NGA Policy Analysts Discuss Education Reform

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ACTE'S CATHERINE IMPERATORE INTERVIEWS ALEX HARRIS AND DAVID WAKELYN, SENIOR POLICY ANALYSTS AT THE NATIONAL GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION CENTER FOR BEST PRACTICES.

ACTE: Thank you both for finding the time to talk to me today.

DW: You bet.

AH: Happy to be here.

ACTE: Are there gaps in what we know about career and technical education (CTE)?

AH: As David and 1 learned more about this issue, we did find some knowledge gaps. While there is certainly growing interest in an integrated curriculum-a curriculum that integrates academic rigor with the applied learning of career-technical education-we did not find a solid research base around the impact of the various curricular programs out there.

Also, a number of states seem to be moving toward industry certification as a quality control mechanism. While we can document the momentum toward industry certification, we do not know a lot about what is contained within the various certifications.

So these are certainly areas that lthink we need to learn more out about in order to help career and technical education programs reorient themselves around high-wage, high-skill occupations.

DW: I also think that we have new CTE programs-like Cisco networking certification-that have come on board; but we do not have a sense of how those students fare on math and science achievement tests. We are missing information that allows us to hold CTE programs accountable and to gauge exactly what value they have added for students' academic skill sets.

ACTE: What innovations, including CTE practices, are proving to be most effective in bringing about high school reform?

AH: There are three key policy innovations being developed at the state level that have really impressed us. The first area is making college-level courses available for all students, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and dualenrollment type courses where you get credit at both the high school and college level.

The second innovative area is around the idea of new school models such as high tech high schools, early college high schools and charter schools. Moving away from the notion that "one size fits all" allows students and parents to determine what model fits best with their strengths and interests. We are seeing a lot of these models flourishing, particularly in some high-need urban school districts like Chicago and New York City and elsewhere.

The third effective approach is retooling career-end technical education programs to provide better support for a state's innovation-based economy. There's been a concerted push by governors and other state leaders to diversify their economy and focus on innovation issues in order to compete in the global economy. In response, many career and technical education programs are working to marry academic rigor with applied relevance or hands-on learning that better align with a state's economy.

DW: I think the best example of CTE marrying rigor and relevance is Jim Stone's Math-in-CTE experiment. Jim partnered high school math teachers with construction teachers to develop new lessons that would elaborate the correlation between both areas of study. So that construction teachers-instead of just talking about three, 4, 5 when you're building a set of steps-would actually get students into the geometry and mathematical theorems that go into building steps. …