Secondary Health Science Education: A Cross-State Career Pathway System

By Hess, Scott | Techniques, May 2016 | Go to article overview

Secondary Health Science Education: A Cross-State Career Pathway System


Hess, Scott, Techniques


FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS, THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, through its Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), which became the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) in 2012, has been leading the way to "overhaul" the traditional vocational education system of the past into a new system that better aligns with the demands of employers and the expectations of postsecondary education. National activities supported by OVAE/OCTAE, but carried out by the states, redefined vocational education into the new career and technical education (CTE) organized around programs of study and career pathways. Tech prep education, School-to-Work learning programs, National Career Clusters[R] Framework and Promoting Rigorous Career and Technical Education Programs of Study all provided valuable insights to establish a new system--the 16 Career Clusters[R]--to connect high schools and postsecondary education for all students.

Each cluster was originally organized and developed in partnership between OCTAE and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (renamed Advance CTE: State Leaders Connecting Learning to Work, in 2016), with collaboration among state departments of education (secondary and postsecondary), industry partners and other relevant organizations.

The original intent of career cluster development was for states to work together and establish a uniform structure for CTE that would include sets of common industry- and postsecondary-validated standards that would be recognized across the country. This process was state- and industry-driven and not mandated from the federal level.

The notion of a common career and technical education system organized around consistent nationally validated standards, while originally sought after, has never been fully accomplished for all 16 clusters.

The National Model

The National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE), founded in 1991, is an organization of state- and local-level secondary and postsecondary Health Science education leaders and professional health-care industry representatives. This group served as the original career cluster advisory committee for Health Science. NCHSE's mission was, and still is, to provide leadership that promotes quality Health Science education programs through collaboration among Health Science educators, the health-care industry, policymakers, professional organizations, publishers and resource developers.

Early on, with support from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, NCHSE was funded to create a model Health Science career pathway for high school students. This pathway would seamlessly connect them to postsecondary education that would give them an opportunity to enter the Health Science "pipeline" while still in high school. As a result, high school teachers, many for the first time, sat down with college faculty and industry partners to answer the question, "What are the foundational knowledge and skills needed for high school students to be successful in any postsecondary Health Science education program?"

Through this collaboration, the first set of nationally validated high school standards, known as the National Health Science Standards (NHSS), were established. These standards provided a clear and consistent national understanding of industry and postsecondary expectations for teachers and students, and they were designed to provide the essential knowledge and skills common across all health professions to prepare and increase the number of students who are college- and career-ready. The standards have been updated and revalidated several times--most recently in May of 2015.

The Solution: A Common System

The need for a national CTE system with a common structure and consistent industry- and postsecondary-validated competencies should be the goal for all states. Student expectations, regardless of the cluster area, do not change at state or district borders. …

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