Magazine article Techniques

Modernizing Career and Technical Education Programs

Magazine article Techniques

Modernizing Career and Technical Education Programs

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

High-quality career and technical education (CTE) programs can launch America's future competitiveness through increased student engagement, the innovative integration of traditional academic courses, and by meeting the needs of both employers and the economy as a whole. American students failing to keep pace with their international counterparts have given serious cause for concern as the gap continues to widen despite myriad education reform movements.

Recent reform efforts have focused on increasing graduation requirements-which in turn led to the elimination of elective courses such as CTE in the secondary curriculum; the results of reforms are "epidemic level" dropout rates across the country as described in this article posted on the ABC News Web site:

"A recent study by the Department of Education found that 31 percent of American students were dropping out or failing to graduate in the nation's largest 100 public school districts. The implications from dropping out of high school are enormous, including a higher risk of poverty and even an abbreviated lifespan," (Thomas & Date, 2006, p. 1).

While increased graduation requirements have limited the number of CTE courses offered at the secondary level, statistics show that participation in CTE programs increases earnings and improves employment outcomes, reduces dropout and absentee rates, and improves postsecondary outcomes. Modernized CTE supports strong economic competitiveness by:

* increasing student engagement;

* improving math, science and literacy skills;

* meeting America's workforce needs; and

* meeting employer needs for highly skilled workers.

Although CTE was ignored in President Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation, the Domestic Policy Council reported in 2006 that the president noted that expanded investments in CTE were essential to meeting educational goals, and instrumental in "providing each new generation of Americans with the educational foundation for future study and inquiry in technical subjects." Modern CTE programs expose students to future career opportunities and also technical skills at a time when it is critical to get students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related occupations early in their educational careers. Technological advances have transformed the nature of work, and the American educational system has not kept pace with these advances. As a result, tomorrow's jobs will require more knowledge, better skills and more flexible workers than ever before.

Connecting the Classroom and the Real World

In an effort to get the American education system aligned with the technological advances, a partnership involving states, schools, educators, employers, industry groups and other stakeholders was created and new curriculum guidelines, academic and technical standards, assessments, and professional development materials for 16 career clusters were developed. The 16 career clusters were developed to link what students learn in school with the knowledge and skills they need for success in college and future careers. Richard W. Riley, former U.S. education secretary, said:

"Our 16 broad career clusters will help students enhance the link between the knowledge they acquire in school and the skills they need to pursue their dreams. Without limiting students, career clusters help them focus on an area of interest or a possible career path," (States' Career Clusters Initiative, 2008).

One of the 16 career clusters is the STEM pathway. The STEM pathway contains two groups. One group contains the knowledge and the other group the skills required to prepare for careers in STEM. CTE is the foundation to STEM pathways at the middle and high school levels. Programs such as Project Lead The Way (PLTW), which prepares middle and high school students to meet the challenges of tomorrow's workforce, have been very successful in introducing America's youth to careers of the future. …

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