Spring Meeting: Duncan Pushes for Higher CTE Student Outcomes

Though he sees Career Technical Education (CTE) as “a tremendous force for good,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes that many CTE programs are not delivering the necessary student outcomes.

At the NASDCTEc/OVAE Joint Leadership Meeting last week, Duncan told State Directors and other attendees that many CTE programs are not rigorous enough, and that they need to focus more on preparing CTE students for high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs.

The Secretary also emphasized that postsecondary completion is the bottom line; CTE programs must prepare students to earn postsecondary credentials or industry-recognized certifications. This is not surprising as the country strives to meet President Obama’s goal to have the highest number of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Besides achieving high postsecondary or certificate completion rates, Duncan proposed that quality CTE programs must demonstrate increased graduation rates and decreased dropout rates.

Duncan stated that programs or schools exhibiting high statistics in these areas should be replicated, while CTE programs not yielding results should be phased out. While he promotes taking successful CTE programs to scale, the Secretary separately noted that programs should be locally-driven and “the opposite of cookie-cutter.”

Sharing best practices in CTE is critical at this time. CTE programs that are not yielding high-achieving students must look to the examples of more successful programs and revamp.

Despite Duncan’s message, State Directors continue to cite encouraging statistics and compelling examples showing the success of CTE in preparing college- and career-ready students.

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