NPS Convenes Hundreds of CTE Educators; Education Secretary Arne Duncan Gives Keynote Address: The United States Has a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Improve How We Educate Students Given a New Political Climate and Bipartisan Support to Improve Student Outcomes

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THE 2009 ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION (ACTE) NATIONAL POLICY SEMINAR (NPS) was one of the most energetic and highly attended advocacy meetings in ACTE's history. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, congressional staffers and policy experts gave insightful presentations during the three-day event held in Arlington, Virginia. Stanley Collender, partner at Qorvis Communications, was just the General Session speaker to kick off the event. Collender, who has a background in public relations, is one of the leading experts on the U.S. budget and the congressional budget process. Collender said that President Obama's budget proposal addresses the current economic situation although it creates a huge $1.75 trillion deficit.

"This is fiscal policy that's necessary to get the job done," said Collender. "When individuals are not spending, the government has to."

President Obama has stated that by 2013 he will cut the deficit in half, Collender told attendees, so as the years go by, the president will gradually switch his focus from deficit increases to deficit reduction. This, according to Collender, creates a tremendous opportunity for career and technical education (CTE).

"You have never had as good an opportunity as you have today," said Collender. "Technical schools [and CTE programs] make a great deal of sense right now. You are coming here at exactly the right time because two years from now, it will be too late."

Collender urged attendees to "hit even harder" as they talk with their federal and state legislators. "In the midst of this economic downturn, the importance of CTE has never been more evident," he said. "You are the answer. You are providing the workforce so that this situation does not happen again."

"You can't take no for an answer," Collender encouraged. "Support for CTE has to be a part of our stimulus effort. You have to fight."

When asked the best way to impart the value of CTE, Collender urged attendees to "talk about the impact of a better educated person, not on the need for a percentage increase in funding." The stories of how CTE helps individuals, businesses and local economies will resonate. Collender said, "We all need to be vigilant and active for the rest of the year. When Jan and [ACTE] send out e-mail alerts, they are not kidding. You have to make the time to respond."

Duncan: Great Opportunity for True Education Reform

The United States has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve how we educate students given a new political climate and bipartisan support to improve student outcomes, said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Duncan, who was the keynote speaker at NPS on March 11, noted that innovative best practices are being employed in many areas to improve student performance; the challenge is to widely replicate them so that they can benefit a larger number of students, many of whom face challenges, but can do better with the right approach.

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"We have a moral responsibility," he told attendees, "not to keep the status quo."

Duncan said that every student should graduate from high school both college and work ready, but the one-size-fits-all approach to education won't work for every child. He said some students may take longer to graduate from high school than others and some may earn college credit while still in high school. By providing students with various learning opportunities we can increase the likelihood of student success. Duncan said that CTE is "a huge part" of the solution to improve student outcomes so that they are prepared for life after high school.

Duncan said the $i00 billion included in the stimulus package for education is testimony to President Obama's commitment to ensuring that all students reach their full potential. The areas the Administration will work to improve include early childhood education, curbing high school dropout, improving college graduation rates, and raising academic standards. …