Regardless of what career and technical educators may think bout the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, it is difficult to argue against its stated goals to improve public schools, increase student learning, and place a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. Most of us in career and technical education (CTE) would prefer that the goals be pursued using different strategies and measured using different gauges; but higher standards and better prepared teachers are worthy aspirations for the education profession.
Excellence in Education and CTE
NCLB did not start the ball rolling toward the current national obsession with high-stakes testing. In fact accountability through student achievement testing in the "basics" has been around in different guises at least since the 1950s. Calls for "more highly trained" teachers, more rigorous academic instruction, and student testing have been around at least since the Committee often report in the early 1890s. What had come to be known by the early 1980s as the "excellence movement" in education looked a lot like the Committee of Ten's vision for American public education with an emphasis on the traditional academic basics and testing. That approach was given a huge boost by the 1983 report "A Nation at Risk."
The direct effect of the excellence movement since "A Nation at Risk" was published, and NCLB, has been increased course-taking in science, math and the other traditional academic subjects by high school students in this country. Research shows that the consequence has been a loss of opportunity for many students to enroll in CTE--resulting in declines in CTE enrollments at the secondary level. With the now obvious flaws in the current approach to education reform, educators and political leaders such as California's Governor Schwarzenegger are increasingly coming to the conclusion that expanded and updated CTE programs must be included as a part of the broader public school reform movement.
Americans may be beginning to see that the regimen of high-stakes testing, without more fundamental education reform, cannot produce the outcomes its proponents promised. A 2002 report found that over the coming decade we will be facing increases in public secondary school CTE enrollments, an increasing demand for new CTE teachers, and a continuing decline in teacher education programs.
CTE Teacher Education
As secondary CTE enrollments began to decline, partially a result of the high-stakes testing movement, there was a fundamental shift in the federal funding patterns for CTE beginning with Perkins II in 1990. Before that, larger percentages of federal funds had been set aside for state-level leadership, and much of that money had been used to support teacher education efforts in CTE. Beginning with Perkins II, those funds were largely redirected to local schools. With the shift in funding from state-level leadership activities to local use, CTE teacher education programs were particularly hard hit in most states. The decline in secondary CTE enrollment coupled with the changes in funding patterns in Perkins II created a situation: CTE teacher education programs rapidly withered across the country.
As long as universities and colleges received additional funding for CTE teacher education programs, they were willing to provide CTE teacher preparation. When the funds were discontinued, many universities elected to keep funds in academic programs. In 1991, the dean of the College of Education at Virginia Tech informed a CTE faculty meeting that the funding cuts from the Virginia Department of Education, a result of the funding shift under Perkins, would result in the loss of more than one-third of the faculty positions in the program at the institution. The CTE field must use data to convince administrators in universities and colleges that CTE teacher education programs are needed to prepare qualified teachers for an area of growth and importance to the nation's youth. …