UNDOUBTEDLY, TODAY'S YOUTH MUST BE equipped with the technical skills necessary to succeed in their trades, and now more than ever, they must also master the essential skills of communication and math within their chosen careers. Integrating academics into career and technical education (CTE) is vital to the success of our students, states and nation. Research has shown that incorporating literacy and numeracy skills within students' areas of interest dramatically increases the retention and understanding of these skills. But is it merely enough to incorporate numeracy and literacy skills into CTE? Do CTE teachers have enough knowledge of English and math competencies and state standards to adequately teach such skills?
As Cass Career Center--a shared-time center in Harrisonville, Missouri--discovered, it is the collaboration of CTE and English and math instructors that provides the opportunity for students to flourish. Yet the school has taken this concept one step further: It is now offering level-four English and math credit integrated into CTE. These integrated curriculums of English IV and Math IV are taught simultaneously within CTE, creating a rich academic and technical learning environment that not only prepares students for college and their careers, it allows students to earn credit in high-level English and math.
What is an Integrated Curriculum?
In its simplest definition, an integrated curriculum is created to operate and be taught within the confines of a CTE class. Over time, GTE, English and math instructors at Cass Career Center collaborated and developed two senior-level courses, one for English and one for math, to be taught within each of the eight three-hour block programs the center offers.
These integrated curriculum English and math courses are specifically designed to incorporate real-world communication arts and math skills, in preparation for college and career readiness, into classes such as automotive technology, fire science and EMT, health science, welding and others. The possibilities are endless, because integrated English and math curriculums will mold to any CTE program, enhancing core academics in CTE and providing opportunities for students to earn senior-level credit.
Developing these English and math curriculums did not come easy, but the effort is worth the challenges. Cass Career Center hired two full-time certified instructors, one for English and one for math, to work with all students in the center's three-hour block programs as well as to develop, write and implement the curriculums For English IV and Math IV, as the courses became named. These two teachers spent time working with each of the CTE instructors to determine the literacy and numeracy skills vital to college and career readiness for students in each of the CTE programs.
Armed with this knowledge, they began working with the English and math departments of the sending high schools in Cass Career Center's district. Together, essential skills were written and aligned with senior-level English and math courses at the high school, units and core concepts were developed for integrated English IV and Math IV, and finally, all were aligned to Missouri state content and process standards. Students entering into a three-hour block course at Cass Career Center are now responsible for learning the skills and concepts of three separate yet linked curriculums, taught together, preparing students for not only the demands and rigor of college, but real-world learning experiences where skills are rarely called upon in isolation of others.
Integrating Academics into CTE
As CTE teachers can attest, core academies and soft skills are embedded within CTE by nature, and students who graduate from their high schools and shared-time centers with a firm grasp of not only technical skills but numeracy and literacy skills become the most successful adults. …