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

How Leading States are Strengthening the CTE Teacher Pipeline in Rural America

March 22nd, 2018

In Nebraska, rural districts have been undertaking a wholesale needs assessment of local Career Technical Education (CTE) program offerings under the state’s reVISION initiative. Under reVISION, school and district leaders examine regional labor market data and hear from local employers to determine whether or not the programs available to students are those that are most in-demand.

If programs are out of sync with workforce needs, or deemed to be low-quality, local leaders will phase those programs out and transition resources and staff to higher-need program areas. This includes retraining teachers to teach classes in subject areas with the highest need, such as agriculture, health care and precision manufacturing.

Nebraska is just one of many states working to strengthen the CTE teacher pipeline in rural areas by recruiting qualified instructors, preparing them for success on day one, and providing professional development and re-certification opportunities to help them grow professionally throughout their career.

Today, Advance CTE released the fourth, and final, installment in the CTE on the Frontier series, which examines challenges and strategies for expanding access to high-quality career pathways in rural areas. The series is funded 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.

Today’s brief explores one of the most pressing challenges rural schools and institutions face: strengthening the pipeline of qualified CTE teachers and faculty. Recruiting and retaining qualified teachers can make or break a CTE program. The following are some approaches leading states are taking to support rural CTE teachers:

  • Recruiting within the community by expanding grow-your-own teacher academy pathways or reducing barriers to entry for industry professionals;
  • Innovating to compete with industry by valuing work experience in teacher and faculty salary schedules;
  • Restructuring new teacher induction programs to extend supports and mentorship opportunities throughout the first year, and providing a continuum of supports for veteran teachers;
  • Strengthening relationships with traditional teacher preparation pipelines; and
  • Adopting a diversified approach to recruiting and training new instructors, establishing multiple pathways into CTE classrooms.

CTE teacher recruitment is a challenge that has dogged state leaders for decades. According to a recent survey of State CTE Directors, 98 percent said that increasing access to industry experts is a high priority in their state. And 20.4 percent of rural districts with CTE teacher vacancies report that CTE positions were either very difficult or impossible to fill.

Such teacher shortages are exacerbated in rural areas, where the pool of qualified candidates is often much smaller. This brief aims to elevate promising practices across the states to help state leaders address rural CTE teaching capacity challenges.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Report Describes What Else States Should Do To Support Career Advising and Development

February 6th, 2018

Today, Advance CTE and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) released a report exploring the strategies currently in place across the country to support career advising and development efforts. Too often, career advising and development only occurs at the high school level, even though learners should have access to career awareness, exploration and planning activities from elementary school all the way through postsecondary education. Anecdotally, many state and local leaders assume that this is not happening to the extent that it should be, but there has not yet been an in-depth examination of the data.

This topic has been a key focus of the New Skills for Youth (NSFY) initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. NSFY has provided funding to 10 states to transform their career readiness systems, and all 10 participating states have strategies in place to improve their career advising and development activities.

Advance CTE, as part of NSFY, partnered with the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) to conduct research with three questionnaires. Advance CTE surveyed State CTE Directors, and ASCA sent separate surveys to a selection of school counselors and to State School Counseling Directors, in states where that role has been specifically identified. Some of the key findings include:

  • Across the board, states are not overly confident in the effectiveness of their career advising and development systems. Fifty-eight percent believe they are only somewhat effectively serving K-12 students, and 55 percent believe they are either only somewhat effective or not effective at serving postsecondary CTE students.
  • States, on average, are supporting a multitude of strategies at the K-12 level for career advising and development (an average of 5.7 strategies), yet they report mixed levels of effectiveness for both the individual strategies and collectively.
  • Similarly, school counselors also employ many strategies (an average of 5.8) in their career advising and development work and generally feel more optimistic about the effectiveness of their strategies than states do about state-level strategies.
  • School counselors who connect students with CTE coursework and career pathways find it an effective career advising and development strategy, but relatively few school counselors are able to make these connections:
    • Only 27 percent of middle school counselors report that they connect students with CTE coursework or career pathways, even though this strategy is rated one of the more effective among those who use it, with 87 percent of the school counselors who use it in middle school labeling it as effective or extremely effective; and
    • Sixty percent of high school counselors use connecting students with CTE coursework and career pathways as a career advising and development strategy, and 91 percent of those find it effective or extremely effective, with a full 50 percent labeling it extremely effective.
  • School counselors struggle with balancing their heavy workloads and other counseling responsibilities, and they want more professional development and community conversations around career readiness to support their students more effectively.

The report examined numerous strategies currently in place to support career advising and development efforts. Wisconsin’s Academic and Career Plan, for example, is an ongoing process for middle and high school students that involves coordinated conversations around career interests and options, and that helps students make informed choices about career pathways. Texas has spent the last few years developing extensive virtual supports for school counselors, available through TXCTE.org and Texas OnCourse. These resources provide school counselors with messaging materials, lesson plans and other information on CTE and career advising. Maryland has leveraged state and organizational partnerships to develop several career advising strategies at the elementary and middle school levels, which incorporate career awareness and exposure with civic engagement and financial literacy.

To hear more about this report, join our webinar on February 20, which will feature presentations from ASCA and Advance CTE, as well as a local CTE practitioner.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

States Passed 241 Policies to Support CTE in 2017

January 25th, 2018

2017 was a banner year for Career Technical Education (CTE). Overall, 49 states and the District of Columbia passed a total of 241 policies related to CTE and career readiness, a marked increase from 2016. But while it is encouraging to see a groundswell of enthusiasm for CTE at the local, state and national levels, how will states leverage CTE’s momentum and ensure that state action translates to better outcomes for students?

Today, Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) released the fifth edition of the annual State Policies Impacting CTE report, examining activity from 2017. To develop the report, Advance CTE and ACTE reviewed state activity, cataloged all finalized state actions and coded activity based on the policy area of focus. For 2017, the top five policy areas of focus include:

  • Funding.
  • Data, Reporting and/or Accountability.
  • Industry-recognized Credentials.
  • Dual/Concurrent Enrollment and Articulation/ Early College.
  • Industry Partnerships/ Work-based Learning.

Funding was at the top of the list for the fifth year in a row. Policies in this category include a $16 million one-time appropriation for CTE equipment grants in Tennessee, the development of a productivity-based funding index for Arkansas institutions of higher education and a workforce development scholarship authorized through Maryland’s More Jobs for Marylanders Act of 2017. With few exceptions, state legislatures renewed or increased appropriations for CTE programs and related activities. 

There was also a lot of activity related to data, reporting and accountability, largely due to state work around the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In 2017, 35 states identified measures of career readiness in their federal accountability systems, and many of these measures included industry-recognized credential attainment, dual-credit completion and work-based learning participation.

While 2017 set a new high-water mark for state activity, a look across the past five years of this report illustrates that states are doubling down on a few policy priorities.

With the exception of 2015—when fewer states passed policies related to Industry-recognized Credentials or Data, Reporting and Accountability—these five policy areas have been the top priorities for states every year that this report has been published. This is no surprise, given that much of the conversation in the CTE field over the past five years has centered around accountability, credentials of value, dual enrollment and work-based learning. Even compared to recent years, states were more active in 2017, and there was a spike in the number of states adopting new legislation or rules in these policy areas.

So what lessons can be drawn from this year’s state policy review? For one, the enthusiasm for CTE is real. State legislatures, governors and boards of education are coming to recognize what the CTE community has known for years: that high-quality career preparation helps learners develop academic, technical and professional skills and results in positive rates of graduation, postsecondary enrollment and completion, and ultimately career success. 

But it is also important to make a distinction between the quantity of policies passed and the quality of their implementation. 2017 was a record year for state CTE policy, but now comes the true test. State leaders should follow through on the policy commitments made in 2017 by sustaining funding for critical programs, identifying and adopting policies to ensure CTE quality, and taking time to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of existing policies.

A copy of the report, State Policies Impacting CTE: 2017 Year in Review, is accessible in the Learning that Works Resource Center. Advance CTE and ACTE are also hosting a webinar on January 31, to unpack findings from this year’s review (registration for the webinar is at capacity, but a recording will be available following the webinar at https://careertech.org/webinars).

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Two Webinars Digging into Federal and State Policy: Register Today!

January 18th, 2018

CTE & Federal Policy: Recapping the Highlights of 2017
Date: January 25, 2018
Time: 1 – 2 p.m. ET 

Last year marked a big year for Career Technical Education (CTE) in the federal policy arena. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career Technical Education Act of 2006, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed the “Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform” (PROSPER) Act, an update to the Higher Education Act, and states submitted their plans for implementing The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Amidst all this activity, an omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017 passed Congress and a sweeping tax reform bill was signed into law.

Join us on for a webinar to recap the federal policy highlights of 2017 and their impact on CTE. Participants will hear from Kimberly Green, Executive Director of Advance CTE, Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate for Federal Policy at Advance CTE, and Debbie Mills, Director of the National Career Pathways Network.

Register for the webinar here.

State Policies Impacting CTE: 2017 Year in Review
Date: January 31, 2018
Time: 2 – 3 p.m. ET

The national profile of CTE continued to grow in 2017, with nearly every state adopting new policies related to CTE and career readiness. From redesigning accountability systems to expanding apprenticeship opportunities, state leaders are working to connect learners at all levels with seamless pathways to meaningful careers.

This webinar from Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education will unpack findings from the State Policies Impacting CTE: 2017 Year in Review report. The webinar will explore recent trends in state CTE policy and examine how the CTE policy landscape has changed over the past few years. Participants will also hear from state leaders and explore policy developments in their states.

Register for the webinar here.

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Communications Associate 

ESSA Marks A Watershed Moment for Career Readiness, But States Leave Many Opportunities On the Table

December 14th, 2017

This year marked a pivotal moment for K-12 education. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, state leaders have spent the last two years reexamining and strategizing they way they deliver K-12 education. Now that the last ESSA plans have been written and submitted, we finally have a national picture of state priorities for education, including how K-12 education systems will support and reinforce career preparation opportunities.

One of the key priorities for ESSA is alignment and conformity across different federal and state systems. ESSA gives states the flexibility to hold schools accountable, measure student outcomes, and provide supports and technical assistance in a way that is aligned with their own priorities. States are encouraged to streamline services across Career Technical Education (CTE), workforce development and higher education and truly support learners to achieve career success.

Today Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group released an update to Career Readiness & the Every Student Succeeds Act: Mapping Career Readiness in State ESSA Plans. The report examines state plans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to see how states are taking advantage of key opportunities to support career readiness. Overall, two key takeaways rise to the surface:

  • With 49 states including at least one strategy to expand career readiness in their ESSA state plans — and 35 going as far as adopting career readiness indicators in their accountability system — this is a watershed moment for career readiness.
  • However, states left many opportunities on the table, failing to fully leverage all that ESSA has to offer. Nevertheless, a plan is just that — a plan. Given the right vision and commitment, states have considerable leeway to go beyond the letter of their plans and make career readiness a priority, and a promise, for all.

Kentucky’s plan, for example, draws on economic priorities to undergird accountability and supports across each of the different titles in the law. The plan describes the five key industry sectors in the commonwealth of Kentucky and clearly articulates the role that CTE and K-12 education play in preparing learners for success in the modern workforce. Kentucky’s accountability system reinforces this priority by measuring and holding schools accountable for key career readiness metrics, including industry-recognized credential attainment, CTE dual credit completion, apprenticeships and more.

The report also profiles state plans for Title II, Part A funding, which supports the development of teachers and school administrators, and Title IV, which provides critical funding to expand access to opportunities for a “well-rounded education.”

State leaders have completed the tremendous work of engaging stakeholders, identifying priorities and developing strategic action plans to drive education in their states. Now they are tasked with implementing those plans. Given the growing profile of CTE and the elevated role of career readiness in state ESSA plans, the path ahead is promising. But now is the critical time to act, and states should ensure that they fully leverage all of ESSA’s opportunities and follow through on the commitments they made in their plans.  

In addition to the report, a supplemental appendix profiling specific state strategies and an infographic of key takeaways are available to download.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Reaching Economies of Scale in Rural Communities

December 5th, 2017

Latest Advance CTE resource describes strategies to expand career pathways opportunities to rural learners

Rural communities all too often face scarce funding, instructors and facilities, forcing institutions to choose between offering a variety of introductory courses across a breadth of subjects or providing more narrowly focused, sequenced programs within one or two priority Career Clusters®. Providing learners access to diverse career pathways in rural areas is a persistent challenge for all states.

Today Advance CTE released the latest brief in the CTE on the Frontier series to help states identify promising strategies for expanding the variety of career pathways available in rural areas. The brief profiles how states such as Nebraska, Alaska, North Dakota and Idaho have leveraged strategic partnerships and new technologies to reach economies of scale.

In North Dakota, for example, rural learners are connected remotely to instructors at different campuses by a live broadcast network called Interactive Television, or ITV. Districts and regional technical centers come together to inventory all of the courses available in their region and open up enrollment to remote students. Participating schools receive a 4 percent reimbursement per receiving school to incentivize participation.

Meanwhile, state leaders in Idaho are working to balance virtual instruction through Idaho Digital Learning with work-based learning and Career Technical Student Organization participation to ensure hands-on learning isn’t lost in a virtual classroom. Instead of converting all CTE courses to be offered online, Idaho has adapted a few introductory courses to free up in-school teaching capacity to focus on more advanced coursework. The state is also working to align digital courses with college and career pathways — some Idaho Digital Learning courses are even eligible for dual credit — and requires CTE students taking online classes to engage in hands-on learning.

The latest CTE on the Frontier brief demonstrates how states can leverage partnerships and technology to reach economies of scale and offer a wider breadth of career pathways to rural learners. Earlier briefs in the series examine how states can ensure program quality and connect learners to the world of work.

CTE on the Frontier: Providing Learners Access to Diverse Career Pathways 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

This Week in CTE

December 1st, 2017

TWEET OF THE WEEK

CTE FRIDAY FACT

76% of Americans say middle or high school is the right time to start exploring career options, compared to just 7% who say college is the right time. CTE helps learners find their passion and prepare for the future before investing in their postsecondary education.

ARTICLE OF THE WEEK

A new article on Education Week, explores the ways in which learners gain critical skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork they need to be successful in a global economy. Read about how CTE and project based learning can be used as a potential strategy to help learners in gaining these skills.

WEBINAR OF THE WEEK

Join a webinar on December 13 from 1 – 2:15 p.m. ET to learn how state leaders can align labor market efforts with the education pipeline to provide students with the academic, technical, and employability skills they need to be successful in the workplace. Aligning the education-to-workforce pipeline can help increase cost-efficiency, promote coherence, and produce better outcomes for students and workers. This webinar will highlight three forthcoming CCRS Center resources, Developing a College- and Career-Ready Workforce: An Analysis of ESSA, Perkins, and WIOA.

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Communications Associate 

Leveraging Federal Policy to Strengthen Rural CTE

November 16th, 2017

New Resource from Advance CTE Identifies Key Leverage Points

Today Advance CTE released a new cheat sheet to help state leaders identify and leverage federal policy to strengthen rural CTE. The brief, developed as part of Advance CTE’s CTE on the Frontier initiative, examines policy and funding intersections between the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins), the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The resource is designed as a conversation starter to help state leaders align supports and services in their states.

Rural America is home to 9.1 million K-12 students and more than half of the nation’s school districts. Many of these students do not go on to earn a postsecondary credential or degree. Only 28 percent of rural adults above the age of 25 held at least a 2-year degree in 2015, compared to 41 percent of urban adults.

CTE can help close this gap and prepare rural learners for the world of work. Already, states are adopting creative measures to ensure programs are high quality, connect rural learners with authentic work-based learning experiences, expand the breadth of options available in rural institutions and strengthen the CTE teacher pipeline. Many of these efforts are supported with state and local funds, but states are also leveraging Perkins reserve funds as well. 

The reserve fund is one of many leverage points in federal legislation that states can use to strengthen CTE in rural areas. Under the Perkins Act, states can set aside up to 10 percent of local funds to provide formula or competitive grants to recipients with either rural populations, high numbers of Career Technical Education (CTE) students or high percentages of CTE students. In Montana, state leaders have used the reserve fund to strengthen Big Sky Pathways in rural schools and focus dollars and supports on state priorities such as expanding dual credit opportunities.

According to a recent survey from Advance CTE, 38 state CTE directors reported using the reserve fund option in 2017, and 27 of those said that supporting rural students is one of the focus areas for their reserve funds this year. States can change their reserve fund priorities from year to year, but the fact that more than half are using the fund to augment rural CTE efforts is a testament to the need in rural communities.

Another example of how federal education programs can be leveraged to support rural communities is the Rural Education Achievement Program under ESSA, which provides supplemental funds to rural schools and districts that can be used to support other local activities. With ESSA’s renewed focus on career readiness and well-rounded education, schools and districts can use these funds to design and expand CTE programs of study, provide professional development for CTE and academic teachers, expand dual credit opportunities, and more. By braiding funds, aligning policy priorities, coordinating service delivery and working to remove barriers across programs, state leaders can better meet the needs of rural learners.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

 

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