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By: Margo Ensz on October 16th, 2014

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The New CTE

Featured Topics: Industry News and Trends | Academic Subject: Career & Technical Education | Featured Topics: Professional Development

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What comes to mind when someone speaks of Career and Technical Education? What connotations does that phrase hold in the education world? Are students eager to enroll CTE programs, or do they hesitate, wondering if CTE will help with college readiness?

Enter the new players in Career and Technical Education, those who understand the rapidly evolving and complicated choices students will face, and the equally evolving and complicated industries they will enter. Enter high-quality CTE.

“In recent years, a well-intentioned push for all students to earn four-year degrees has resulted in limiting, rather than expanding, educational opportunities. A strictly academic curriculum has been prioritized to the detriment of career and technical education (CTE), which provides the link between the needs of the labor market and the needs of young people to be prepared for life after high school. Because of its potential to engage students, CTE is now experiencing renewed interest as a viable option for students both career and college bound.”

This passage is from an October 6th letter from James R. Stone, director of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE). In this letter, Stone reflects on the necessity of CTE in schools. However, he argues that CTE programs need to reevaluate and revamp what they offer to students. “What is needed is a revisioning of CTE to meet the more challenging demands of providing students with the skills they need to move through a viable carer pathway and continue their education and training to make that pathway a reality.” He calls this high-quality CTE.

Read more about high-quality CTE in this article, "More Than One Way: The Case for High-Quality CTE."

Another major player in the reinvisioning of CTE is Aarti Dhupelia, Director of CTE at Chicago Public Schools. Dhupelia “strives to ensure that every student at every grade level is engaged, on-track, and accelerating toward success in college, career, and life.” Dhupelia works with a very specific, data-driven professional development approach to CTE in CPS. She also has worked to ensure that CTE is not seen only from a technical, tech-school route view--she argues that CTE is important for all career and education paths, and that it is the school's role to ensure students are ready for any future career or education path.

A podcast from the NRCCTE titled “CTE Educators Using a Data Driven Improvement Model” featured Dhupelia and those involved with the Career and Technical Educators using Data Driven Improvement (CTEDDI) project. When asked about this model’s use in Chicago Public Schools and about her general philosophy regarding the future of CTE, she responded:

“Our end goal is very clear in Chicago Public Schools, and that's simply to increase student achievement continually so that our students graduate prepared for success in college, careers and life, whatever path they choose to go down.
CTE teachers often come directly from the private sector, from industry, and they often lack formal backgrounds in education, meaning they, more than other teachers, may need that professional development on data driven instruction.”

As far as the necessity for data-driven model for CTE instructors, Frances Beauman said, “With diminishing resources, CTE has to be able to show that it can get the job done - not just talk about it, but they need to be able to show that they can.”

By implementing strategic professional development for CTE industry instructors, pushing for high-quality CTE, and reinvisioning the educations and career paths students may go down, students, educators, and administrators can position their own CTE programs to meet the demands of each student's future. 

Want to read more? Check out this case study on a Minnesota school that helps students learn real-world job skills and build confidence.