An Examination of the Contribution of Career and Technical Education to Stem Education, Student Leadership, and Career Readiness

By Kitchel, Allen | The Journal of Research in Business Education, April 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

An Examination of the Contribution of Career and Technical Education to Stem Education, Student Leadership, and Career Readiness


Kitchel, Allen, The Journal of Research in Business Education


Introduction

DiMattina and Ferris (2013) examined the needs of business and the types of employees they require for the emerging economy. They indicated that workers must be more capable than ever before, yet businesses are less likely to provide the resources to train them with the skills and knowledge needed. With a rich history in preparing individuals with the skills and knowledge needed for the workforce and economic citizenship, career and technical education (CTE) can contribute to filling this training gap. CTE programs exist at many levels of education. At the junior/senior high school level, school principals influence teacher effectiveness and student achievement, and make critical decisions about which programs to offer and who to hire to teach and manage them (Branch, Hanushek, & Rivkin, 2013). Elective programs, which CTE programs tend to be, must validate their value and contribution to school goals and culture if they are to be supported by school leadership (Railsback & Hite, 2008). Through an understanding of the perceptions of school principals, CTE programs, including business education, can better position themselves as an important and critical component of the school curriculum that seeks to prepare people for success within, outside, during, and after academic experiences.

The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of 1990 defined career and technical education, referred to as vocational education, to be preparation for occupations that do not require a baccalaureate or advanced degree. Since that time, there has been an increasing need for workers to have some college experience in order to be prepared for the occupational challenges of the 21st century (Gordon, 2008). With changing and increasing demands concerning occupational preparation (Kesten & Lambrecht, 2013; National Education Foundation, 2006; Stone & Lewis, 2012), the definition of CTE changed with the 2006 Carl D. Perkins Act, which allowed for preparation of students in careers that eventually require a baccalaureate degree (National Education Foundation, 2006). Stone and Lewis (2012) indicated that career readiness requires (a) academic knowledge in subjects such as reading, writing and mathematics; (b) employability skills; and (c) technical skills.

School districts, and therefore school leaders such as principals, are responsive to the accountability measures to which they are subjected. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) required school accountability for student learning of reading and mathematics (U.S. Department of Education-Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2002). The NCLB mandate prompted CTE programs to better articulate their contribution to academics, which helped them to be recognized as contributors to school goals and accountability measures. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 also increased focus on academic achievement and linking of secondary programs with postsecondary education. The Perkins Act sought to promote technical knowledge and teaching in an integrated setting. Section 2 of the Act stated that CTE programs should be "promoting the development of services and activities that integrate rigorous and challenging academic and career and technical instruction, and that link secondary education and postsecondary education for participating career and technical education students" (2006, para. 2).

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were published in 2010. As of 2014,43 states had adopted the CCSS and were in various stages of implementing them (Common core state standards initiative, 2014). Like other educational initiatives, principals are expected to implement and support programs that lead to students meeting standards. The standards place an emphasis on the need for schools to prepare students to be college and career ready. Although the CCSS standards focus on mathematics and language arts, their emphasis on career readiness and application of academic subjects to real world problem solving is congruent with the mission of CTE. …

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