Advocates of the high quality CTE approach argue that it eschews the ‘one size fits all’ approach to education, without sacrificing rigor. It takes multiple approaches, usually presented under the rubric of ’Programs of Study’ (some prefer ‘career pathways’). CTE approaches are also strengthened because of their local focus. The diversity of the U.S. economy places a premium on flexibility, and the close connections of high quality CTE to the local colleges, labor markets and employers adds value to this approach. Within the CTE spectrum, occupations and career specialties are grouped into 16 Career Clusters[j3] . Each cluster is organized around a set of common knowledge and skills that prepare learners for a full range of opportunities. Students can specialize through comprehensive Programs of Study, which align academic and technical content in a sequence of secondary and post-secondary courses. These programs are designed to lead to an industry-recognized credential or certificate at the post-secondary level or an associate or baccalaureate degree. These opportunities and outcomes are deeply dependent upon partnerships with industry and higher education institutions, local unions and other CTE groups.
Equally important are ongoing professional development courses aimed at giving teachers the skills and resources that they can pass on to students. With this academic foundation, research indicates, high quality CTE students can go on to college if they choose, enter quality post-secondary education and degree programs, and become candidates for good jobs. Specialists have developed and disseminated curriculum for math, science and literacy in CTE. This approach blends core academics with career and technical content in a context that engages those many students who best learn when they see the connection between their coursework and their futures. By placing classwork firmly in the context of jobs and career, high quality CTE is designed to help students to meet rigorous academic standards and to understand the connection between success in school and success in their careers. Successful, high quality CTE also requires a strong commitment by employers, community colleges and local unions, working in partnership. Many companies do participate, but more work and more commitment is needed. Community relationships, and partnerships with local economic institutions are very important. In small to mid-sized cities, successful community partnerships around CTE can increase the appeal of a locality to an employerthat is thinking about moving its operations. And when companies commit to communities, the young people who grew up there are more likely to stay, in the belief that they can build a future in their hometowns. Community colleges and CTE programs often feature articulation agreements or dual credit, in which high school students who complete their CTE coursework emerge with associate degrees or technical certifications that provide a leg up in securing employment. Unions, through very rigorous apprenticeship programs traditionally offered a pathway to good, well-paying jobs. Credible apprenticeships will offer students placement and retention after successful completion of a certain number of coursework hours.
Employer participation is a critical element of a successful apprenticeship. Students at schools with highly integrated rigorous academic and CTE programs have significantly higher achievement in reading, mathematics and science than do students at schools with less integrated programs. Test scores rise. (get numbers). The results are significant. For example, a person with a CTE-related associate degree or credential will earn on average between $4,000 and $19,000 more a year than a person with a humanities associate degree. More than 25 percent of people with less than an associate degree, including licenses and certificates, earn more than the average bachelor degree recipient.
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