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Career and Technical Education Faces Challenges in Rural America

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Rural schools face special challenges trying to build good career and technical education programs, especially programs that include postsecondary training, an important element in an economy that increasingly demands more schooling than a high school diploma.

A new brief outlines the difficulties of offering a high-quality career-tech-ed option for students, and examines how four states—Nebraska, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Idaho—are working to overcome those difficulties. Assembled by four organizations that focus on career tech ed, the paper is the first in a series that will explore issues confronting CTE programs in the rural United States.

The dearth of colleges in rural areas is a pivotal challenge to career and technical education programs, the paper notes. Rural areas are home to half the country's school districts, but only 16 percent of its two-year degree-granting colleges, the paper says. 

That distribution makes it tougher for high school CTE students to go on to earn the certificates and degrees that can boost their earnings and college options. It also means that rural career-tech-ed programs often lack the many benefits of partnership with a local community college, such as a jointly designed curriculum and dual-credit classes.

Rural schools also tend to have fewer resources to support CTE programs that can be costly, and they have a lower density of businesses that can serve as valuable partners to career-tech-ed programs.

Nebraska focuses on the grassroots level to build good quality career-tech-ed programs. Through a 5-year-old statewide program called "reVISION," state education and labor officials help local communities think through their CTE offerings and collaborate with businesses to create programs that respond to labor market needs, and have good college pathways, instead of offering courses just because they've always been offered. The state has made a particular effort to recruit rural districts into that program.

Idaho has focused particular attention on creating a seamless transition from high school career  and technical education programs into its state colleges and universities. High school and college instructors meet with business leaders to decide what students should learn and how those skills should be assessed. The state has created articulation agreements that guarantee the transfer of high school CTE credits to college. 

For more stories about important issues in career and technical education, see:

Career and Technical Education at a Crossroads

And join us for a webinar that focuses on those issues on Wednesday, Aug. 23 at 2 pm Eastern. Click here to register.


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