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States Band Together to Improve Career Technical Education Programs

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By guest blogger Caralee J. Adams

School leaders from 17 states have signed on to a new effort to make career technical education relevant, rigorous, and accountable.

The Council of Chief State School Officers announced Monday it will provide resources and coaches to states that want to review career technical education, or CTE, policies and develop strategic plans to improve students' workforce skills.

The CCSSO's Career Readiness Initiative will create a network to share best practices and online materials to use in assessing career education systems. In exchange for the assistance, the 17 states have committed to pull together stakeholders and draft concrete proposals to advance career programs in high schools.

 "There really feel is a sense that this is a moment for career technical education ," said Stephen Bowen, strategic initiative director for innovation at CCSSO in a phone interview. "There is a lot of engagement across various sectors" with businesses, state legislatures, higher education and high schools creating a buzz about it, he said.

The initiative builds on task force recommendations from a report released in December by CCSSO, a nonpartisan organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education.

 "Career education in too many of our secondary schools reflects an outdated model that tolerates low expectations and is often misaligned with the evolving needs of the current labor market," the report said.

 The task force suggested schools work more closely with business to reflect the needs of industry. The group also advocated for more rigorous career pathways, better alignment of curriculum between high schools and colleges, and making career readiness matter in school accountability systems.

 CCSSO would like to see states have career-focused indicators that measure and value students who complete work-based learning experiences and credentials.

 In December, CCSSO announced that chiefs from 43 states, territories, and the District of Columbia had committed to use these recommendations to upgrade their career-readiness systems. To recruit states for this first set of supports, Bowen said the CCSSO surveyed the chiefs and got commitments from those who signaled CTE was a serious priority for their state in the coming year.  

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