Note: This is part of Advance CTE’s blog series, “Getting to Know…” We are using this series to help our readers learn more about specific states, State CTE Directors, partners and more.
State Name: Virginia
State CTE Director: Lolita Hall, State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, Virginia Department of Education
About Virginia: Career and Technical Education (CTE) in Virginia has for years benefited from strong enthusiasm in the state legislature as well as sustained support and commitment from the Office of the Governor. Just this year, Gov. Terry McAuliffe in his State of the Commonwealth speech said that Virginia is “transforming our K-12 system to prepare students for the jobs of the 21st Century, with a particular emphasis on modernizing the [Standards of Learning] and how we deliver high school education.” This effort to modernize the Standards of Learning was initiated by major legislation passed in 2016. The law directs the Board of Education to identify a “Profile” for a Virginia graduate and adopt a more flexible high school experience. Currently, the Board is working with various state agencies to identify opportunities for a new high school graduation system, which is scheduled to be implemented in 2018.
A more seasoned initiative under way in Virginia is the Governor’s STEM and Health Sciences Academy network, which was launched and expanded under McAuliffe’s predecessors, Governors Tim Kaine and Bob McDonnell. The network, which includes 22 STEM Academies and 8 health science academies, are embedded within comprehensive high schools and CTE centers. Through partnerships with business leaders and local institutions of higher education, these academies expose students to a rigorous education with pathways to postsecondary opportunities. Each program includes at least two pathways and undergoes an intensive review process before qualifying for an official Governor’s Academy endorsement.
Programs of Study: Virginia students can also access CTE through 132 school divisions, approximately 350 comprehensive high schools, 10 regional technical centers and 47 local technical centers. Using local labor market information, Virginia identifies and funds programs aligned to priority high-wage, high-demand industries in each region. These programs are aligned with the 16 Clusters and 79 Pathways in the national Career Clusters framework.
A current priority in the Commonwealth is developing a rigorous curriculum in computer science to meet the rapid rate of growth in that sector. This work began in the 2013-14 school year and included cybercamps that provided students with project-based learning opportunities and guest lectures from industry experts through an intensive summer program. In 2016, Virginia held 32 cybercamps, reaching approximately 700 students across the Commonwealth. Moving forward, the Department of Education aims to finalize and launch cyber security curricula to be piloted in the 2017-18 school year.
Cross-Sector Partnerships: Although 85 percent of Virginia’s Perkins allocation is distributed at the secondary level, the Commonwealth has strong, collaborative partnerships across various agencies and sectors. One example is Gov. McAuliffe’s goal to help Virginia students and jobseekers attain 50,000 credentials, a primary objective of the Commonwealth’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) plan. This goal is now shared across 24 state and federally funded workforce programs, each working through various means to increase credential attainment in the Commonwealth. The New Economy Workforce Credential Grant program, for example, is a performance-based grant passed last year that covers up to two-thirds of the cost of tuition for noncredit workforce training programs that culminate in a credential. The initiative is administered by the Council of Higher Education, in partnership with several higher education institutions, and draws on a list of credentials identified and reviewed by the Board of Workforce Development.
On the Horizon: After a busy legislative session in 2016 that culminated in eight CTE-related laws and substantial increases in funding for credentials and CTE equipment, Virginia is fully engaged in implementing and expanding new programs. Even still, the legislature is eying new policies related to apprenticeships and CTE teacher licensure. Additionally, the Office of Career and Technical Education recently merged with the Office of Adult Education in order to streamline programs and facilitate more efficient program and service delivery under WIOA. The office, under Lolita Hall’s leadership, is engaged with integrating both the CTE and adult education portfolios in order to strengthen workforce preparation services for individuals all across the Commonwealth.
Austin Estes, Policy Associate