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

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

 

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