Career Clusters Implementation in the States: Career Clusters Are Groups of Similar Occupations That Help Organize Career Planning, and Tailor Student Courses to Individual Career Paths

By Reese, Susan | Techniques, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Career Clusters Implementation in the States: Career Clusters Are Groups of Similar Occupations That Help Organize Career Planning, and Tailor Student Courses to Individual Career Paths


Reese, Susan, Techniques


When the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) released its April 2007 study on career clusters and programs of study, it noted that. ''The majority of states have embraced the concept of career clusters and have been consistent in expanding and extending their implementation."

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According to NASDCTEc Executive Director Kim Green, this year has brought a lot more interest in career clusters, and she sees Perkins IV as a big motivation for states to take clusters to the next level, "Most states are using the law as a vehicle to take what they saw as a new vision for career and technical education (CTE) and turn it into a reality," she says. "In a lot of the conversations we have had, we find states are thinking about, over the lifetime of the act, moving more and more programs toward the career cluster concept and using those federal dollars to really drive change and program improvement. Green added that states are more engaged and are asking tougher questions, such as what it means for the curriculum, what standards they should use, what certifications look like, what it means for the program approval process, and what it means for credit transfer.

The law requires states to implement programs of study (POS), and the states can either develop the programs themselves or they can create guidelines around which locally developed programs of study would be implemented. Green notes that a lot of states are using that kind of process-oriented change method of looking at the programs of study and deciding whether to work with existing ones--and if so how they can create guidelines that can help transform existing programs into the cluster model--or if they should create new programs of study that look more like career clusters.

Assessments and Change

Assessments represent another challenge. "Most existing assessments are very job specific, but Perkins IV pushes for the system to beheld accountable for technical skill attainment, says Green: "So the absence of having cluster-based assessment while trying to move your instruction in that direction is a bit of a challenge," she adds. "A lot of conversation is occurring about technical assessment, but we haven't resolved that issue yet. Some people may be hesitant about moving much further forward until they see what comes out of that assessment discussion."

Green notes that states say that they are really at the point of figuring out what the needs are at the local level to really make this transformation happen. "I think we've only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what kind of professional development, technical assistance and other resources need to be in place to make this change happen."

Still, she sees that compared to a year ago, more states are not only buying into the vision, but are beginning to see how the career cluster system can work in their state. "You hear a lot more people using the language and talking about the opportunity of using the career cluster model. We're at that next phase of implementation where people have bought into the concept at the state level, and now they're trying to make sure they have the support of the people at the local level in both the secondary and the postsecondary systems, and then trying to figure out what they need to put in place to make that change happen."

Achieving Success in Texas

AchieveTexas is an education initiative designed to prepare students for secondary and postsecondary opportunities, career preparation and advancement, meaningful work and active citizenship. The initiative uses the 16 career clusters as the foundation for restructuring how schools arrange their instructional programs. POS have been created for each career cluster, with the POS based upon the Recommended High School Graduation Plan and easily adapted to the Distinguished Achievement High School Graduation Plan. …

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