Career and Technical Education

  • Over the last decade and a half, American education reform has focused on improving traditional academic curricula, with performance measured by standardized exams and related modes of accountability for schools, teachers and students.   That reform model has generated mixed results, and some have criticized the limitations of  what seems to be a “one size fits all” approach to educational excellence. Furthermore, the emergence of the global knowledge economy has placed new and challenging demands on American education. In order to prepare American students for 21st century jobs in this knowledge economy, and to deepen their engagement in the rigorous classwork that is called for, an increasing number of educators argue, the emergence of high-quality Career and Technical Education is an important development.

    This is no easy task. We must overcome the legacy of past vocational education programs, which too often tracked students from working families and students of color into low-wage, unskilled jobs bereft of opportunities for economic and social improvement. In this context, CTE must bring forward and update the most successful aspects of the vocational education tradition.

    The evidence is strong that quality CTE can provide powerful motivation for students to graduate from high school and go on to post-secondary education. Across America, only 3 in every 4 students graduate high school on time, in four years. The numbers are significantly better, however, for students with a concentration in Career and Technical Education: 9 in every 10 graduate on time. Of students who graduate high school with a Career and Technical concentration, 7 in every 10 go on to enroll in post-secondary education. After  two years, 4 in every 5 of these students have either completed their course of study and earned a certificate, or remain  enrolled in a program. [1]CTE can create a tangible connection to a desirable future, with meaningful work and good paying jobs. It transforms the classroom into an arena of accomplishment.  Its focus on real world skills and successes can instill in students a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work that carries over to their studies. For students living in poverty and/or at risk for dropping out, CTE can provide a pathway to finishing one’s education, with all that means for their futures. Educators in all the states recognize the need to place increased emphasis on the sort of contextual education represented by the CTE approach.

     
  • Eugenia Kemble Research Grants

    In honor of its founding executive director, the Albert Shanker Institute announces the creation of the “Eugenia Kemble Research Grants Program.” Tax-deductible donations to this program are welcome. Please make donations through PayPal or by check to the Albert Shanker Institute (555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001). More information. Watch the Memorial Service.

  • Let’s Talk Foundations: Oral Language Development I

    Oral language—listening and talking—is the primary means by which young children learn about and interact with the world. This training module for early childhood educators offers simple but powerful ideas to support young children build the skills, knowledge, vocabulary, and attitudes that can help prepare them for future academic learning across the content areas. Here, we offer excerpted materials for a workshop on supporting English language learners.

  • Let’s Talk PD: Early Mathematics Development

    This training module for early childhood educators provides an overview of the research and standards on age-appropriate mathematics development, including practical takeaway materials to help assist in instructional. The most important early childhood mathematical foundations are addressed, including numerical sense and problem solving, building math vocabulary, using math manipulatives, and curriculum integration. The materials may be presented as a very intensive one-day session or broken into separate workshops. This excerpt contains materials for a workshop on curriculum integration.

  • Let’s Talk PD: Early Science Development

    This module for early childhood educators provides research-based information on early science development in the three key areas of physical science, life science, and earth science, along with applied information for improving instruction in each area. These materials can be implemented as an intensive, day-long professional development seminar or broken up into a series of workshops. This excerpt contains materials for a workshop on life science.

  • CTE Models

    Advocates of  the high quality CTE approach argue that it eschews the ‘one size fits all’ approach to education, without sacrificing rigor.

  • Common Career Technical Core and the Common Core

    The common Career Technical Core (CCTE) is a set of high quality benchmarks standards for CTE. It is a state-led initiative.

  • College and Career Readiness

    How do schools prepare students to be both college and career ready?

  • Why We Need New Workplace Partnerships for Skills Development

    This report, signed by a diverse group of labor, business and policy experts, calls for far-reaching changes in the way our country manages its work-force skills and training efforts.

  • Proactive Union and Teacher Strategies for Shaping Technology in Education

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. This is the second of these essays.

    The future is already here. Educational technologies and artificial intelligence are being utilized by schools and governments across the planet, and the frontiers are constantly expanding.

  • A.I.’s Impact on Jobs, Skills and the Future of Work: the UNESCO Perspective on Key Policy Issues and the Ethical Debate

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. This is the first of these essays.

    In “A.I.’s Impact on Jobs, Skills and the Future of Work: the UNESCO Perspective on Key Policy Issues and the Ethical Debate,” Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General at UNESCO, discusses how artificial intelligence does not necessarily need to be a boogeyman. If AI is developed with people in mind, then the inclusive possibilities of AI are infinite. Ramos discusses these possibilities, and the path to get there, while focusing on the key issues of gender and discrimination.

  • NEJPP Editor's Introduction to the Future of Work Series

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. Each week for the next nine weeks the Shanker Blog will feature one of these essays. This is the introduction to the series by NEJPP's founding editor, Padraig O'Malley.

  • New York State Continues to Lead the Way in Education Innovation through P-TECH Schools

    New York State Senator and Chair of the New York State Senate Education Committee Shelley B. Mayer discusses her state's leadership in educational innovation and policies, particularly in the development of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School Program or P-TECH which are school to career programs that create a successful pathway from high school to college to career.

    New York State has long been a leader in educational innovation and policies. In 1890, New York City’s first kindergarten was established; and, after World War II, New York State was one of the first states in the union to make high school mandatory. And while New York State continues to lead, particularly with a focus on equity for all students, regardless of zip code, we know we have more work to do.

    Among our recent achievements, in 2021 and again in 2022, New York State finally fulfilled its promise of full funding under the Foundation Aid Formula. It was established almost 15 years ago based on the promise of a “sound basic education,” and as a way to depoliticize the funding of public education and base state funding for public schools on quantifiable need. And equally important, with strong leadership from the Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Carl Heastie, NYS has now begun to greatly expand full day Pre-k for 4 year old’s to hundreds more school districts, while New York City already led the way with federal funding and then local funding for full day Pre-K for all 4 year old’s several years ago.

    New York State has also led with the development of innovative school to career programs that create a successful pathway from high school to college to career. The P-TECH program, or Pathways in Technology Early College High School Program, continues to grow stronger and expand to more districts. I am proud to support this program, which provides a grade 9-14 combined high school and community college program linked directly to real career opportunities. P-TECH began in New York City over 14 years ago and now has been replicated across New York State. Former President Barack Obama featured P-TECH in his 2015 State of the Union address and came to visit the initial school in Brooklyn, New York. And as a further sign of success, New York State’s P-TECH innovative model has spread now across 13 states and 28 countries with large numbers of P-TECH schools in Texas, Maryland and Colorado and other countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, France and Taiwan.

  • Education Must Be Part Of Our Coronavirus Response

    Our guest author today is Stanley Litow, Professor at Duke and Columbia Universities, where he teaches about the role of corporations in society, and the author of The Challenge for Business and Society: From Risk to Reward. He formerly led Corporate Social Responsibility at IBM, where he was twice selected as CEO of the Year by Corporate Responsibility Magazine.

    Americans are doing their best to cope with coronavirus and the disruption and healthcare emergency it has caused in all of our lives. We are in the midst of a crisis we have not experienced over many generations. The impact on our economy will be cataclysmic, affecting all Americans in all states and territories. Millions of jobs are at risk, along with savings and retirements. But as horrific as this event is (and it is clearly not over), a coordinated response and massive spending from local, state, and federal governments can help to mitigate the disaster and speed recovery. Whether it takes months or years, we will experience a recovery. And while the economic disruption will last for a very long time, the educational disruption is likely to last much longer. A generation of America's children have seen their educations thrown into chaos and we will need a response equal to, and perhaps greater than, what our governments are now doing.

    With little time for preparation or planning, just months before the end of the school year, schools across the nation were abruptly forced to close. While some parents are attempting to continue their children's learning opportunities at home, the vast majority of American children are receiving little to no educational support. School districts across the nation have also started to deliver some hastily produced classes online, but families at the bottom of the economic system often have no access to technology or internet access, making the challenge almost impossible. In addition, most other educational entities have been closed: public libraries, museums, after-school programs, and not-for-profit social services agencies, etc., leaving impoverished families with few viable options, even for public access to online schooling. 

    When our schools reopen, as they ultimately will, and the economic and health crises have begun to improve, our schools will still need a focused, sustained, and elevated national response, and it must have the support of all Americans and every segment of society. The 2020-21 school year will be a test for our nation.

  • Does College Matter? Of Course

    Our guest author today is Stanley Litow, adjunct professor at Duke and Columbia Universities. At Duke, he also serves as Innovator in Residence. He previously served as Deputy Schools Chancellor for New York City and is President Emeritus of the IBM Foundation and a member of the Albert Shanker Institute Board of Directors.

    Over the last 35 years, since the release of A Nation At Risk, the nation has focused on the need for school reform and used high school graduation rates as the single most important benchmark for measuring educational success. This is somewhat ironic, given that high school attendance in the U.S. was not made mandatory until the end of the Second World War. Before that, virtually every state had a requirement for school attendance from grade one through grade eight, but high school attendance, just like college attendance now, was strictly voluntary. Of course, in the first half of the 20th century, significant numbers of  well paying jobs in manufacturing and other areas of work only required an eighth grade education. Beginning in the 1970s and into 1984 and over the following three decades, the number of good jobs with competitive wages that were available to those who had only completed eighth grade began a precipitous decline. For many years, it has been clear that a high school diploma or higher is absolutely essential to achieving a pathway to a middle class life. America's response to the challenge of raising the percentage of high school graduates was far from perfect, but with exceptions, we have seen a steady increase in high school graduation rates in most though not all states. Beginning in the early years of the 21st Century, however, changes in the U.S. economy have made it crystal clear that high school diplomas, while still extremely important, are not enough to enable most Americans to achieve the “middle-class dream.”

    In this light, the recent report, "Building a Grad Nation," is an important read. It documents the progress that the nation has made in higher high school graduation rates—the overall high school graduation rate showed an increase from 79 percent in 2011 to close to 85 percent by 2017. This statistic represents an increase of 3.5 million U.S. students who graduated from high school instead of dropping out over the last 15 years.

  • Perkins And The Benefits Of Collaboration

    Our guest author today is Stan Litow, a professor of Public Policy at both Duke and Columbia University. He is a former deputy chancellor of schools in New York City, former president of the IBM Foundation, a trustee of the State University of New York, and a member of the Albert Shanker Institute’s board of directors. His book, The Challenge for Business and Society: From Risk to Reward, was published this year.

    This July, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, after a dozen years of inaction, unanimously passed legislation to update the Federal Career and Technical Education law. By doing so, Congress increased funding for Career and Technical Education to nearly $1.3 billion in the coming year. The law is called the Perkins Act, named after a former member of Congress. It can go a long way toward addressing America’s skills crisis and providing many of our young people with real economic opportunity. Given the contentious Washington climate, broad bipartisan support for Perkins—including strong private sector, labor union and education backing—is truly noteworthy. But as we consider how this happened, it brings to mind another action that took place more than 80 years ago involving another Perkins: Frances Perkins.

    On the 25th anniversary of Social Security, Frances Perkins, America's first cabinet member to be a woman, said "It would not have happened without IBM." Many who saw her on film were surprised. President Roosevelt was usually critical of the private sector. What had IBM to do with Social Security? Actually a lot. After the bill to establish Social Security was signed, the Labor Department under Perkins had to implement it. She sought outside help to design an implementation plan, yet everyone she approached said it would take years. When she approached Tom Watson Sr., IBM's CEO, she got a different answer. His team of engineers told him it might be possible to implement it sooner, but it would require the investment of several million dollars (about a hundred million in today’s dollars) to create what they called a "collator."

  • In Memoriam: Eugenia Kemble

    It is with great sorrow that we report the death of Eugenia Kemble, the founding executive director of the Albert Shanker Institute, after a long battle with fallopian tube cancer. “Genie” Kemble helped to conceive of and launch the institute in 1998, with the support of the late Sandy Feldman, then president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Endowed by the AFT and named in honor of the AFT’s iconic former president, the Albert Shanker Institute was established as a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding research reports and fostering candid exchanges on policy options related to the issues of public education, labor, and democracy.

    A graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the University of Manila, Genie entered the teacher union movement as part of a cohort of young Socialist Party activists who were close to Bayard Rustin, the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, and deeply involved in the civil rights struggle. She began her career in 1967 as a reporter for the newspaper of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the AFT’s New York City local, and became a top aide to then UFT president Albert Shanker. She was a first-hand witness to the turbulent era during which Shanker served as UFT president, including the UFT strike for More Effective Schools in 1967, the harrowing Ocean Hill Brownsville strike over teachers’ due process rights in 1968, the remarkable UFT election victory to represent paraprofessionals in 1969, and the masterful bailout of a faltering New York City government through the loan of teacher pension funds in the mid-1970s.

  • Innovating To Strengthen Youth Employment

    Our guest author today is Stan Litow, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs at IBM, President of the IBM Foundation, and a member of the Shanker Institute’s board of directors. This essay was originally published in innovations, an MIT press journal.

    The financial crisis of 2008 exposed serious weaknesses in the world’s economic infrastructure. As a former aide to a mayor of New York and as deputy chancellor of the New York City Public Schools (the largest public school system in the United States), my chief concern—and a significant concern to IBM and other companies interested in global economic stability—has been the impact of global economic forces on youth employment.

    Across the United States and around the world, youth unemployment is a staggering problem, and one that is difficult to gauge with precision. One factor that makes it difficult to judge accurately is that many members of the youth population have yet to enter the workforce, making it hard to count those who are unable to get jobs. What we do know is that the scope of the problem is overwhelming. Youth unemployment in countries such as Greece and Spain is estimated at over 50 percent, while in the United States the rate may be 20 percent, 30 percent, or higher in some cities and states. Why is this problem so daunting? Why does it persist? And, most important, how can communities, educators, and employers work together to address it?

  • A New Twist On The Skills "Blame Game"

    It is conventional wisdom that the United States is suffering from a severe skills shortage, for which low-performing public schools and inadequate teachers must shoulder part of the blame (see here and here, for example).  Employers complain that they cannot fill open slots because there are no Americans skilled enough to fill them, while pundits and policymakers – President Barack Obama and Bill Gates, among them – respond by pushing for unproven school reform proposals, in a desperate effort to rebuild American economic competitiveness.

    But, what if these assumptions are all wrong?

    What if the deficiencies of our educational system have little to do with our current competitiveness woes? A fascinating new book by Peter Cappelli, Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It , builds a strong case that common business practices - failure to invest adequately in on-the-job training, offering noncompetitive wages and benefits, and relying on poorly designed computer algorithms to screen applicants –are to blame, not failed schools or poorly prepared applicants.