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“A FRAMEWORK FOR ADVANCING CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION”: Improving CTE Programs Are Critical to Transforming Nation’s Secondary Schools, Says New Alliance Policy Brief

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“When delivered properly, career and technical education keeps students engaged in their schoolwork, offers real-life relevancy through connections to the workforce, and, when combined with a college-prep curriculum, it provides the academic rigor students need to succeed in additional education after high school—a must in today’s economy.”

By better integrating academic, career and technical education, and work-based learning, the nation’s secondary schools can increase student engagement, boost student achievement, and provide students with more options after they graduate from high school, according to a new policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education.

“The traditional American high school has long represented a critical decision point at which students must choose to pursue college or a career; but in today’s economy, students need both,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “When delivered properly, career and technical education keeps students engaged in their schoolwork, offers real-life relevancy through connections to the workforce, and, when combined with a college-prep curriculum, it provides the academic rigor students need to succeed in additional education after high school—a must in today’s economy.”

The nation’s largest federal investment in career and technical education (CTE) is the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Educational Improvement Act (Perkins). When the U.S. Congress last reauthorized the program in 2006, it placed greater emphasis on improving the academic achievement of CTE students, adding greater program accountability, and strengthening the link between secondary and postsecondary education.

The new Alliance brief, “A Framework for Advancing Career and Technical Education: Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act,” suggests that Congress build on these changes by ensuring that CTE is relevant, engaging, high quality, and aligned with career demands. It says federal funding should target youth who traditionally lack access to these types of educational opportunities that prepare them to be college and career ready. The brief argues that opportunities to participate in CTE programs should not be limited to just those attending well-resourced schools; they should be available to all students. Nor should these programs be used to track students into less-rigorous pathways that diminish their future opportunities.

The brief urges policymakers to better align Perkins with the Workforce Investment Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to ensure that all relevant federal policies and programs are focused on ensuring that all students have the opportunity to graduate from high school ready for college and a career.

“The reauthorization of Perkins can ensure that CTE programs are no longer viewed as something separate and distinct from a high-quality twenty-first-century education,” said Wise. “By providing all students with the preparation and opportunity to succeed in college, a career, and life, high-quality CTE programs can be catalysts in driving the needed reforms in education.”

The brief offers four recommendations for how federal policy can improve Perkins:

  1. Provide all students with the opportunity to participate in high-quality CTE programs that prepare them to be college and career ready.
  2. Increase the integration of academics, CTE, and work-based learning to incorporate the knowledge and skills that are necessary for college and career success.
  3. Support successful transitions between secondary and postsecondary education by providing ongoing access to academic and career counseling, and through other efforts such as dual enrollment.
  4. Strengthen strategic partnerships between secondary and postsecondary institutions and support the participation of employers, community-based organizations, and other key stakeholders in raising the quality of CTE programs.

“Successful strategies, such as the Linked Learning approach implemented in California, offer a model for what career and technical education should aspire to do,” said Wise. “By connecting strong academics and demanding technical education with real-world experiences in a wide range of high-growth occupations, such as engineering and health, Linked Learning helps to eliminate the gap between what students learn in the classroom and what they learn on the job. The end results are high school graduates who are better prepared to succeed in college and a career and employers who are more satisfied with their workers.”

The complete policy brief is available at hhttps://all4ed.org/reports-factsheets/secondary-school-innovation-fund-act/.

In conjunction with the policy brief, the Alliance released proposed legislative language for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which is available at https://all4ed.org/reports-factsheets/proposed-legislative-language-for-the-reauthorization-of-the-carl-d-perkins-act/ .

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