High-quality State Policy is Crucial for Ensuring Program Quality

October 3rd, 2017

Advance CTE has just released a Policy Benchmark Tool that will allow states to evaluate and improve their program approval policies. In this tool, Advance CTE has defined and described the non-negotiable elements of an effective policy for approving and evaluating programs of study, which encompass both secondary and postsecondary CTE.

Any policy – be it regulatory, legislative or programmatic – related to ensuring high-quality CTE programs are developed and implemented should include and/or address the following core elements. While there may be other elements within a CTE program approval policy, if a state does not address the list below, its CTE program approval policy will not be able to sufficiently ensure that all CTE programs are high-quality.

  1. Rigorous course standards and progressive, sequenced courses: All CTE programs must be comprehensive, aligned with rigorous standards and prepare learners for opportunities in high-skill and in-demand fields
  2. Secondary and postsecondary alignment and early postsecondary offerings: All CTE programs must vertically align across the secondary and postsecondary education levels to ensure seamless transitions for learners, and allow learners to earn credentials of value, including postsecondary certificates and degrees.
  3. Industry involvement: Industry partners at the state and local level must play an active role to identify, develop and regularly review CTE programs of study.  
  4. Labor market demand: CTE programs must prepare learners for careers in high-skill and high-demand fields.
  5. High-quality instruction: Any CTE program must have appropriately certified instructors in place before being approved by the state. Ensuring instructors have the necessary academic content, knowledge of pedagogy and industry expertise must also be a top priority.
  6. Experiential learning: High-quality CTE programs must provide opportunities for learners to engage in authentic experiential learning both inside and outside of the classroom.  

 

State leaders can use the CTE Program Approval Policy Assessment Rubric to identify gaps in their current state policy on these six criteria and prioritize policies that validate potential programs of study in a way that shows they are high-quality and are aligned with the state’s vision and definition of success. Once state leaders have completed an assessment of their state’s CTE program approval policies, they can begin planning for implementation using the templates and prompts. After they have completed these sections, state leaders can then examine the CTE Program Evaluation Policy Criteria for potential criteria to inform CTE program re-approval, evaluation and potentially phasing out CTE programs that are not deemed high-quality.

To support its members in using this tool, Advance CTE has also created a facilitation guide for the rubric, and is eager to provide virtual and/or in-person assistance to a select number of interested states. Email Ashleigh McFadden at amcfadden@careertech.org for more information.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

New Advance CTE Brief on Rural Access to the World of Work

September 28th, 2017

High school students at Tolsia High School in West Virginia have created an industry-validated carpentry business within their classroom.  Students at Haynesville Junior/Senior High School in Louisiana are connected with physical therapists, diesel mechanics, a marriage and family counselor and other industry professionals on a biweekly basis through virtual “micro-industry engagements.” In North Dakota, nursing students can earn their associate’s degree through one of four community colleges, while taking their classes at rural hospitals and health care facilities.  And in Montana, a mobile laboratory is deployed across the state to engage students around various career opportunities.

These are just some of the strategies states are leveraging to ensure all learners – regardless of geography, transportation barriers or the size or diversity of their local industries – are exposed to the world of work.

To help states identify innovative and scalable strategies for ensuring geography doesn’t limit access to real-world experiences, Advance CTE today released the second in a series of briefs titled CTE on the Frontier: Connecting Rural Learners with the World of Work. (You can read the first brief on program quality here). The brief explores state strategies to expand access to work-based learning, employer engagement and industry-driven pathways for rural learners, drawing on promising practices from the states:

  • In West Virginia, Simulated Workplace allows students to transform their classrooms into business and is now available in every school across the state, reaching over 13,000 students.
  • Louisiana – as part of its Jump Start CTE initiative – has launched a multi-faceted effort combining technology and hands-on teacher supports to provide rural students with employer engagement, a process the state calls “micro-industry engagement.”
  • The Dakota Nursing Program, in North Dakota, leverages existing infrastructure and partnerships to turn health care facilities and hospitals into college classrooms, training over 2,000 health care professionals since its launch.
  • Montana is strategically leveraging federal, state and private funds to expand CTE and apprenticeships across the state in health care and other high-demand fields.

While there is no simple solution or silver bullet, states are making important progress and leveraging innovative ways to bring the world of work to learners and provide the necessary resources, technical assistance and supports to ensure local communities can support and sustain those efforts.

CTE on the Frontier: Connecting Rural Learners with the World of Work 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

This Week in CTE

September 22nd, 2017

WEBINAR OF THE WEEK

Safe Students, Safe Workers: Construction Safety Programs in Post-Secondary Career Technical Education Webinar: Learn what post-secondary Career Technical Education programs (CTE) in construction are doing and how to support development of students’ skills for safe work in the classroom and on the job. What administrative systems, instructor support, curriculum content and teaching activities are needed? Presenters will share concrete examples and results from site visits, interviews, and a national survey of instructors and administrators in construction CTE programs in 2-year colleges, as well as action steps and resources for administrators and instructors of CTE programs from a new guide.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE WEEK 

Submit a proposal to the 2018 Linked Learning Convention. The Convention brings together more than 900 leaders from education, workforce, research, policy, and nonprofits for strategic conversations and meaningful professional learning aimed at ensuring all students are well prepared for college, career, and life.

TOOL OF THE WEEK 

CNA recently released its interactive labor market analysis tool, which is intended to help CTE stakeholders identify high-wage, high-demand careers and associated education and/or training requirements. The tool was created using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ national job projections until 2024.

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Communications Associate

Latest Advance CTE Brief Examines Rural CTE Program Quality

August 22nd, 2017

When Todd County School District received a $103,000 grant in 2014 under Governor Dennis Daugaard’s South Dakota Future Fund, the rural South Dakota district put the money to use, administering a survey of local business leaders to identify the career pathways that were most in need in the community. With the information collected through the survey, Todd County School District updated and aligned Career Technical Education (CTE) curriculum to better reflect employer needs.

Targeted investments like Gov. Daugaard’s fund, which has since evolved into South Dakota’s Workforce Education Grant program, provide a catalyst for rural districts and institutions to improve CTE program quality and ensure career pathways are aligned with labor market needs and student interest.

Improving CTE quality in rural communities is an imperative for all states, yet rural CTE programs often face unique challenges that are not present in more densely populated areas. For example, decentralization, lack of resources and more limited employer relationships in rural communities can result in the preservation of legacy programs over more industry-relevant career pathways. Decisions about what programs to offer are too often driven by the availability of equipment or facilities, teacher supply and even tradition.

To help states improve the quality of rural CTE, Advance CTE today released the first in a series of briefs titled CTE on the Frontier: Catalyzing Local Efforts to Improve Program Quality. The brief explores state strategies to improve the quality of local CTE programs to ensure they meet industry needs and expand opportunities for rural learners, drawing on promising practices from the states:

  • In Nebraska, the reVISION initiative has helped bring together education and business leaders in 87 districts since 2012. Through the initiative, state officials provide local leaders with labor market information to help develop strategic action plans and design CTE programs that are aligned to regional labor market needs.
  • South Dakota’s Workforce Education Grant program distributes competitive funds to support CTE programs in rural districts. Through the 18-month grant period, the South Dakota Department of Education provides technical assistance and coaching to help local grant recipients maximize the use of funds.
  • A program alignment initiative in Idaho has helped link secondary and postsecondary programs through statewide articulation agreements and technical skills assessments. Officials from the Division of Career & Technical Education regularly convene secondary and postsecondary educators to examine student learning expectations and ensure learners are set up for success when they transition to college, no matter where they come from
  • Meanwhile, Mississippi’s Community College Board employs a program approval process that requires all postsecondary programs to justify employer need and student demand before they are approved. Further, postsecondary CTE curricula are developed by the Board, ensuring that all learners, particularly those in rural communities, can access the same high quality, industry-aligned content.

These examples demonstrate different approaches state leaders can take to empower local leaders and support program improvement in rural areas. Future briefs in the CTE on the Frontier series will tackle other common challenges, including learner access to the world of work, employing strategic partnerships to increase program offerings and strengthening the rural CTE teacher pipeline.

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

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

 

How Career Readiness Fared in the First ESSA State Plans

July 6th, 2017

On December 10, 2015, the day he signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, President Barack Obama praised the bill, saying “I’m proud to sign a law that’s going to make sure that every student is prepared to succeed in the 21st century.” ESSA did provide a much-needed upgrade to the nation’s largest K-12 education program, adopting measures to ensure all learners would be prepared for success. But now that the first 16 states and D.C. have submitted their ESSA plans for review, are they taking full advantage of the opportunities to prepare students for life after high school?

Today Advance CTE and the Education Strategy Group released a new brief examining where and how career readiness shows up in the first 17 ESSA plans. The brief finds that, while more than half plan to adopt measures of career readiness in their accountability systems, many states missed an opportunity to fully leverage ESSA to advance a statewide vision of career readiness.

The primary area where career readiness shows up in round 1 ESSA plans is in state accountability systems. Under ESSA, state leaders have broad flexibility to identify the appropriate metrics and methodology to hold schools accountable for student success. Specifically, ESSA’s fifth indicator, a state-selected measure of “school quality or student success,” enables states to innovate in selecting a measure that best values their priorities. Among other measures, states were encouraged to examine advanced coursework and postsecondary success.

In total, 11 out of the first 17 submitted plans identified at least one measure of career readiness in their accountability systems. In Nevada, for example, the state plans to measure the number of students completing postsecondary pathway options such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or industry-aligned and state board-approved credentials. North Dakota, on the other hand, aims to track the number of students graduating “choice-ready,” or prepared for success in college, military or the workforce. The state’s career ready pathway identifies students who complete certain career preparation activities — including work-based learning, Career Technical Education (CTE) pathway completion and industry credential attainment — on top of core academic achievements.

Yet, when it came to other areas of the law, many states missed the opportunity to further a statewide vision for career readiness. Despite what they said in their goals and accountability systems, many state plans were light on details about how they would support local districts to advance career readiness. Only five states identified state-level activities under Title IV, Part A (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants) to support career readiness, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and/or dual enrollment. These included Connecticut, which plans to provide technical assistance to districts building new CTE pathways and increasing work-based learning opportunities, and Nevada, which plans to braid funding across Title programs to help districts engage families and facilitate a deeper understanding of a well-rounded education, including enrollment in advanced coursework such as CTE. (Most states listed CTE and other strategies as a state support for well-rounded education, but fell short of describing how ESSA would be used to expand these strategies).

Needless to stay, there is still time to promote career readiness through implementation. In the spirit of flexibility, the U.S. Department of Education’s requirements for ESSA plan submissions were incredibly tolerant, allowing states to describe in loose terms how they planned to implement the law. While state plans were light on details, supporting career preparation was a major theme surfaced through many states’ stakeholder engagement. It is possible that state leaders will yet be responsive to this feedback and find ways to strengthen career readiness beyond accountability.

For the 34 states planning to submit their plans in September, now is the time to ensure career readiness is prioritized. ESSA was designed to create space and flexibility for states to advance their own needs and priorities. But if it is truly going to prepare all students for success in the 21st century, states must maximize every opportunity to connect ESSA to their statewide vision for career readiness.

For more, join Advance CTE on July 20 for a webinar unpacking trends from the brief and highlighting strategies to leverage ESSA in support of career readiness. The webinar, titled Connecting ESSA to Your State’s Vision for Career Readiness, will take place from 1-2pm ET. Register here.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate and Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

New Resource: Connecting CTE Students & Apprenticeship Programs

June 21st, 2017

Last week was certainly a big one for apprenticeships! In the midst of White House announcement, U.S. Department of Labor memo and the introduction of legislation in the Senate was the release of a new report form Advance CTE – Opportunities for Connecting Secondary Career and Technical Education Students and Apprenticeship Programs.

This new report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education and prepared by Advance CTE with support from Jobs for the Future, Vivayic and RTI International to help state and local leaders begin to understand the ways in which they could expand access to apprenticeships for high school students, and bring the CTE and apprenticeship systems into better alignment.

At the center of this paper are eight case studies of aligned CTE-apprenticeship programs, which Advance CTE and its partners visited last year to see how they were providing opportunities for high school students to engage directly in pre-apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and/or registered apprenticeships.

While the eight sites differ in structure, intensity and the state policy environment, there are common lessons learned that apply to any state and local leader looking to build such programs in their own communities.

For example, when it comes to program design, we found there is no inherently “right” or “wrong” approach to connecting CTE students to apprenticeship programs. The sites’ geographic, socioeconomic, and resource characteristics, and differing administrative or legislative policies, all impacted program structure. That being said, when considering program design, a few takeaways emerged:

  • Programs must align with workforce demand, at the state, regional, and local levels – an lead to real employment options for students.
  • Effective programs require meaningful collaboration and buy-in from all partners. Teachers, employers, parents, and students must see the value of their participation if the program is going to succeed
  • At most sites, the drive for the program came from employers and/or labor associations seeking to bolster their pipeline of workers – and this was key to their launch and success.
  • There is no minimum or maximum number of students who should participate in a program. Program size simply has to be a function of regional demand and available placements with apprenticeship sponsors- and so some program just need to stay small

Advance CTE & Apprenticeships
From Advance CTE’s perspective, aligning CTE and apprenticeship programs, policies and systems is simply common sense. It comes down to providing more pathways to college and career success for more students and for strengthening our overall talent pipeline in key industries like advanced manufacturing, IT and construction, which leveraging existing structures. But, we still see too many missed opportunities due to largely disconnected systems.

This is why, even as this project winds down, we will continue to support efforts to strengthen apprenticeships, and their connections to CTE at the secondary and postsecondary levels, through partnerships like Apprenticeship Forward and ongoing discussions with OCTAE and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Apprenticeship.

Related Resources
In addition to the report, OCTAE also commissioned supportive resources to help state and local leaders turn this research into action, including two recently-released videos on Expanding Opportunities: Aligning CTE and Apprenticeship and Elements of CTE and Apprenticeship Alignment. Later this summer, OCTAE will be releasing a planning guide, templates and mini-guides to bring all the key partners to the table.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

This Week in CTE

June 16th, 2017

TWEET OF THE WEEK

RESOURCE OF THE WEEK

By integrating classroom instruction and hands-on learning, both apprenticeships and CTE can enhance the high school experience and better prepare learners for future career success. Not to mention, secondary apprenticeships equip students with skills in high-demand career pathways, helping to strengthen the talent pool and close critical skills gaps.

A new report, Opportunities for Connecting Secondary Career and Technical Education Students and Apprenticeship Programs, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education and prepared by Advance CTE with support from Jobs for the Future, Vivayic and RTI International, profiles eight secondary apprenticeship programs to identify strategies to connect CTE with apprenticeship programs. The report classifies each program as either an apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship and maps each by the degree of instructional alignment and program articulation.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE WEEK

The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program is conducting a survey to learn the perspectives of individuals focused on preparing young people ages 16- 24 for work. If you provide services to youth in this age range, complete this survey.

AWARD OF THE WEEK

On Monday, applications open to the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which includes over $500,000 awarded to 10 outstanding skilled trades teachers in American public high schools and the skilled trades programs in their schools.

Judges for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence will look for those programs that are led by a teacher who clearly loves the subject matter and is both highly knowledgeable and skilled; where the curriculum is matched to a relevant career pathway and future work choices, and is designed to flow seamlessly into next step options, whether to employment or college; that encourages exploration and experimentation among students in a safe environment; and that connects students to new relationships and worlds outside the classroom.

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Associate, Communications 

This Week in CTE

June 2nd, 2017

TWEET OF THE WEEK

VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Can you imagine a world where all learners have the opportunity to realize their full potential and achieve career success? Check out our newest video, which demonstrates what the world would look like if all vision principles of Putting Learner Success First: A Shared Vision for the Future of CTE are put into action.Advance_CTE_5.16.17_Final_HD1080P

RESEARCH OF THE WEEK

New America released national survey data about perceptions of higher education. Some interesting findings:

  • 75 percent believe it is easier to be successful with a college degree than without
  • 64 percent believe that two year community colleges “are for people in my situation” (though this is virtually the same for public four-year colleges and universities)
  • More people (80%) believe that two year community colleges prepare people to be successful. This is higher than four-year public (77%) four-year private (75%) and for-profit (60%).
  • 82 percent believe two-year community colleges are worth the cost. This is higher than four-year public (61%) four-year private (43%) and for-profit (40%).
  • 83 percent believe two-year community colleges contribute to a strong workforce. This is higher than four-year public (79%) four-year private (70%) and for-profit (59%).

RESOURCE OF THE WEEK

Scholarships for Career or Technical Certificates or Degrees: The Horatio Alger CTE Scholarship program is pleased to announce it is now accepting applications for more than 1,000 awards of up to $2,500 each.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Have completed high school (or earned a High School Equivalency credential) by Summer 2017
  • Will be enrolled in an eligible CTE program in Fall 2017
  • Exhibit a strong commitment to pursue and complete a career or technical program at an accredited non-profit post-secondary institution in the United States
  • Demonstrated financial need (must be eligible to receive the Federal Pell grant as determined by completion of the FAFSA)
  • Demonstrated perseverance in overcoming adversity
  • Be under the age of 30
  • Be a United States citizen

Funds may be used for tuition, fees, books and supplies.  All scholarship funds are paid directly to the institution on behalf of the recipient.

More information can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/le9ovq2

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Associate, Communications 

New Resources to Help You Sell CTE to Parents and Students

June 2nd, 2017

In April, Advance CTE released a new report, “The Value and Promise of Career Technical Education: Findings from a National Survey of Parents and Students.” The report explores findings from a national survey to better understand parents and students attitudes about CTE, and how we can better ‘sell’ CTE to parents and students. The report findings include:

  • 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;
  • 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;
  • These findings were consistent across all socio-economic groups; and
  • Counselors, teachers and CTE students and alumni are among the most trusted sources of information for students and parents alike.

As part of this research, we have developed core messages to use with parents and students to encourage them to enroll in CTE programs in their communities. To help you use use these messages and this research, we’ve created a number of materials:

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Associate, Communications 

New Advance CTE Report Highlights States that Are Raising the Bar through Career Pathways Approval

April 26th, 2017

Next week, Advance CTE will recognize the winners of 2017’s Excellence in Action awards — an annual competition to elevate and celebrate high-quality programs of study. This year’s slate of competitors is stronger than ever, demonstrating how well-designed programs that integrate academic and technical instruction, span secondary and postsecondary education, and equip learners with relevant work-based learning experiences can prepare learners for academic achievement and career success.

Examples of strong programs of study — and career pathways, more broadly — exist in every state. Yet all too often these career pathways are islands of excellence, setting the bar for quality, but requiring further state action to ensure all students can benefit from strong career pathways. While the approach to developing career pathways varies across the nation, state leaders can play a role in promoting quality by leveraging policy, programs and resources to ensure all career pathways meet minimum standards.

Today Advance CTE released its newest report, Raising the Bar: State Strategies for Developing and Approving High-Quality Career Pathways. The report examines successes in Tennessee, New Jersey and Delaware to demonstrate how states can use the career pathways approval process to raise the level of quality.

  • In Tennessee, the Department of Education in 2013 underwent an exhaustive course review initiative to align all courses and programs of study with labor market standards. Through the initiative, working groups of teachers, postsecondary faculty and employers reviewed and revised course standards. Ultimately, this effort led to the discontinuation of nearly one hundred courses.
  • The New Jersey Department of Education in 2008 adopted a more hands-on process for enforcing the state’s program quality criteria, which were previously outlined in administrative code. Under the new system, local districts are required submit documentation of program structure for each program within a specific Career Cluster.
  • And in 2015, Delaware implemented a new policy for reviewing and approving both local and state-model programs of study. The policy requires programs of both types to be developed with input from multiple stakeholders, including industry and postsecondary representatives.  

All states have processes in place to review and approve career pathways, but not all use them to promote and uphold quality standards. This report describes a few approaches states can take — such as defining quality criteria, using fiscal and accountability policy to incentivize adoption, and providing regional supports — to promote quality through the pathways approval process.

This report 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.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

 

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