Magazine article Techniques

The Role of Career Academies in Education Improvement

Magazine article Techniques

The Role of Career Academies in Education Improvement

Article excerpt

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A CTE Issue Briefs are designed to highlight the role of career and technical education (CTE) in a broader issue of national interest. Each brief is designed to strengthen the voice of CTE related to the specific issue and to draw more attention to CTE activities and best practices around the country. The briefs provide background information, highlight research, profile CTE programs and include numerous examples of how CTE is tied to the broader issue. Issue Briefs are designed in a concise, easy-to-read format that is ideal for use in advocacy and public awareness efforts with a variety of audiences.

One of the latest briefs is titled "The Role of Career Academies in Education Improvement." It was released in the spring of 2009 to capitalize on education reform discussions related to the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Read a condensed version of the brief below, and access the complete text, including research, case studies and examples, at www.acteonline.org/ issuebriefs.aspx.

The Concerns

As economic development issues dominate policy debates around the country, it is critical that the focus on improving education and training opportunities for U.S. students does not wane. Key to the nation's economic recovery is a well-educated and skilled workforce, the foundation for business growth and innovation. Despite the attention paid to education reform in recent years, there has been no silver bullet to increasing student engagement, achievement and transition to successful post-high school education and career opportunities.

While progress has been made in some areas, it is clear that U.S. students are under-prepared to compete in the increasingly global economy. The student dropout rate has only recently been acknowledged as a significant problem. More than one million students, or 7,000 pupils each day, are not reaching graduation only about 70 percent of students nationwide earn a diploma. (1)

More jobs than ever before require some type of postsecondary education in addition to a high school diploma, but many of the U.S. students who do graduate high school have not been able to make a smooth transition to college. Twenty-eight percent of four-year postsecondary freshmen and 42 percent of their two-year postsecondary contemporaries require remedial coursework. (2) Only slightly more than 50 percent of students entering postsecondary education are expected to graduate one of the lowest rates for industrialized nations. (3)

While there are many factors that contribute to low student achievement, one critical element is a lack of education relevance, both to students' individual lives, and to the complex and diverse workplace that has emerged from the knowledge revolution. If students are ever to graduate and meet their postsecondary and workforce aspirations, the educational disconnect and disinterest they experience must be addressed. Nearly half of individuals included in "The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts" report said that they were bored and not engaged in school. (4)

Schools today provide no context for many students who perceive educational institutions as ill-equipped to meet their learning needs. In some cases, their perceptions are correct. All too often, classrooms provide concepts and theories without the option to test and practice those ideas. Missing is relevance to concrete ideas and project- and community-based learning that can further enhance the linkages between education and students' future career and life goals, and as a result, increase overall student achievement.

Career Academies Provide Solutions

As many school reform initiatives ebb and wane, a lack of educational progress suggests a new direction and a broader role for career and technical education (CTE) in U.S. education. Specifically, the concept of "career academies" offers ways to expand CTE's breadth and depth through a strong and growing comprehensive improvement model. …

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