College Board & PDK Publication Examines Benefits of CTE

Last month the College Board, in conjunction with Phi Delta Kappan (PDK), released an article extolling the virtues of Career Technical Education (CTE) and how best to ensure quality and access to it across the nation. Written by Jean-Claude Brizard, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools and Senior Advisor at the College Board, the article titled Toward a Common Model of Career-Technical Education, highlights the positive impact CTE programs had on three students who each took different pathways to academic and professional success. It later expands on their individual experiences and argues that these success stories are increasingly becoming the norm for students who choose to enroll in CTE programs— an encouraging trend considering  94% of all high school students in the U.S. take at least one CTE course. Brizard identified three core components for what he termed “great CTE” programs:

  •  Relevant and rigorous curriculum that leads to an independently recognized and validated credential
  •  High quality teachers who have the content knowledge & technical expertise within the area they are teaching
  •  Ample opportunities for work-based learning and experiences

The author asserts that CTE offers, “the greatest opportunity for multiple entry and exit points,” and notes  that, “Students may exit the educational experience with an industry credential, go to work, and then re-enter at a later time to stack a credential on ones previously earned.” This is an important feature of many CTE programs and one that is not lost on students who must compete in a rapidly evolving global economy. More than ever before, new technologies are changing the nature of the workplace and CTE is one of the best ways to equip students with the skills necessary to stay competitive and relevant.

However, Brizard does contend that CTE suffers from a slight perception problem with some students and parents. Despite studies indicating that two-thirds of new jobs in the United States will require at least some form of postsecondary education—half of which are expected to go to candidates with an associate’s degree or occupational certificate— some families still view CTE from the vantage point of, “a 1950s economic model in which a large percentage of occupations required unskilled labor.” Brizard dispels this notion without qualification and argues that CTE prepares students both for college and careers, invoking the experiences of many of his CTE students who went on to college and even advanced degrees.  He also pointed out that 27 percent of workers with postsecondary licenses or certificates earn more than the average B.A. recipient– a fact which runs counter to the notion that a college degree is the only pathway into a high-wage career.

Brizard also identifies the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as a primary component to ensuring quality and rigor in education. He goes on to argue that similar standards should be applied to CTE and he was supportive of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium’s (NASDCTEc) recent efforts to develop the Common Career Technical Core (CCTC), a set of state-developed, common, program-level standards for CTE programs. These standards are critical to ensuring quality and access to CTE programs throughout the United States. According to Brizard the CCTC represents, “the highest academic and industry standards” which, “successfully serves both education and industry sectors.”

The full publication can be found here and a recent NASDCTEc webinar in which the College Board participated can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

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