Education Letter to the Editor

Take a Fresh Perspective on Career and Technical Education

March 01, 2011 2 min read

To the Editor:

The edweek.org blog post titled “Can K-12 Handle a Newfangled Career & Tech Ed?” (Curriculum Matters blog, Feb. 3, 2011) addressed whether career and technical education, or CTE, could answer the clarion call for quality programs. A recent Harvard Graduate School of Education report, “Pathways to Prosperity,” and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan suggest that we can.

Indeed, having this validating stamp from Harvard, then having Secretary Duncan support the vision of the report in a speech last month, was among the top 10 moments of the decade for CTE leaders. But while Harvard and Secretary Duncan are two important voices, they are not alone. Many other leaders—from education to business and industry to parents—have recognized the value of CTE and understand the potential it provides, not only in preparing students for jobs that require technical skills, but also in engaging students in academic understanding, raising the level of academic performance, and playing an important role in school reform.

Many CTE programs have adapted to industry trends and education needs. As we’ve seen through history, CTE does evolve. Speaking firsthand about his experiences in Chicago, Secretary Duncan noted the incredible changes taking place with CTE. Examples can be found all over the nation.

In New Jersey at Newark Tech High School, where more than 85 percent of 700 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, the graduation rate for the class of 2009 was 98.8 percent, and 86 percent of students reported going on to two-year or four-year institutions.

In South Carolina, legislators have recognized the value of comprehensive CTE programs. The state’s Education Economic Development Act requires all CTE students to have a work-based learning experience that aligns with the career-clusters program in which they are enrolled.

In Virginia, Northern Virginia Community College is preparing students for high-demand fields such as health care. With the help of its business partnerships, the community college has created programs to increase the number of students who graduate and earn credentials. From 2006 to 2010, the number of two-year and four-year Registered Nurse (R.N.) graduates increased from 498 to 679.

The CTE community recognizes that significant change is needed to bring all of CTE to such levels of success. Just last year, we crafted a new agenda for CTE, which is outlined in “Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for Career Technical Education.” In summary, the vision calls for all of CTE to prepare students for college and careers in the global economy. We are ready to help take all of CTE to the next level.

To answer the question: Do K-12 schools, community colleges, and private-sector employers have the capacity not only to offer top-notch, well-aligned CTE programs, but all the necessary supports and information crucial to letting all students start from the same starting block? Yes, we do. CTE has evolved and is setting and leading a college- and career-ready agenda for all students. It is time for the media and education system observers to look at CTE with a fresh set of eyes.

Janet Bray

Executive Director

Association for Career and Technical Education

Alexandria, Va.

Kimberly Green

Executive Director

National Association of State Directors

of Career and Technical Education Consortium

Silver Spring, Md.

A version of this article appeared in the March 02, 2011 edition of Education Week as Take a Fresh Perspective on Career and Technical Education