CTE can leverage postsecondary reform.
There has been much discussion at federal, state and local policy levels concerning the need to provide improved coordination between secondary and postsecondary institutions, as well as with workforce needs. Current debate in Congress centers on the notion that our education system has not changed with the times and that both its structure and curriculum should better reflect the needs of the 21st century.
This is one of several reasons ACTE produced a postsecondary policy paper released earlier this year. ACTE understands and agrees that both secondary and postsecondary systems must be continually improved if we are to meet the needs of all students and remain, as a nation, a global power. And we believe that CTE programs are well positioned to leverage meaningful school improvement due to the obvious links between education and workforce needs.
ACTE's postsecondary policy paper, "Expanding Opportunities: Postsecondary Career and Technical Education and Pro paring Tomorrow's Workforce," addresses the growing shortage of skilled workers necessary to sustain our economy, and acknowledges that obtaining advanced skills--which include workplace skills, academic knowledge and continuous lifelong learning--has become vital to career Success,
The paper points out that CTE is well positioned to act as a postsecondary school reform catalyst since nearly a third of all students in for-credit institutions are enrolled in CTE programs, and so maW adults seeking to further their education or change careers look to CTE for this support. CTE is vital to reform of the postsecondary education system because every student must understand how their learning connects with a career path as well as the possibilities for additional postsecondary education and training.
The broad recommendations of the policy paper inform how to improve postsecondary success through the experiences and resources of CTE. The recommendations are:
1 Establish postsecondary preparation and expectations for all. Example: Consider universal educational opportunities for all students through grade 14; align secondary and postsecondary assessments; and expose students to academic and career pathways of local communities.
2 Develop education systems that integrate all levels. Example: Coordinate education and training programs between federal agencies; coordinate all education and training P-16, and ensure that it is inclusive of adult learners; and create local P-16 councils that are data driven.
3 Develop curriculum and instructional offerings that link to careers, foster lifelong learning, and encourage completion. Example: Expand programs such as Tech Prep to build upon existing best practice models that align secondary and postsecondary education, map occupational clusters of importance to the state to address gaps in policies and service, and partner with organizations such as economic development councils to ensure that the output capacity of postsecondary programs is oriented to meet the local workforce needs.
4 Ensure portability and transferability of credits and skills attained. Example: Establish clearer transfer and articulation guidelines with accreditation organizations; provide transcript credit for postsecondary CTE certificate programs that are currently non-credit-bearing; and develop agreements between institutions to articulate related coursework.
5 Enhance student advising and academic and life supports. Example: Create a national career and postsecondary awareness and information campaign; develop comprehensive statewide career and postsecondary opportunity information portals; and dedicate staff and resources to ensure effective advising and supports.
6 Increase financial support for how-income students. Example: Improve financial aid opportunities for part-time students and working students; prioritize funding to support need-based financial aid programs; and develop institutional commitment to low-income students by focusing on need-based aid.
7 Pilot innovative funding solutions. Example: Provide technical assistance to states from federal agencies on how to maximize categorical funding to support postsecondary success; examine postsecondary funding policies to ensure they are oriented to meet the goals of the future; and integrate multiple funding streams to create a continuum of education from low-skill entry points through certificate and degree programs.
ACTE plans to disseminate the policy paper widely. It was unveiled during the National Policy Seminar in March and incorporated into materials that seminar attendees discussed and left behind in Capitol Hill offices. Timing of the materials and discussion coincided with congressional debate about the Higher Education Act, which has the potential to incorporate the paper's recommendations.
In addition, national higher education organizations, federal agencies, and the media were targeted. It is important for all of us to reach out beyond our own CTE boarders to communicate the paper's recommendations and findings. ACTE will continue to work to build support through coalition-building activities and direct lobbying.
But the paper is not only directed to federal policymakers. ACTE made sure to include specific recommendations for state and local leaders, since we understand that the federal government has limited influence regarding postsecondary decisions. We encourage you to use the paper as an advocacy tool as you visit your own statehouses and school board meetings.
ACTE believes that the postsecondary policy paper provides a strong complement to the high school reform policy paper produced last year. We encourage decision-makers at the federal, state and local levels to give serious thought to the potential of CTE programs as a leverage point for school improvement in both secondary and postsecondary systems.
Stephen Dewitt is senior director of public policy ot ACTE. He con be reached at 703-683-9311 or by e-moil at sdewitt@octeonlJne.org