Giving Compass’ Take:
• Taylor White advocates for returning attention to career and technical education (CTE) as a path to better prepare students for both college and careers.
• How can communities support emerging CTE programs while avoiding its legacy of inconsistent quality and racial bias?
• Learn more about the importance of career and technical education.
After a long period on the sidelines of American education, career and technical education (CTE) has moved to center stage, fueled by a growing sense that the “College for All” mantra, once a rallying cry for reformers, has not led to dramatically improved results. Although only 60 percent of American high schoolers score high enough on national assessments to be considered “college ready,” nearly 70 percent of graduating seniors nonetheless enroll in college.
There has been a push to more deliberately prepare all high school students—not only those enrolled in career and technical education classes—to more directly enter the world of work. Responding to pressure from educators and employers alike, Congress, in a rare example of bipartisan cooperation, passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) in summer 2018. The year prior, states passed more than 240 policies related to CTE and career readiness. Of these, 180 were relevant to high schools, with many designed to increase funding, improve data or accountability systems, or support work-based learning programs, like apprenticeships.
As long-time advocates celebrate the renewed support for CTE, others have reacted with alarm, citing concerns about CTE’s history of inconsistent quality and its legacy as a “dumping ground” for students—especially minority and low-income students—who were deemed not to be “college material.” Though not without historical basis, these arguments misunderstand contemporary career and technical education and, in particular, what recent policy efforts seek to accomplish. But while vocational ed cemented divides between college prep and job prep classes, today most new policy activity related to career education aims to bring these two “tracks” more closely together to ensure that graduating high schoolers are no longer prepared to succeed in college or in a career, but in both.
Read the full article about governments recognizing the value of Career and Technical Education by Taylor White at Democracy Journal.
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