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Leaders, Laggards and the State of the Common Core

Friday, September 12th, 2014

2014 Leaders & Laggards

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has released the newest version of its Leaders & Laggards, a state-by-state analysis of K-12 education. Seven years after its inaugural edition, the report found that every state had improved in K-12 education but results still vary greatly in student outcomes across the country.

The 2014 report graded states on an A-F system using 11 metrics including student achievement, return on investment, international competitiveness and postsecondary and workforce readiness. The American Enterprise Institute conducted the research in the report. This year’s report also showed how student scores changed over time since the initial report.

Tennessee was highlighted as a state that made tremendous progress since the 2007 rankings, receiving an A for progress but was still awarded D’s and F’s in categories such as academic achievement, Technology and international competitiveness.

The report drew from national data such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Advanced Placement exam passage rates, and high school graduation rates.

Citing the country’s high unemployment rate and persistently high number of unfilled jobs as evidence of a skills gap, the researchers attempted to look closer at how the K-12 system was preparing students for college and careers. However, they said insufficient data and the lack of a single accountability metric prevented them from being able to truly measure career readiness or post-high school outcomes.

Also, despite having a category that examined career readiness, CTE was visibly absent from both the report and the conversation at the public event in Washington, D.C. When asked about why CTE wasn’t included, AEI’s Frederick M. Hess called out the lack of quality, consistent national data on CTE as the reason for its absence from the report.

You can spend time with the report’s sophisticated web tool, which allows you to compare states by metric, see full state report cards and look closer at the data used.

Where does the Common Core stand now?

After months of heated debates over the Common Core State Standards, it might be easy to lose track of which states have kept, renamed, modified or overturned the new (or not so new) standards to measure college and career readiness.

Education Commission of the States have taken a state-by-state look at where the Common Core currently stands. While some more high-profile examples have made news headlines, other changes – sometimes in name only – have bypassed national news. In fact, though many states have maintained their commitment to the standards, 25 have quietly renamed the standards such as Iowa Core, Maine’s Learning Results and Wyoming Content and Performance Standards.

Check out the full overview to see where your state stands.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

By Andrea Zimmermann in News, Research
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Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 1)

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Catching Up Series

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislature activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.

There was significant legislative activity related to postsecondary education this spring – with a couple of landmark bills that even caught the attention of national media.

Postsecondary Funding

One of the most notable higher education bills to pass thus far hails from Tennessee, where Governor Bill Haslam recently signed into law the, “Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act.” The law, which will largely be paid for through lottery revenues, guarantees two years of free tuition at a community college or college of applied technology for all graduating high school seniors starting in 2015. Gov. Haslam first proposed in this year’s State of the State address as the cornerstone of his year-old Drive to 55 initiative to increase Tennessean higher education attainment to 55 percent by 2025.

Two other states also made forays into this arena. The Oregon state legislature directed its Higher Education Coordinating Commission to explore the possibility of a free tuition program. The commission is expected to submit its report by September 30. A similar effort in Mississippi, however, died in committee.

Colorado gave its higher education system a much-needed infusion of funds after years of budget cuts. The legislation known as the “College Affordability Act,” was signed by Governor John Hickenlooper in early May and increases higher education funding by $100 million for the 2014-2015 academic year (AY). The bill also institutes a six percent cap on tuition increases for the next two years.  Of that $100 million, 13 percent will be directed to community colleges, 40 percent to student aid and the remaining 53 percent to other higher education institutions.

Colorado’s legislature also passed a measure that would use outcome measures such as student retention and completion rates to determine an institution’s state funding. Currently, the bill has been sent to the governor for signature. Much of the proposed legislation is vague, and if signed into law, such details would be determined by the Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Postsecondary Attainment Plans

Oregon lawmakers added apprenticeships to its higher education attainment plan, also known as the “40-40-20” goal. The plan, which was launched in 2011, states that by 2025 all adult Oregonians will hold a high school diploma or equivalency (the remaining 20 percent), 40 percent will have an associate’s degree or meaningful postsecondary credential, and 40 percent will hold a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree. Under this newest addition, apprenticeships registered with the State Apprenticeship and Training Council now qualify as a meaningful postsecondary credential.

Washington adopted two statewide education attainment goals as part of its 10-year higher education roadmap, which was originally unveiled in 2013. The Washington Student Achievement Council detailed these goals in a report it sent to the legislature in December and includes benchmarks necessary to reach them. The goals are for all Washington adults will have a high school diploma or equivalent and at least 70 percent of Washington adults will have a postsecondary credential.

Bachelor’s Degrees at Community Colleges

Following in the footsteps of more than 20 other states, Colorado also authorized community colleges to offer applied science bachelor’s degrees. While one more state joined a growing list, another decided to step back, momentarily.  The Florida legislature placed a one-year moratorium that prohibits the state’s community colleges from adding any new four-year degree programs. With 24 colleges offering a total of 175 degree programs and the number of such degrees awarded doubling in 2013, lawmakers became concerned that colleges were overstepping their bounds.

Did we miss something related to higher education in your state? Drop us an email!

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

By Andrea Zimmermann in Legislation, Public Policy
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CTE Month Special: What Do the State of the States Mean for CTE? (Part II)

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

mapYesterday, we released a summary of several state of the state addresses, focusing on their implications for CTE in the year ahead. Below is the second installment in this CTE Month special series, highlighting more governors who took time out of their state of the state address to endorse programs for high-quality CTE in their state.

During the State of the State Address in Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy embraced “hands-on learning,” committing his administration to working with private-sector partners and educators to provide for early college and dual enrollment initiatives. He also commended the P-Tech program, a collaboration between IBM and a number of New York City high schools that guides students through high school and provides for an additional two years of instruction. Graduating students complete the P-Tech program with advanced credentials and Governor Malloy expressed his desire to emulate this in Connecticut by offering a comprehensive, skill-centered pathway for students to credentials above and beyond a high school diploma.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal touted the state’s High Demand Career Initiative, designed to bring together leaders of the University System of Georgia, technical colleges and schools, and state industry leaders to understand labor market needs, as well as a $10M loan program for students attending technical colleges.

In Indiana, Governor Mike Pence outlined his desire to make CTE an option for every Hoosier student. He encouraged not only the development of programs to allow secondary students an easier path into postsecondary CTE programs, but also for adult education that would allow professionals to seek retraining to improve their skills and competencies making them more competitive in today’s labor market.

Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa promoted his Iowa Apprenticeship and Job Training Act, entailing a number of initiatives to increase student access to apprenticeships by tripling funding for apprenticeships under the state’s 260F worker training program.  He also cited his state’s recent success expanding STEM education, anticipating 60,000 or more students will have access to STEM programs in the state as a result of the efforts of the STEM Advisory Council, an initiative led by Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas touted a 75 percent increase in enrollment in CTE since the state launched its Career Technical Education Initiative. The sweeping plan from 2012 included $8.75 million for CTE programs, covering tuition for students taking postsecondary CTE courses, $1.5 million to high schools that encourage students to earn industry recognized credentials and allotting funds to spread the word about job opportunities for CTE graduates.

In Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley announced his desire for every high school student in Maryland to graduate with a modern technical skill and a year of college credit already earned.

Governor of New Hampshire Maggie Hassan embraced developing STEM education in the Granite State as a response to the needs of the state’s high-tech industry. Governor Hassan cited restoring previously cut funds to New Hampshire higher education as a strategy to entice business to the state, and indicated that a well-trained and career-ready workforce was key to economic development in the granite state.

In the Oklahoma State of the State Address, Governor Mary Fallin called education beyond high school “the new minimum” for Oklahomans entering the workforce, and expressed her desire to increase the number of graduates seeking qualifications beyond a high school diploma “…either by attending college or a career technology center.” She also cited increasing numbers of Oklahomans seeking degrees or certificates as a result of collaboration with CareerTech in the Complete College America initiative.

In South Dakota, Governor Dennis Daugaard focused heavily on CTE, which he labeled “…the intersection of education and economic development.” In a series of proposals to enhance CTE and draw more students into technical fields the governor advocated for $5 million in Governor’s Grants for CTE to improve collaboration between secondary schools offering CTE courses, along with $3.8 million in Future Fund grants to technical institutes for workplace priority areas and extra funds for scholarships for students in high need fields.  He also touted Building South Dakota, the economic development fund that incorporates infrastructure, housing, and development funds along with CTE funding.

Continuing with his year-old Drive to 55 initiative, (a program to ensuring 55 percent of his state’s citizens possess credentials above a high school diploma by 2022), Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee voiced his support for expanded CTE and career readiness programs. Adding onto Drive to 55’s expanded dual enrollment, workforce readiness and curriculum alignment initiatives, Governor Haslam announced the “Tennessee Promise” program. Tennessee Promise will provide Tennessee secondary graduates with the opportunity to go to two years of community college or college of applied technology education free of charge. Continuing his push for expanded educational opportunity, Governor Haslam included in his address further funding for college expansion and renovation across the state, including $65 million for expanding two of the largest community colleges in Tennessee.

Evan Williamson, Communications Associate

By Evan Williamson in CTE: Learning that works for America, Legislation, News
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President Visits Career Academy in Nashville, Talks CTE, Opportunity Agenda

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

DSC_5768Following the State of the Union Address, President Obama spent two days last week touring the country to promote his “Opportunity Agenda,” a program designed to prepare the American workforce for the evolving needs of our economy.  On Thursday, McGavock High School, the largest of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, played host to the President.

“It was an incredible event that validated the work of so many people here in the city of Nashville,” said Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jay Steele.

Seizing on the President’s assertion that Career Technical Education (CTE) “makes words on a page exciting, real, and tangible” for students, Steele emphasized that the district’s academies are designed to enhance and augment, not supplant, general education. “While CTE is the anchor of the program, core gen ed. courses come alive and become more relevant.”

Dr. Danielle Mezera, Assistant Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education CTE, described MNPS as an “excellent example” of CTE blending with core academic classes to enrich students’ experience.

“Since we came in a couple of years ago, we have really wanted to supply truth in advertising [for state CTE programs,]” Mezera said. “One of our main goals has been to provide the support and flexibility to allow districts to focus on aligning secondary and postsecondary studies with their practical application and with career opportunities. Programs like teacher externships and business partnerships have been key. [MNPS] has done an excellent job taking advantage of them.”

Even before the Obama Administration announced the visit, MNPS was on the President’s radar. Early in January, the President cited MNPS for overhauling its structure and boosting graduation rates 22 percent.

Yet, MNPS’s place as an exemplar didn’t happen overnight. Rather it took years of sustained effort.

Several years ago, MNPS audited its CTE programs and discovered that they were not as effective as they could be.  MNPS teamed up with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce to comb through workforce data to identify the area’s most in-demand jobs in Nashville. Then, working with the Ford Next Generation Learning Project, Alignment Nashville, the PENCIL Foundation, and local stakeholders, MNPS decided to shift to the career academy model.

The new format promised students the chance to select particular academies of interest (the CMT Academy of Digital Design & Communication or the US Community Credit Union Academy of Business and Finance at McGavock, for instance) in 10th grade. Pairing core academic classes with CTE, students combine what they learn in science, math and language arts with courses teaching career-specific skills.

Speaking about the process, Executive Director of Ford Next Generation Learning Cheryl Carrier said, “You have to have all of the key stakeholders at the table. School districts, business partners, and government have to be at the table together and work towards a common aligned vision. MNPS and the Nashville community were able to create a five-year plan that looked at all aspects of the academy’s development, and it took off.”

That development led to an innovative CTE program that incorporates all 16 Career Clusters. Seven years into the project, MNPS now also serves as a model for the Ford PAS program, with hundreds of visitors coming each year to observe the academies and devise ways to implement similar models in their districts.

“As the President said, it’s a simple but powerful idea,” Steele said. “It doesn’t require that you change as much as some might think, but it requires you to change the way you think about education.”

In his remarks during the visit, the President emphasized changing the conversation surrounding education with a similar shift in perspective. “Young people are going to do better when they’re excited about learning, and they’re going to be more excited if they see a connection between what they’re doing in the classroom and how it is applied…Schools like this one teach you everything you need to know in college, but, because of that hands-on experience, schools like this one are able to create pathways so that folks, if they choose not to go to a four-year institution, can get a job sooner.”

The President’s citation of MNPS and Tennessee’s successful pathways was particularly gratifying for Patrice Watson, Program Manager for Tennessee’s Office of Postsecondary Coordination and Alignment. “Being there and having [the President] talk about giving students different pathways, getting the community involved in the schools, and making [reform] a community effort made it clear that he understands what we’re trying to do here in Tennessee,” she said.

CTE Student Success Career Clusters Consultant Bethany Wilkes agreed that the President’s remarks are an encouraging sign for CTE. “It was incredibly gratifying,” she said. “[The President] focused on how we can develop critical thinking skills and engage the students—that’s what we do every day.”

The President’s visit to McGavock High came on the same day that the Administration released a fact sheet going more in-depth on its Opportunity for All Agenda. That document, available here, endorses improving alignment between apprenticeships, training programs, and schools, as well as consultation with industry leaders, educators and policymakers to create job-driven training and education. In endorsing McGavock’s CTE-based programs, the President opened the door to making CTE a key component of those efforts.

- Evan Williamson, Communications Associate

By Evan Williamson in Uncategorized
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CTE in the News: Career-Tech Important Program in Real World

Friday, March 9th, 2012

As Tennessee moves forward with its strategies to bolster education and workforce development, successful CTE programs should continue to play a key role in the state’s efforts, said Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in a recent editorial featured in the Tennessean.

“For Tennessee to stay one of the most attractive economic engines in the Southeast, we must leave a place at the table for CTE,” Ramsey said.

In the last year, a total of 398,695 Tennessee students were enrolled in CTE courses, Ramsey noted. Further, over the last six years, CTE concentrators graduated at a higher percentage than the school-age population and CTE concentrators scored higher average averages in math and well as in reading and writing. The data comes from a new report by the Council for CTE.

Despite CTE’s demonstration of success, Ramsey said CTE programs have not received an influx of state funds in nearly 30 years. When making fiscal decisions during these tough economic times, it hopefully is apparent among most state leaders that an investment in CTE would provide the returns Tennessee needs.

Erin Uy, Communications & Marketing Manager

By Erin in News, Public Policy
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