CareerTech VISION

Every year, ACTE and Advance CTE join forces to provide attendees with the opportunity to engage in informative sessions featuring best practices in program and policy, lessons learned and innovations within the Career ClustersⓇ, a national framework for organizing quality CTE programs and cultivating collaboration between secondary and postsecondary CTE. This strand, which is curated by Advance CTE, included a number of sessions digging into compelling topics and providing resources that are useful to national, state and local leaders across the country.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Selling CTE to Parents and Students

In the session, “Selling CTE: Strategies to Attract Students to High-quality CTE,” staff presented the results of our research study released earlier this year in, The Value and Promise of Career Technical Education: Results from a National Survey of Parents and Students, providing an overview of the following takeaways:

  • Students and parents involved in CTE are overwhelmingly more satisfied with their education as compared to those not involved in CTE.
  • Finding a career passion was the most important critical selling point for parents and students (over 90 percent) – even surpassing having a career that pays well;
  • The vast majority of parents and students (85 percent) continue to value college as the post-high school aspiration;
  • CTE has an awareness challenge;
  • Across the board, CTE programs are most valued for their ability to provide real-world skills within the education system, offering concrete and tangible benefits related to college and career success; and
  • Counselors, teachers and CTE students and alumni are among the most trusted sources of information for students and parents alike.

The session room was packed with more than 70 teachers and administrators seeking to learn how state and local leaders are tackling the CTE perception challenge. One state example included Maryland, which recently released a social media guide to be used in districts across the state.

Sharing CTE Excellence

Additionally, we were excited to put together a session that highlighted two of the 2017 Excellence in Action award winners, hailing from Tennessee and Mississippi. The award, which recognizes innovative and impactful programs of study across the 16 Career Clusters, provides Advance CTE with the opportunity to highlight exciting programs that serve students with the academic and technical knowledge and skills they need to be successful in careers of their choosing.  

Tyra Pilgrim, CTE Coordinator for Rutherford County Schools, presented on Oakland High School’s Mechatronics program and winner in the Manufacturing Career Cluster. The Mechatronic program, in its fourth year, was developed through collaboration with the school district and employers including Bridgestone and the Manufacturing Leadership Council. Pilgrim cited partnerships with postsecondary education and industry leaders as a key component to a program that provides students with pathways to both college and careers. She backed up the program’s success with compelling data demonstrating student achievement, including all students earning postsecondary credit and graduating high school, and 94 percent enrolling in postsecondary education and earning industry recognized credentials.

Eric Williams, Assistant Director, Emergency Medical Technology, Jones County Junior College (JCJC), followed Pilgrim’s presentation with an overview of Jones County Junior College’s Emergency Medical Technology program, a winner for the Health Sciences Career Cluster. JCJC, a model for rural postsecondary education in the south, requires learners to participate in 500 hours of training under the direct guidance of an industry expert and offers seven industry recognized credentials. Williams boasted that students have a 90 percent first-time pass rate on the professional qualifying exam, which far exceeds the national average of 60 percent.

Williams similarly highlighted partnerships as a critical component, not only with industry and secondary education, but also with community organizations. Throughout the year, he attends events ranging from blood drives to Halloween parades to get the word out about JCJC and more effectively market the program. This has resulted in an increase of participation from two students when Williams took over the program, to a yearly participation rate of 25, the cap for the program of study.

Both award winning programs provided attendees with two examples of exemplary programs and insights into how to effectively build a successful program of study.

Katie Fitzgerald, Austin Estes, Kate Kreamer, Kimberly Green, and Andrea Zimmermann — Advance CTE staff

Register & Submit Sessions for CareerTech VISION Today!

March 11th, 2015

Vision15_Site Banner

Registration is now open for CareerTech VISION 2015! NASDCTEc is particularly excited about this year’s VISION as we are organizing a series of sessions on the National Career Clusters Framework and its implementation through programs of study, featuring successful practices from Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota, California and elsewhere.

VISON 2015 features a rich array of CTE topics and programming, including:

  • 200+ breakout sessions in a variety of formats, including lecture, hands-on labs, and roundtable discussions
  • A wide range of secondary and an increased number of postsecondary CTE topics, addressing such issues as secondary to postsecondary transitions and multiple pathways to college and career readiness
  • Sessions to help attendees improve outcomes on federal and state performance indicators
  • NCAC and NAF Career Academy sessions
  • And more!

This is the biggest conference of the year for CTE educators, administrators and leaders, so don’t miss out and register today!

For those of you interested in sharing your best practices, innovative resources or relevant research you still have until March 27 to submit a proposal. Click here to submit your idea today.

 Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director, NASDCTEc

Achieving Excellence in the New School Year – Rebel Construction at Tolsia High

August 29th, 2014

As the new school year commences, our Excellence in Action award winners are hard at work, improving upon the great work that earned them our annual commendation in their respective Career Cluster®.

Tolsia High School’s Rebel Construction — part of West Virginia’s innovative Simulated Workplace initiative — is already actively building on last year’s success. The beginning of this school year saw visits from U.S. Department of Labor officials, as well as administrators from Workforce West Virginia curious to see Rebel Construction in action. (Story here.)

Wrapping the 2013-2014 school year as the most profitable of the Simulated Workplace program pilot in the state, Tolsia’s success has enhanced its already stellar reputation among West Virginia CTE programs. An early adopter of the initiative, Tolsia has set the standard for expansion schools joining in 2014-2015.

“I have spoken with representatives from several other schools seeking information on how we do things,” said CTE teacher and program lead Hugh Roberts. “Many instructors and administrators are apprehensive about getting started, but once they get into it, they find Simulated Workplace isn’t so different from what we already do in any successful program. After the first year of the pilot, my advice is to embrace students becoming partners in the operation of a CTE program. It is a huge step in changing from a teacher centered environment to a student centered learning environment and may be the most daunting for incoming programs. Students taking an active leadership role learn what it is like for their choices to have impact. It’s a new and beneficial kind of learning.”

That new learning appears to be paying dividends in student performance. One Tolsia carpentry student won the SkillsUSA West Virginia Carpentry State Championship, an honor that won him a coveted apprenticeship through Carpenters Local 302 out of nearby Huntington, WV. An archetype for a career pathway, that student’s experience is one component of broader collaboration through Tolsia carpentry/Rebel Construction, West Virginia Carpenters and SkillsUSA.

He is not the only student who has had success as a result of the program, however. Mr. Roberts acknowledges a pointed change in his relationship with students after graduation.

“In the past, I would only hear from students occasionally after graduation. Last year’s graduates developed a line communication with me through text and email through the call in process to report absences.” As a result, he says, he’s been able to actively help students as they move onto the next step in life, whether that means looking for a job or pursuing more schooling.

Nor were we the only ones to recognize Tolsia’s success last year. As a result of its success in the Simulated Workplace program, the West Virginia State Board of Education is recognizing Mr. Roberts and Rebel Construction as a standout program, and there’s plenty more upcoming for the Architecture and Construction Career Cluster award winners.

“It seems like I have never stopped in recent weeks!” Mr. Roberts said.

Evan Williamson, Communications Associate

Achieving Excellence: NASDCTEc Session Case-Making/CTE Works

June 13th, 2014

CTE_Logo_RGBMany are the times I have found myself handing over a business card or describing this corner of the education world and received in answer a blank stare and three confused letters: “CTE?”

For all of the vibrancy of modern Career Technical Education, public perception often lags reality – sometimes by decades. As CTE advocates, it is crucial that we be able to present a cogent picture of what CTE looks like today, where it is going and why it is so crucially important to our educational and economic future.

This session is designed to teach attendees strategies to overcome the knowledge gap that persists among all stakeholders – parents, educators, policymakers and more – about where CTE stands and where it is going. It will also contain a brief overview of the Learning that Works for America campaign – seeking to establish a national brand for high-quality CTE with myriad case-making resources and access to a wide-ranging network.

Want to coordinate communications with your colleagues? Or learn tips and tricks to making a lasting impression? Join us on 6/17/2014 at 8:45 a.m. in Courtroom K at the Achieving Excellence Institute!

Evan Williamson, Communications Associate

Certiport Helps CTE Programs Teach and Validate Digital Literacy Skills

June 11th, 2014

Below is a guest blog from one of our partner sponsors, Certiport. They will share information on their upcoming sessions at Achieving Excellence in CTE: The National Career Clusters Institute.

Certiport-Pearson-Logo-FinalDigital literacy and basic computing skills are increasingly necessary to help students succeed in the workforce. Technology is pervading every work environment and as a result there is a demand for skilled IT talent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50 percent of the 9.2 million jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields will be in computing and IT by the year 2020.

Although today’s digital natives have grown up immersed in technology, many do not know how to use these tools intelligently and efficiently. In order to help graduates compete, CTE programs must not only teach basic technology skills, they must be able to prove those learning outcomes. A graduate who lists “Microsoft Office Specialist Certification in Excel 2013” on their resume has a more powerful arsenal than one who simply lists “Microsoft Excel skills.” Being able to prove competency is invaluable in the job market.

As a result, CTE programs must teach students the basics of computer hardware, software, and applications to prepare them to succeed in the workforce. Technology certifications such as the Microsoft Office Specialist, Adobe Certified Associate, and IC3 Digital Literacy Certification are recognized worldwide and give students the proof they need to succeed.

For example, at Brooklyn Technical High School, 1400 freshman students take the Autodesk Inventor Certified User exam each year to build industry-recognized credentials. As students advance they take additional Autodesk Certified User exams. The Autodesk Brooklyn Technical High School Success Story shows how this cutting edge school is preparing their students for college and the workforce.

Certification validates computing excellence, in-depth knowledge and real-world skills. It differentiates and elevates the individual from the crowd. By teaching technology skills and then validating them with certification, CTE programs will help students increase:

  • Employability
  • Job Opportunities
  • Wages
  • Confidence
  • Skills
  • Productivity/Efficiency
  • Ability to Compete

As CTE leaders, there is a lot we can do to create a skilled workforce equipped with the necessary technology skills for current and future job openings. We have to expand our curriculum to teach essential workforce technical skills and validate them with certification.

To learn more about how Certiport can help your CTE program teach and validate in-demand workforce skills with industry-recognized certification, visit Certiport’s sponsor table, located in the Grande Ballroom Foyer, or

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

NOCTI Continuous Improvement in CTE and More!

June 10th, 2014

Below is a guest blog from one of our partner sponsors, NOCTI. They will share information on their upcoming sessions at Achieving Excellence in CTE: The National Career Clusters Institute.
Continuous improvement is a core component of successful programs. We recently released a new book entitled: “Putting Your Data to Work: Improving Instruction in CTE” in collaboration with ACTE. The book focuses on using research-based strategies to keep classrooms moving toward understanding data and achieving technical competence. The book discusses the importance of utilizing technical assessment data as the basis for improving CTE instructional programs. Readers will also learn a bit more about the implications of “Big Data” and “Open Badges” as well as suggestions for improving teacher training. Each chapter of the book contains “key learnings” and multiple citations regarding the research base of each component of the system. It is a great resource for any CTE teacher that is focused on continuous improvement of student competency.

NOCTI, a not-for-profit entity governed by an unpaid board elected by the State CTE Directors in all 50 states and several territories, works solely for the CTE community to provide the data and support that schools and students need. NOCTI has close relationships with ACTE, NRCCTE, NASDCTEc, and the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) just to name a few. We have many new collaborations and initiatives underway. Here are a few worth mentioning:

  • Open Badges: NOCTI has created an open badge system for NOCTI SkillBadgesâ„¢. Five states recently participated in a beta test. NOCTI will be offering the option for ALL students to earn an Open Badge this coming fall.
  • Online College Courses: Agreements have been established to provide CTE students the opportunity to take online college courses, resulting in potential college credit, free of charge, on their own time.
  • College Credit: College credit recommendations are now available to CTE students for over 100 NOCTI assessment titles as well as credit recommendations for one of our certification partner’s assessments- the American Culinary Federation.
  • Student Growth Measures: A Student Growth Measure program has been developed as a tool for the new teacher evaluation requirements that many states put into place as a result of the Race To The Top.
  • Banners: NOCTI banners are available to show pride in your school’s program quality.
  • Publications: Work is underway to start our second book, focusing on helping new teachers not only survive, but also thrive! We are looking for stories from the field. If you have a story about how you survived your first years of teaching, send it our way.

Contact us at to see how we can help you. NOCTI is also a Platinum sponsor of the 2014 Achieving Excellence Institute; be sure to stop by our booth and say hello!

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

How do you Plan to Achieve Excellence at the Achieving Excellence in CTE: The National Career Clusters Institute?

June 9th, 2014


Below is a a guest blog from one of our partner sponsors, Kuder, Inc. They will share information on their upcoming sessions at Achieving Excellence in CTE: The National Career Clusters Institute.

The 2014 Achieving Excellence Institute theme is “Achieving Excellence in CTE: The National Career Clusters Institute.” How exactly can we do that, you might ask? Connect with Kuder, Inc. during the conference to find out.

Kuder’s approach to achieving excellence is personalized and customized, one user at a time. With over 75 years of research that proves our evidence-based solutions make a positive impact on lifelong learning, development, and achievement, we are confident we can make reaching excellence an easier climb for you, your organization, and the students/clients for which you serve.

The following Kuder activities will not only provide you with innovative career development strategies, they will show you how to achieve new points of excellence in your school, district, or organization:

  • Pre-conference session: “Purpose-Driven Career Development: Implementing a Model that Works,” on June 15, 2014, from 1:00-4:30 p.m. in Grande Ballroom D (Note: You may register in advance by calling 301-588-9630 or once onsite, pre-registration is not required).
  • “Adding the “WOW” factor into your CTE program,” on June 17, 2014, at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom O.
  • Grab information about Kuder from our sponsor’s table.

We look forward to meeting you in June! Reach out to us before and during the event on Facebook or Twitter using #CCI2014.

Sincerely, The Kuder Team

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

Achieving Excellence: What’s New at SIRDC?

June 6th, 2014


Greetings from the great state of Texas and the Statewide Instructional Resources Development Center (SIRDC)!

Our team is once again looking forward to presenting a breakout session at Achieving Excellence in CTE: The National Career Clusters® Institute. We have added lots of new free lessons, teacher online courses, and resources to our website for use this coming year that we are anxious to share with you. Yes, everything on the website is still free, no username, password or credit card required! SIRDC is funded by the Texas Education Agency through a Perkins state leadership grant awarded to Stephen F. Austin State University. The purpose of this project is to develop and provide free instructional lessons, resources and professional development for Texas instructors teaching 25 courses in the following career clusters:

  • Education and Training
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services

There are currently over 280 instructional lessons published on our website additional lessons published monthly. Each lesson includes, in addition to the basic components, suggestions for special needs and ELL students, connections to core subject matter, handouts and activities, reading and writing strategies, CTSO and service learning ideas, and much more. SIRDC also provides 23 free teacher online courses, including an opportunity for instructors to earn CPE’s, see, links to additional cluster/course resources, see and a free monthly newsletter, see

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, feel free to contact me. We look forward to being with you in beautiful Phoenix, AZ!

Sandra Ann Delgado, CTE Associate Project Director, Statewide Instructional Resources Development Center

Achieving Excellence: Developing Embedded Educational Technology Professional Development Programs

May 28th, 2014

Below is an extended session description from presenter Urvi Shah, Director of Educational Technology and Innovation at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, on her upcoming session at Achieving Excellence in CTE: The National Career Clusters Institute. Sign up for this session and more today!


At Stone Ridge, we have a dynamic, engaged and motivated teaching faculty dedicated to using technology to bring forth the full potential of their students. Teachers utilize technology to teach as well as to encourage deeper student learning.

The educational technology team (made up of the Director of EdTech and Innovation as well as three Educational Technologists) at Stone Ridge has observed that the following four teacher-driven factors influence effective use and application of technology in the classroom: motivation, energy, time and resource. We recognize that the vast majority of our teachers are self-motivated to effectively utilize educational technology and have the necessary energy to put thought into their curriculum planning. However, our teachers were lacking the time and resources (especially in the form of guidance) to explore, experiment with and discuss the uses of technology for teaching and learning.

Based on these observations, the team worked with administration at Stone Ridge to develop an embedded educational technology professional development program called “Tech Sessions.” The purpose of “Tech Sessions” is to embed professional development into teacher schedules.

These sessions, which occur once every 6-8 days for 30 minutes during the school day, are assiduously developed and lead by the division’s educational technologist. The embedded nature of these sessions allows for teachers to receive regular professional development tailored and geared toward the individual teacher’s learning style, subject area and/or grade.

This embedded professional development model serves three purposes:

1) It fosters a relationship between the teachers and the educational technologists.shah1

2) It develops a safe environment for rich discussion and collaboration.

3) It encourages creativity and innovation.

Through these sessions, teachers have been booking the educational technologist to co-teach in the classroom, as well as work with teachers to plan curriculum. Teachers are beginning to feel supported and encouraged in their educational technology endeavors and finding ways to inspire their students to learn deeply.

This presentation at the Achieving Excellence Institute looks deeper into the technicalities of setting up an embedded educational technology professional development program as well as the impact it has on teaching and learning.

Ms. Urvi Shah, Director of Educational Technology and Innovation, Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart

Achieving Excellence: Integrating Common Core Standards into Engaging Problem Based Learning Projects

May 28th, 2014

Integrating CCSS into CTE

Below is an extended session description from presenter John Schwan, Business Instructor and Adjunct Professor at Oakton Community College, on his upcoming session at Achieving Excellence in CTE, the National Career Clusters Institute. Sign up for this session and more today!

Maine East High School’s business education programs have focused on the development and implementation of problem based learning strategies. The foundation of these strategies has been the integration of common core standards combined with the building of business education partnerships.

This upcoming session will focus on how CTE educators can use problem based learning strategies that are based on common core standards to drive the development of business - education partnerships in the private and public sectors.  The session will also show how these strategies can be successfully replicated by CTE educators.

The session will share a template for a CTE problem based learning curriculum based on common core standards.  He will demonstrate how this curriculum was used to successfully engage their students (grades 9-12) in higher levels of learning backed by data and evidence. He will show how CTE educators can replicate these ideas to drive the development of business – education partnerships in the private and public sectors.

There will be several interactive and collaborative activities during the session where participants will apply the concepts and tools presented in the presentation. As part of these collaborative activities, participants will be asked to share how they would use these concepts and tools in their CTE programs at their schools.

You can view an example of the Maine East CTE problem based learning strategies that will presented in the presentation at

Mr. John Schwan, Business Instructor, Adjunct Professor of Business at Oakton Community College