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TRANSFORMING CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION: Obama Administration Releases Blueprint to Make Career and Technical Education More Rigorous, Relevant, and Results Driven

“Rigorous, relevant, and results-driven CTE programs are vital to preparing students to succeed in the global economy of the twenty-first century,.

On April 19, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released the Obama administration’s blueprint to transform career and technical education (CTE) by reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (Perkins) Act of 2006.

“Rigorous, relevant, and results-driven CTE programs are vital to preparing students to succeed in the global economy of the twenty-first century,” Duncan said. “Unfortunately, too many of the nation’s CTE programs fail today to meet the standard of being relevant, rigorous, and results driven. And so the need to transform career and technical education for the twenty-first century is urgent. This is not a time to tinker.”

According to the blueprint, the 2006 Perkins Act reauthorization “took modest yet important steps” to improve the quality of CTE programs, but it “did not go far enough to address the needs of youths and adults preparing to participate in the knowledge-based, global marketplace of the twenty-first century.”

In his remarks describing the administration’s blueprint at the Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa, Duncan stressed the importance of lifelong learning in today’s knowledge-based, globally competitive economy. He said the traditional goal of CTE—students earning a diploma and getting a job after high school—has to change. Instead, CTE’s goal should be that students “earn an industry certification and postsecondary certificate or degree, and land a job that leads to a successful career,” Duncan said.

The administration’s blueprint to revamp CTE is shaped by four principles:

  1. Effective alignment between CTE and labor market needs to equip students with twenty-first-century skills and prepare them for in-demand occupations in high-growth industry sectors.
  2. Strong collaboration among secondary and postsecondary institutions, employers, and industry partners to improve the quality of CTE programs.
  3. Meaningful accountability for improving academic outcomes and building technical and employability skills in CTE programs, based upon common definitions and clear metrics for performance.
  4. Increased emphasis on innovation supported by systemic reform of state policies and practices to support CTE implementation of effective practices at the local level.

While acknowledging that CTE programs would be designed differently across the country, the administration’s blueprint believes successful programs should share certain characteristics. For example, CTE programs must offer a streamlined and structured sequence of courses that span secondary and postsecondary education, lead to an industry certification or license and a postsecondary certificate or degree, and enable graduates to gain employment in a high-growth industry upon program completion. Secondary school teachers and college faculty would work together to teach integrated academic, career, and technical content that enables students to better grasp the material and demonstrates connections to real-life career scenarios and choices.

Additionally, school districts, postsecondary institutions, and employers would collaborate to offer students opportunities to participate in work-based learning and to accelerate completion of their studies through dual or concurrent credits. Technology would be used to increase access to high-quality learning opportunities, particularly for students in rural or remote areas.

“When done properly, career and technical education keeps students engaged in their school work, provides them with rigorous courses, offers them relevance to the world around them, and prepares them for additional education after high school—a must in today’s economy,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “If the nation is to prepare all students for college and a career, career and technical education must be an essential part of the education reform process and a key component of the nation’s education system. The Obama administration’s blueprint is an important step in that direction.”

Download the blueprint for transforming career and technical education at

Read Governor Wise’s complete statement on the blueprint here

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