Magazine article Techniques

CTE: Creatively Supporting Rural Communities

Magazine article Techniques

CTE: Creatively Supporting Rural Communities

Article excerpt

Career and technical education (CTE) programs and institutions excel at meeting the needs of their students, whether in the heart of the city or in a far-flung rural area. CTE has been and continues to address the needs of the rural ecosystem through flexible delivery models (e.g., online learning), as well as through creative career exploration, partnerships, and programs that support local and regional workforce development. For these reasons, rural school districts have embraced CTE. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), rural high school students take more credits of CTE than urban, suburban or town-based students.

Rural schools have many strengths, including small learning cohorts that allow for personalized instruction and involved communities that care deeply about local schools and students. However, flexibility and creativity are needed to address the transportation, technological and pedagogical challenges faced when small student populations are geographically dispersed. In rural environments, it can be difficult to find instructors qualified to teach a particular course or course sequence, to administer a variety of programs that meet the career interests of students and help them complete a career pathway, and to give students a range of career exploration and work-based learning experiences. While virtual learning can help fill these gaps, many rural areas are still building a technology infrastructure to connect students and teachers across distances. Furthermore, funding challenges underlie all these concerns.

Flexible Delivery Models

CTE has a long history of delivering education flexibly via a variety of models that support student learning and engagement, while at the same time tackling financial, geographic and access challenges.

The area CTE center is one of the most common models of CTE delivery, wherein courses are held in a centralized location for secondary students from multiple schools or school districts. Students are transported to a CTE center from their home schools for a certain number of hours per week. This type of delivery model is known by many names, including an area or regional technology center, joint technical education district, joint vocational school district, or board of cooperative educational services, depending on the state. In many cases, adult learners can also benefit from area CTE center course offerings.

By concentrating CTE expertise in one place, the area CTE center eases the burdens on rural schools and districts. Oklahoma is an example of a state that has effectively deployed the CTE center model. The Oklahoma CareerTech system delivers CTE through comprehensive high schools, which offer academic and technical courses, as well as through 29 technology centers with 59 campus sites. A number of these programs are located in rural areas, such as Western Technology Center, which is responding to the local need for health care and dentistry employees by educating youth and adults in these and other fields.

In addition, career academies are a more recent model of CTE delivery that helps students build skills key to the local economy. These academies, which are usually small learning communities within a larger high school, combine academic and technical education around a career theme, which is often carefully selected to ensure it meets the needs of the rural community. For instance, Wyoming's Campbell County High School Career Academies serve the needs of key economic sectors in the state, including energy and engineering, health science and human services, hospitality and tourism, and transportation.

Online Learning

Beyond brick-and-mortar delivery systems, virtual learning provides another way for CTE programs to impart skills to students. As rural technology infrastructure improves, computer-based simulations and virtual offerings benefit students who may not otherwise have access to specialized courses that enhance their career readiness. …

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