National Association of State Directors of Career
Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: A Pile of Work Awaits Congress in September as the CTE Presidential Scholars Program Continues to Take Shape

August 18th, 2015

United States CapitalThe annual Congressional August recess is in full swing, with most lawmakers and staff spending the time off in their districts and home states with constituents. This four week respite from the daily Congressional grind will be short-lived, as lawmakers will be faced with a tremendous amount of work upon their return to Capitol Hill. In addition to the fast approaching September 30th deadline to fund the federal government and programs, Congress will also have to raise the debt ceiling sometime later this fall, renew funding for public works and infrastructure projects, weigh in on the Administration’s Iran deal, successfully conference an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) bill, and address a host of other outstanding issues all in the coming months.

Ironically, the heavy workload this fall is a product of Congress’ own making—many of these issues were considered as recently as this year and were temporarily put aside as compromise proved to be too difficult. As a result, lawmakers will likely be grappling with many of the above issues simultaneously and the ones related to federal funding, such as the need to raise the debt ceiling and fund federal programs for FY 2016, will likely have resolutions that are closely intertwined. While a clear path forward is still far from certain, Congressional leadership will be weighing many different options. However, with only 10 legislative days left when they return, a “Continuing Appropriations Resolution” or CR—a temporary extension of current funding levels into the next federal fiscal year— is growing increasingly more likely.

Lying at the heart of this stalemate are Republicans and Democrats who remain at odds over the sequester caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). These limits on federal spending, have hampered Congress’ ability to piece together the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the federal government. Without changes to the underlying BCA legislation, a move appropriators from both Parties say they want, finding compromise on FY 2016 funding has been extremely difficult.

With the upcoming ESEA conference between the House and the Senate scheduled to follow the current recess, this current impasse over funding will likely be significant hurdle for the conferees to overcome as this battle will likely play out before or during those talks.

NASDCTEc has continued its work on both of these fronts where we have encouraged lawmakers to retain the important CTE provisions found in both the House and Senate ESEA bills while separately calling for an end to the damaging sequester caps that have undercut the federal investment in CTE.

As Congress spends its time meeting with their constituents this month, NASDCTEc invites the wider CTE community to reach out to their members of Congress to reinforce importance of these two goals as the summer draws to an end. Be sure to check back here as things continue to develop.

The JOBS Act—Making Pell Work for Students

Prior to the August recess, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), co-chair of the Senate CTE Caucus and a long-time champion of CTE, introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 1900)—a bill that would extend Pell grant program eligibility to students enrolled in qualifying short-term training programs.

Under current law the Pell Grant program— like other federal financial aid available under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA)— is not available to students taking “noncredit courses.” Postsecondary CTE programs, which typically offer certifications or other postsecondary credentials, often fall under this category. Current Pell Grant program eligibility requirements have a minimum seat-time of 300 instruction hours over the course of at least 16 weeks. This frequently leaves out short-term postsecondary CTE programs which are essential to equipping students with the relevant skills needed for the 21st century economy— something that NASDCTEc encourages Congress to address during the reauthorization of HEA.

The JOBS Act seeks to address this issue by reducing those program length requirements by half, to at least 150 clock hours over a period of 8 weeks. In order to qualify, programs must be offered at a postsecondary institution, which would include area CTE centers and community colleges, lead towards the completion of a recognized postsecondary credential (as defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), and be aligned to area workforce needs.

NASDCTEc was extremely pleased to support and endorse this legislation upon its introduction and remains hopeful that these ideas make their way into the wider reauthorization of HEA. Read more about the bill here.

Presidential Scholars Program Continues to Take Shape

As we shared a few months ago, President Obama signed an amendment to Executive Order 11155—a move that expanded the existing Presidential Scholars program to include up to 20 CTE students each year in the program.

The first year of this expansion will take place in the upcoming 2015-16 school year where the Chief State School Officers will nominate CTE scholars based on five criteria: academic rigor, technical competency, ingenuity / creativity, and the degree to which the student represents “the nation’s economic sectors and demographic characteristics.”

Student nominations are due from each Chief State School Officer by October 15, 2015 where the next step of the process will require additional application materials from selected students. By May 2016, the Commission on Presidential Scholars will announce the list of students to be honored at the White House in June.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) has encouraged State CTE Directors to engage with their State’s chief school officer ahead of the nomination process and to more widely disseminate the announcement. More detailed information can be obtained on OCTAE’s PCRN website and general information about the expansion can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

This Week in CTE

August 14th, 2015


Putting a Spotlight on Technical and Vocational Skills
Despite the projected demand for skilled trade jobs in the next decade, little attention, support or funding is lacking for Career Technical Education students. To shine a light on this area of education, WorldSkills hosted their 43rd WorldSkills Competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The USA sent 18 students who competed with 70 other countries in areas such as manufacturing and heavy vehicle equipment maintenance.
Read More

Integrating Employability Skills into Everyday Instruction
On Wednesday, September 2nd, join the College and Career Readiness and Success Center, Center on Great Teachers and Leaders and RTI International for a webinar highlighting the new learning module, Integrating Employability Skills: A Framework for All Educators focusing on how educators can integrate employability skills into their curriculum.

Achieve launched the Rising to the Challenge: Views on High School Graduates’ Preparedness for College and Careers. This PowerPoint breaks down their most recent survey of college instructors and employers who work with recent high school graduates and their career readiness into easy to read graphs and graphics.
Read More

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

Time to Double Down on Education and Training

August 12th, 2015

America is in a teacher recruitment crisis, and every community is feeling the pinch. The size of our school system demands 350,000 new hires each year for K-12 teaching positions. Districts are scrambling to find skilled teachers for high-needs areas like Career Technical Education (CTE); science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), English as a second language (ESL), and special education.

While demand is exploding, our supply is drying up. An alarming recent ACT report showed the future teacher pipeline narrowing even further, with only five percent of high school seniors taking the ACT indicating a desire to pursue a career as an educator. Each year that number is decreasing.

Our existing teacher pipeline isn’t getting the job done.

The good news is that CTE is perfectly positioned to play a crucial role in the solution to this pressing issue. Creating and spreading high-impact Education and Training programs focused on cultivating skilled K-12 educators is a must.

To meet labor market needs and develop the teaching workforce our country deserves, teacher recruitment must become more proactive and start earlier.

Young people can get excited about the potential impact and leadership of a career in education, but essentially only when they engage with substantive, authentic opportunities to test-drive teaching.

Most teachers are homegrown; in fact, over 60 percent of teachers teach within 20 miles of where they went to high school. The next generation of each community’s teachers – whom everyone is counting on to be highly skilled and well prepared on day one – are already in our classrooms right now, but as students.

Encouraging CTE models are out there; it’s time to double down and take them to scale.

  •  The Teacher Academy of Maryland program, developed in partnership with Towson University and the Maryland State Department of Education offers CTE students ParaPro, the certification exam for school-based paraprofessionals. This – along with dual credit partnerships – elegantly addresses the question of how to embed a professional certification into a high school-level CTE program that aims students towards a career that requires a bachelor’s degree.
  • The Mississippi Department of Education recently revamped its Teacher Academy curriculum to align with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards’ vision of accomplished teaching. This raises the bar for the prestige and impact of programs, and opens the doors for current National Board Certified Teachers from many content areas to become outstanding CTE instructors in new Teacher Academy programs.
  • The Arizona Department of Education commissioned an Educator Retention and Recruitment Report with a top recommendation: “Develop high school programs such as [Educators Rising] to encourage students to evaluate the field of education as they review their options for post-secondary studies.”

A newly revitalized career technical student organization (CTSO) partner is ready to support the effort. Earlier this month, the Future Educators Association evolved to become Educators Rising, a transformed, 21st-century national network of aspiring educators.

Educators Rising, a member of the National Coordinating Council of Career and Technical Student Organizations, offers all of the classic CTSO opportunities (competitions, conferences, scholarships, leadership opportunities) with no dues; students and teacher leaders join for free directly through the new EdRising Virtual Campus, an online platform packed with resources and opportunities integral to the instructional program of quality Education and Training pathways.

Here’s a 3-minute video tour of what the EdRising Virtual Campus offers:

Transforming teacher recruitment is a massive issue. CTE, with leadership from states, can provide the boost that communities need.

Dan Brown is Co-Director of Educators Rising and a National Board Certified Teacher. He recently completed a term as board chair of the National Coordinating Council of Career and Technical Student Organizations. He tweets @danbrownteacher.

This Week in CTE

August 7th, 2015


Educators Rising launched a brand new website this week, which provides resources and professional development opportunities to students in high school who want to be successful teachers.

How to Attract and Retain More of the Right Students Right Now!
Join a webinar August 17th featuring Mark Perna, Founder of Tools for Schools who will discuss how to increase enrollment, retention and performance rates of high school and adult learners. If you like the webinar, you’ll get a chance to participate in a workshop led by Perna at the Association for Career and Technical Education’s VISION conference in New Orleans.

Building a Strong Relationship Between Competency-Based Pathways and Career Technical Education
Earlier this week we released a report identifying the relationship between Competency-Based Pathways (CBP) and Career Technical Education (CTE) along with guiding questions for state and local leaders to help them consider how CTE should be included in their CBP strategies.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

CTE Research Review: Career Readiness for All

August 5th, 2015

PathleasttakenThe Center for Public Education has analyzed the National Center for Education Statistics’ Education Longitudinal Study to look at a student group that is often ignored in major research studies – the one in five students who do not immediately enroll in college after graduating from high school. Be sure to check out the first installment of this research series, which looked at the characteristics of this group.

Now, CPE has released its second installment – this time attempting to gain insight into “career readiness” for high school graduates by looking at various job-related and social outcomes of this same group of non-college goers by the time they reached age 26. In fact, the data showed that “credentials” and being well prepared in high school matter, particularly for non-college goers who:

  • Completed Algebra 2 as highest math course and Advanced biology as highest science;
  • Earned a cumulative GPA between 2.51 and 3;
  • Completed an occupational concentration in high school (three or more CTE courses in a specific area); and
  • Earned a professional certification or license.

Specifically, researchers found that advanced courses, such as Algebra 2 and advanced biology, and an CTE focus can have an impact on non-college going students’ likelihood to have a good job and engage in society. If those same students earn a professional credential, then the scale shifts in favor of the non-college goer, meaning they are actually more likely to be employed, earn good wages and vote than their peers who attended college. Further, better preparation also had a greater impact on black graduates than their white and Hispanic peers, showing that higher credentials can be the key to closing the employment and wage gap.

Rising to the Challenge?

A new survey from Achieve asked college faculty and employers who teach or hire recent high school graduates about their preparedness for college and careers. This is the second release of Achieve’s Rising to the Challenge survey. The first release, from late 2014, examined recent high school graduates’ views on their own preparedness. The full survey is an update to a similar survey Achieve conducted in 2004.

The results reveal many parallels to the students’ own responses – in short, that there is a pervasive opinion that public high schools are not doing enough to prepare students for the expectations they will face in college and the workplace. Contrast those responses with those from the 2004 survey, and the picture becomes even bleaker.

All three groups – college faculty, employers and students – all agreed that to improve preparedness:

  • Communicate early in high school about the courses needed for college and careers;
  • Provide more opportunities for challenging courses; and
  • Offer more chances for real-world learning.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

This Week in CTE

July 31st, 2015


REPORT OF THE WEEK Unemployment Among Young Adults: Exploring Employer-Led Solutions This new policy paper from the Brookings Institute explores the challenge of youth unemployment and the role employers and credentials can play in supporting this population. The paper offers recommendations, largely focused around the need for better alignment, communications and partnerships between education and employers. Read more.

FACT OF THE WEEK Fifty-one percent of high school students do NOT agree that their school helped them understand the steps they need to take in order to have the career they want. Read more.

NEWS OF THE WEEK Senator Tim Kaine, co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, which would expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in short-term job training programs.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

State Policy Update: Workforce Development, Job-driven Training and More

July 30th, 2015

This week, the National Skills Coalition released its roundup of this year’s major state legislative actions aiming to close the middle-skills gap across the country. Be sure to check out the full paper and related webinar, which includes deep dives on new workforce development efforts in Virginia and Minnesota, to learn more.

Here are some of the workforce-related highlights from this year’s legislative sessions:

  • Implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): Sector partnerships, career pathways and job-driven training are among the key strategies that WIOA requires states to use. Some states – including California, Florida and Virginia – enacted legislation to help implement the new federal workforce law.
  • Career Pathways: Along with Colorado’s new career pathways legislation, which we talked about earlier this year, Minnesota also expanded its adult career pathways efforts and FastTRAC up-skilling program with a combined $11.2 million appropriation for the 2016-17 biennium budget.
  • Tuition Assistance: We already know that in July, Oregon became the second state to offer free community college. Nebraska has also approved a tuition gap assistance program to help residents enrolled in certain associate degree and certificate programs as well as non-credit, job-driven training programs. Recipients can use the funds to cover the costs of tuition, direct training, fees, required books and equipment.
  • Work-based Learning and Job-driven Training: Washington, Colorado and California all expanded work-based learning opportunities, in particular apprenticeships. In California, lawmakers allocated $29.1 million to grow new and existing apprenticeship programs in high-growth industries. Arkansas and Maine also established new employer-driven training programs.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Federal Funding Deadline Looms as Congress Looks to Higher Ed after ESEA Push

July 29th, 2015

United States CapitalSeptember 30th is quickly approaching and with it an end to the current 2015 federal Fiscal Year (FY). With only 12 legislative days left on the Congressional calendar until this deadline and the Congressional August recess set to begin later this week, lawmakers and the Obama Administration are still grappling with how to fund the federal government beginning on October 1st—the first official day of FY 2016.

Congressional appropriations committees in both the House and the Senate successfully passed the 12 necessary funding bills to fund federal programs—an achievement not seen in over six years and aided by unified Republican control of both Chambers of Congress. Despite this accomplishment, these funding bills all adhere to the Budget Control Act of 2011’s (BCA) statutorily mandated ‘sequester caps’ that dramatically reduce funding for many domestic programs, including education and relatedly the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) which would receive approximately $3.6 million in reduced funding for national activities while providing level funding for the law’s state grant program.

These caps significantly limit the amount of funding available for all federal discretionary programs, severely impacting education and other domestic spending priorities that are dear to Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration. As such, lawmakers and the White House have been in a protracted stand-off over how to fund the federal government later this fall.

As September quickly approaches, the likelihood of another ‘Continuing Appropriations Resolution’ (CR) is rapidly increasing. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded as much at a recent press conference saying, “it’s pretty clear given the number of days we have here in September that we’re going to have to do a CR of some sort.”

In response to the gridlock, nearly all Congressional Democrats, and an increasing amount of Republicans, have begun to call for a broader budget deal outside the scope of the normal appropriations process.  Such a deal could address the underlying problem of the sequester caps, even temporarily, to relieve some of the fiscal pressures created by the BCA. Much like what the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 did for the previous two fiscal years, an agreement later this year would be the best case scenario for making much needed investments in education and workforce development programs possible, particularly for the Perkins Act.

NASDCTEc remains committed to this type of agreement and we encourage the CTE community to urge members of Congress to tackle this challenge head-on, rather than passing stop-gap measures such as a CR at the expense of longer term agreements that allow for greater investments in critically important programs such as the Perkins Act. Be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis as things continue to play out on Capitol Hill.

Congress Pivots to Higher Ed

As we’ve shared previously, both education committees in the House and the Senate have prioritized the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in this Congress. Due for reauthorization since 2013 and extended to this year for further consideration, the law governs nearly all federal financial aid programs for postsecondary education. Issues such institutional accreditation, supporting innovation in postsecondary education, financial aid risk sharing, the role of consumer information and data, and campus sexual assault have all been the subject of hearings and discussions in both Chambers as lawmakers gear up for the law’s renewal.

In the Senate, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced four staff-level working groups earlier this year focused on four key areas that they hope to address in the upcoming reauthorization process: accountability, accreditation, college affordability / financial aid, and campus sexual assault / safety. It is hoped that these groups can work through these issues on a bipartisan basis prior to the committee and later the full chamber considering full reauthorization legislation.

More recently, the Committee held a hearing exploring barriers to innovation in postsecondary education. Members focused on the role that regulations (and at times overregulation) have in stymieing innovation within the higher education system, how to address current funding structures that are tied to the credit hour in order to better support competency-based learning programs, and the need to expand HEA’s experimental sites initiative to allow for more experimentation, among other topics. More on the hearing can be found here.

In the House, members of the Education and Workforce (HEW) Committee introduced a series of four bipartisan higher education bills that they hope to piece together later on to form the basis for their proposal for the law’s renewal. These bills seek to simplify the student aid process, improve consumer access to relevant data and information to make informed decisions on where to go to school, and strengthen loan counseling to improve students’ financial literacy when making decisions about their financial aid. Of particular note is the Flexible Pell Grant for 21st Century Students Act (H.R. 3180) introduced by Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) which would reinstate “year-round” Pell Grants for qualifying students in accelerated programs—a move NASDCTEc supports in future HEA legislation. More on that bill can be found here and information related to the all of the bills is located here.

The Obama Administration has also repositioned itself ahead of possible HEA consideration. Speaking at UMBC earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered a speech on HEA which encouraged the higher education community to not just focus on the rising specters of college debt and cost, but also on student outcomes and educational quality. More on his remarks can be found here.

Lawmakers Seek to Give FERPA a Facelift

The Student Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 3157) was recently introduced by Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) of the HEW Committee. The bill seeks to update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by barring schools and private companies from selling student information, creating minimum data security protocols, and allowing parents greater access and control over their child’s information. The legislation is one of several proposals from both Chambers of Congress that seek to modernize the law to reflect changes in the digital education landscape. At present, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) enforces provisions under FERPA governing how companies handle student data. However, competing proposals in the Senate would hand that responsibility over to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce these rules more vigorously.

Odds & Ends

USDE and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) are requesting public comment on proposed templates and data definitions for performance information required under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The comment period is open for 60 days and must be submitted by September 21 at: (Docket ID is ETA-2015-0007). Last week marked WIOA’s first birthday.

The final text of the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) was released this week. The bill is the Chamber’s proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and now bicameral negotiations are about to begin to reconcile it with the House’s ESEA proposal the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). More information on the debate can be found here and a great breakdown of where key issues stand in the wider discussion can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

CTE Research Review: Manufacturing Edition

July 24th, 2015

Mind the Gender Gap

It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry faces a serious recruiting problems in recent years – with a predicted shortfall of 2 million workers by 2025 and an ever-increasing skills gap.

A new study from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute takes a closer look at the industry’s gender gap. Only 26 percent of the U.S. manufacturing workforce is female. Meanwhile, nationally, women make up nearly 50 percent of the workforce. The study found that by overlooking or under-recruiting women into the field, manufacturers are missing an important pool of talent that could help them close the skills gap.

  • Two-thirds of those surveyed said they would stay in manufacturing if they were to start their careers today and would recommend them to their daughters or female relatives.
  • Yet, 65 percent said their companies do not have an active recruitment program for potential female employees and 73 percent said women are underrepresented among the companies’ leadership ranks.
Compared to other sectors, the above reasons contribute to the manufacturing gender gap, according to the study.

Compared to other sectors, the above reasons contribute to the manufacturing gender gap, according to the study.

Study: Parents still don’t understand STEM jobs

Women aren’t the only group that manufacturers need to continue targeting. A new survey from the Alcoa Foundation and SkillsUSA found 87 percent of parents believe STEM education is important for their children, yet there remains a clear disconnect between STEM education and its related careers, particularly in manufacturing.

  • 42 percent of respondents thought the average wage for manufacturing employees was $15 per hour or less and/or don’t offer medical benefits. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce show that the average salary for entry-level manufacturing engineers is $60,000 and 90 percent of manufacturing workers have health insurance.
  • Two-thirds believed that manufacturing and trade jobs don’t provide opportunities for advancement and 22 percent said that manufacturing jobs do not offer innovative, intellectually stimulating work.

Preparing the next generation of manufacturers

The Brookings Institute has also weighed in on the state of the manufacturing industry. During a recent forum focusing on preparing the next generation of manufacturers through community colleges, panelists called for new more technical training in new manufacturing technologies.

Be sure to check out three excerpted videos of the daylong discussion, as well as two blog posts: “Preparing the Next Generation of Manufacturers through Community Colleges” and “New Skills Needed for New Manufacturing Technology”.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

This Week in CTE

July 24th, 2015


Vocational Education Should be for Everyone
Despite some negative perceptions of vocational or Career Technical Education (CTE), schools across the country are taking different approaches in improving CTE and connecting academic, technical and real-world learning for students. “We’re thinking about that now, to take more old school programs and reimagine them into career pathways, so we’re thinking about how you take traditional construction and woodworking classes and change the structure so it aligns with a high-demand advanced manufacturing pathway,” said Laurent Trent, Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Denver Public School’s Office of College and Career Readiness.


Learn about competency-based learning in 60 seconds

Join The “E” in STEM Education: Why Engineering is Vital to Science Standards webinar on July 28 from 3 – 4 p.m. to learn why engineering is vital to STEM and the role the Next Generation Science Standards plays in incorporating engineering in content standards. The webinar will feature leaders from Portland, Oregon and Washington, D.C.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate